On writing the Lost Angel Chronicles

I’ve been asked here and there where I came up with the idea for the Lost Angel Chronicles–for the Institute, for the characters fighting against it and the characters who are involved with it.  One of my cousins, after reading What Angels Fear, couldn’t sleep for a few nights, wondering where I had come up with such a “twisted” idea (Allie was more than a little disturbed, from what I gather, after reading What Angels Fear).

The Lost Angels came from a few different places.  The first and earliest of them was a chain novel project I worked on with some fellow ops from the #Authors channel on the Undernet (from what I understand, it still exists, though I haven’t been around to check it out in a very, very long time).  What started with a girl arriving at a mysterious institution became something much darker very quickly when I had the opportunity to introduce Hadrian Bridger, Allyson Conner, and Ky Monroe–much to the dismay of at least one of my fellow writers, who was going for more of an X-Men kind of thing (this was in the days before Harry Potter, mind you).  I had the idea for Hadrian in listening to Sarah McLachlan’s “Building a Mystery”–a quiet, mysterious and powerful boy with a candle and a Tarot deck secreted away in a safe place.

When I embarked on my first foray into NaNoWriMo, I obtained the blessing of my fellow chain writers to take some of the characters and concepts created as part of our short-lived project and develop them into something new and broader, more full than what we’d embarked on before.  I adjusted the timeline forward and began on a November afternoon with a college-aged Ky Monroe thinking that the people she’d loved when she was young were now all dead at the Institute’s hands.  I was a college junior at the time, a liberal living in a conservative area of Michigan, feeling constricted and disturbed by the amount of evangelizing going on at my public university and knowing I wasn’t alone in the feeling.  I was majoring in history and anthropology with a minor in political science and started to think about what could happen if a militant evangelical cult got its hands on children and teenagers with special gifts.

It was pretty much all downhill from there.  By the end of November, I’d written more than the requisite 50,000 words and was still going.  I hit 80,000 words and change in December and called it a day, then tucked the manuscript away, knowing that there were pacing issues and other conceptual issues that I would need to address someday.  I would write a sequel to When All’s Said and Done the following year for NaNoWriMo, an unfinished project I titled When the Gods Cry, dealing with the now-married Ky Monroe and Hadrian Bridger and their circle of friends (including an also-married Reece and Matthew) and the unexpected kidnapping of Ky and Hadrian’s young children by a remnant of the Institute.  This, too, was placed on a digital shelf and left for a time when I had more time and brainpower to devote to it, and there both projects languished for a long while, overshadowed by works like Epsilon and the nascent Awakenings, among other projects.

One bachelor’s degree and a Master’s degree later, a fateful road trip with my best friend many years later sowed the seeds of my return to the universe I’d created with When All’s Said and Done.  I had seen signs for Starr Commonwealth before on other trips along I-96 and I-94, but something on that particular trip (I think we were on our way to the Silver Leaf Renaissance Festival) tripped a synapse in my brain.  A few days later, I sat down at my desk with iTunes, a sheaf of college-ruled notebook paper, and a green felt-tipped pen and started to write.

A half dozen and more pages later, I realized that I was writing about Ridley Thys, one of the Lost Angels, mentioned only in passing in When All’s Said and Done and When the Gods Cry, a character that had featured briefly in the project initially developed as the chain novel way back when I was still in high school myself.

What Angels Fear and the whole of the Lost Angel Chronicles are in part about what rampant extremism can lead to when left unchecked (or, as the UNSETIC Files and later Lost Angels works will show, when extremism is left largely unchecked).  It is also about characters and people–what binds us together and keeps us apart, what makes us tick.  What brings Julia and Ridley together is a belief that no one should ever suffer as he’s suffered, a trust born of desperation that blossoms into more.  It’s about people learning to care, learning to love–and learning that the price of loving someone can be very high indeed.

While I’m sorry to have disturbed some people who’ve read it, I’m glad that What Angels Fear made them feel something.  I’m glad it makes people think.  I don’t write literary fiction, I write genre fiction, but sometimes, that’s the best way to put forth an idea and start a conversation.

If What Angels Fear and the rest of the Lost Angel Chronicles starts a conversation, I’ll be happy.  If they don’t but they entertained and left people wanting more…well.  I’ll just have to feed that demand for more.

Have you read What Angels Fear yet?  Leave a note with your thoughts and gut reactions.  I’d love to hear them as I continue to craft the continuing stories of Julia, Ridley, Ky, Hadrian, and al the rest.

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