Not to get all writerly nuts-and-bolts on you, but when I sit down to write a Collector novel, there are two key ingredients I decide upon straightaway: the flavor (by which I mean the specific genre elements on the menu for that book) and the overarching theme or relationship I’m interested in examining. For DEAD HARVEST, the flavor was straight-up old-school pulp with a dash of wrong-man conspiracy and a healthy dose of fantasy; the theme I wanted to explore was the tragic consequences of romantic love. Hence the hard-bitten undead protagonist with a heart-wrenching back story working his damndest (pun, sadly, intended) to prove the mother of all frame-ups while being chased across Manhattan by a cadre of pissed off angels and demons both (not to mention half the freakin’ NYPD.)
Much to my delight, folks seemed to really dig it. So I suppose I could’ve gone the easy route, and used the same blueprint for book two. Plenty of writers – even ones I really like – put out entire series in which each book is a subtle variation on a theme. But I kind of felt like I’d already left it all out on the field, so to speak. That DEAD HARVEST was as lean and mean as I was gonna muster. And that to be successful with book two, I couldn’t just iterate – I had to blow the doors out, and really expand the size and scope of Sam’s world, as well as better contextualize his place in it.
To do that, I was gonna need some new ingredients.
I don’t mean to say I tossed out everything that worked about DEAD HARVEST. Old-fashioned pulp fiction is part of the Collector series’ DNA. But since the series is already a freaky patchwork mutant of crime and fantasy, I figured why not glom on some more stuff that I love? So as a consequence, THE WRONG GOODBYE keeps all the pulp and folds in some buddy action-comedy, road movies, Greek myth, Lovecraftian horror, and even a tiny dose of steampunk (er, dieselpunk, but still). This time, it’s friendship that takes center stage, which affords me the opportunity to introduce some of Sam’s oldest friends – fellow Collectors Ana and Danny – and to watch him make some new ones – like Gio, two-bit mob-thug-turned-accidental-sidekick, or Theresa, Gio’s blind transgendered showgirl girlfriend. Oh, and lest you think all’s rosy for our fair Collector this outing, he also tangles with a massive, child-eating demon, all beak and tentacles; a giant, pissed-off bug-monster; and a one-eyed dog-beast with sharpened iron spikes for teeth, just to name a few. And did I mention he’s forced to infiltrate the demon equivalent of a crack house?
The result, I hope, is every bit as thrilling as DEAD HARVEST, but in an entirely different way. I also think THE WRONG GOODBYE’s one heck of a lot funnier. Whatever it is, I hope my readers come along for the ride.
Because come book three, I fold in classic movie monsters…