Not A Horror Novel This Time
by Kristoffer Gair
“You do psycho a little too well.”
I laughed out loud when I read that comment from Martha Davis in her e-mail to me. She’s just finished reading Chapter 18 of Falling Awake III: Requiem and decided to drop me a little note. There’d been chapters of buildup, and when it finally came to this one, I felt unleashed. The crap had to hit the proverbial fan in a big, big way. Writing the main characters (Daniel, Tam, and Alex) meant keeping true to their personalities as they fit in with each other and their families, plus their inability beyond gut feelings to know what they were up against. But when the bad guys make an appearance? All bets were off.
I wrote a couple of villains in the comedy, Gaylias: Operation Thunderspell (under my old pseudonym, Kage Alan), and they were borderline stock characters because that’s what the story called for. The focus wasn’t on them. It was on the heroes. The same could be said in the Falling Awake novella. We didn’t get to know the antagonists then other than they were mentioned in passing. That seemed enough for the story. Then came Falling Awake II: Revenant.
Instead of picking up where the novella left off, I decided we needed to take a little trip backwards in order to see just what Daniel, Tam, Alex, Larenz, and Amanda were truly up against. It’s easy to say characters are bad or evil. You’d have to take my word for it, though, right? Not much of an impact, is it? But if I show you the horrors these characters inflict, and also that they’ll never stop? That’s a whole different matter. It’s this sharing of our antagonists that turned Revenant into a horror novel. I never meant to. I didn’t set out to. The story turned out that way organically.
The character of Andrew in Revenant lived a nightmare. I wrote that nightmare. Readers consumed alcohol after reading this nightmare.
There is such a thing as overdoing it, though. I didn’t want to approach Falling Awake III: Requiem as a continuation of a nightmare. Yes, there are some horrible things that happen, but we now already know what could happen because of the previous book. Will it happen again? Will things go in a different direction? That’s the suspense of it. Do I need to duplicate the second book with a horror show at the end? No. The third book can be its own entity. Yes, all three books are completely connected, but each is unique and different from the others.
I once joked that the second book was my Empire Strikes Back. If so, and I’m about to jump franchises here, then this is my Search For Spock. You have the characters you’ve grown to care about, there’s loss, there’s a little adventure, a little humor, a little philosophy, and an ending that gives us a taste of what we’ve been searching for all along: hope.
Incidentally, Martha Davis e-mailed me again after she finished reading Falling Awake III: Requiem. She said, “You do love better than psycho (thank god!).”