fbpx Behind the Scenes of Writing Landing

Behind the Scenes of Writing Landing

Warning! This blog post contains major spoilers for Landing and Falling. Proceed at your own peril.

Looking back on Landing with over five years of distance between the fingers that typed that story and the fingers typing this now, my overriding thought is…What the hell was I thinking? Seriously, I killed off the big baddie in the SECOND book in a five-book series. Way to go, J. Bennett.

Seriously though, if I could rewind the years, I think I would have held onto Grand a while longer. I liked him as a bad guy. Not only is there a lot to play with as him being Maya’s biological father as well as the one who changed her, but his motives for carefully cultivating a new generation of angels harkens to a new spin on an old idea – Eugenics. As we approach a time when designer babies could become a reality, I was fascinated in exploring this concept through the eyes of a man who simply wants to make humans “better” (in his opinion).

So, why did I kill Grand? If I could ask my younger self that, I think she would say that Maya needed that closure. Throughout FallingMaya is primarily motivated by revenge, and I think that I was worried that she wouldn’t be able to grow as a character if she stayed focused only on that goal. In other words, she needed to move on.

A Growing World

If you read the Behind of the Scenes of Falling and/or Copingyou’ll know that Landing was never a certain thing. I certainly knew that I wanted to continue the Girl With Broken Wings series, but in the year or so after writing Falling, I dithered on writing Landing, waiting in vain for a literary agent to tell me that I was the greatest writer she ever had the honor of reading and would I please consider her humble request for immediate representation so that we could immediately begin pitching the biggest publishing houses?

That didn’t exactly happen, so Landing stayed grounded for months and months. It was a frustrating time. I had ideas banging around in my head with nowhere to go. One benefit of all of this waiting was that I got a lot of time to think, and as a result, the world of Girl With Broken Wings grew. I realized at some point that Rain wasn’t just a minor blip of a character in Falling. He was actually a major character who would go on to shape Maya’s life in a big way in later books.

I also started thinking a lot more about the world of the angels. I wrote Falling based on a single scene that popped into my head and had to spend pretty much the entire book and the endless drafts playing catchup. Now I had time to ask myself things like, Why would someone want to be an angel? What kind of life could you lead if you had to feed on a human every few days? Could angels learn how to control their urges? Could an angel ever be good?

I’d spent so much time during Falling trying to understand Gabe and Tarren through Maya’s eyes that I realized that Landing could be my opportunity to learn a little bit more about angels. That question – Could an angel ever be good? – fascinated me.

Black and White

People are entirely good and entirely evil in video games…not in real life. We are all the heroes of our own story. I am unceasingly fascinated by uncovering the complexity behind people’s actions and their beliefs.

Show me a bad guy with a motivation I understand, like the Operative in the movie Serenity, and I’m hooked. Show me a good guy who is just a good guy, and yawn! I’ll take Batman over Superman any day of the week.

In Landing I wanted to turn the tables on readers and on Maya, and the way to do that was simple. I needed to create sympathetic angels. Jane and Kyle were not innocent. They lived by draining criminals (or at least people they believe to be criminal) without a trial or any recourse. So, they definitely are not good, but I wanted to make them at least a little understandable.

Jane and Kyle open Maya’s eyes and perhaps steal a little bit of the glow off of Gabe and Tarren’s gallant mission. After all, Tarren and Gabe also kill people they believe are “bad” without trial or recourse, so are they really so much different than Jane and Kyle? These are uncomfortable questions, but that’s entirely the point. All of my characters live in shades of gray, whether they’ll admit it to themselves or not.

The Big Finish

Oh, that scene in Grand’s warehouse. Wow! I cannot tell you how many times that scene ran through my head as I started writing the first draft of Landing. The entire time I was writing that story, I knew it was leading up to that explosive ending. Gabe is the light of the series, so abusing him so thoroughly was difficult, but it was also incredibly exciting. When I was writing that scene, I felt my heart breaking along with his when he believed Maya betrayed him. I ached as she drained away all that beautiful blue energy from his body. I could hardly write the words of their desperate drive to Dr. Lee’s cabin and the faint hope of salvation.

The Man on the Roof

So, Ding Dong, Grand is dead. What’s next? Well, obviously we need a new bad guy. Will it be the man Maya saw on the roof, the mysterious Gem? This is a bit of a spoiler, so if you want to read Rising with a pristine soul, just skip to the next section.

Originally, Gem was going to be the next bad guy, a Grand 2.0. It made perfect sense, seeing as he was Grand’s biological son and was raised by Grand…and that’s exactly why I couldn’t do it. The more I thought about it, the more I realized how much more interesting things would be if Gem wasn’t a bad guy. Does that mean he’s a good guy? Well, you’ll have to pick up Rising to see. What I’ll say is that Gem is complicated, yet another attempt by me to make the world of Girl With Broken Wings complex and multi-layered.

Where Did Tarren Go?

Where indeed? I’m not telling. You have a long wait to find out, but the answer will eventually be revealed.

Onto Rising

Landing kind of pummels readers in the last quarter of the book. Even though Gabe survives, he isn’t close to whole yet. In fact, he has a long recovery in front of him as you’ll see.

And then there’s Rain. Our favorite misguided vigilante makes an appearance right at the end of Landing, which will help set the stage for Rising. When Maya kills Grand, she closes a big chapter in her own life and throws the angel network into chaos. She and her brothers didn’t realize it at the time, but Grand was very much a restraining hand on the growth of the angel population. With his death, things begin to go a little crazy. The angel population grows quickly as does the risk of the mission and the threat of discovery. The mission begins to take on a hopeless edge, which is a central theme in the rest of the books in the series.

I hope you’ll go ahead and pick up Rising, where you can see exactly what a post-Grand world looks like. In this exciting book, you’ll get to see how Gabe is getting along after his brush with death (hint: not well). Don’t worry, Maya will cross paths with Rain and his Totem Squad and there will be some pretty big fireworks.

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Deidre


Age: 24
Occupation: Housekeeper to Nathaniel Hayward
Hobbies: Playing the cello

About: Deidre may not be a particularly good housekeeper, have a lot of natural talents or ever be able to tame her frizzy red hair, but what she lacks in life skills she makes up for in perseverance.  She needs a lot of it as she dodges the practical jokes of the haunted mansion's two resident poltergeists, makes sure The Thing In The Basement has fresh cow heads to munch on, and puts up with her cranky boss Nathaniel who is libel to drain whoever knocks on his door (usually Mormons) if she doesn't watch him.

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Nathaniel


Age: 266
Occupation: Vampire of leisure
Hobbies: Cleaning musket, reading biographies, watching I Dream of Jeannie, campaigning for Dwight D. Eisenhower

About: Nathaniel doesn't understand why everyone gets so uppity about newfangled fads like the telephone and horseless carriage. He also doesn't approve of the loose today's loose social morals, what with women walking around wearing pants and making it to age 20 without at least one child on their hip. This isn't what Nathaniel fought in the Revolutionary War for (only at night). The worst of the lot is his housekeeper, Deidre, a bitter old maid who insists he stop sucking the life blood from the Mormons who knock on his door and can't even get prune juice stains out of his kerchiefs.

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Dex


Age: Unknown
Occupation: Conveyor of Extreme Emotions
Hobbies: Guiding unwilling individuals to the conclusion that true fear resides in the devastation we bring to our planet and to our society.

About: Dex is dedicated to transcending the poltergeist stereotype by delving deeper into the nature of fear and showing his unwilling victims that our own reality is what truly deserves our fear and notice. He accomplishes this by through artistic haunting - murals, dioramas and even living projects (which tend to scurry away and end up jumping out at Deidre from the kitchen cabinets). Dex is a ghost with a cause, and he won't rest in peace until you've heard it.

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Sloppy Joe


Age: Unknown
Occupation: Scary-ass Poltergeist
Hobbies: Making Girl Scouts piss their skirts

About: Sloppy Joe grew up on the mean streets of Zanesville, Ohio  where he was pursuing a career as the world's latest and greatest skinny white rapper when he met his untimely death. Nathaniel's mansion is his first official haunted residence. He's still getting used to his powers, but that doesn't stop him from trying to make Deidre's life hell and demonstrate that death doesn't keep down a brother from Zanesville.

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Silas


Age: 79
Occupation: Retire factory worker/part-time vampire hunter
Hobbies: Collecting lawn gnomes, killing vampires

About: Silas was all set to marry his high-school sweetheart in the 1950s until she came home one day a couple of shades paler and with some dental enhancements. After staking his fiancé, Silas vowed to  kill the vampire who had turned her. This led to a 50-year stint as a part-time vampire hunter  and eventually brought Silas to Nathaniel's door. With his fanny pack filled with stakes, Silas is ready to avenge his long lost love.

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Silvia


Age: Claims to be 45
Occupation: Between jobs
Hobbies: Bingo, shopping on QVC, flirting

About: Silvia is proof that some gold diggers never stop digging. When she sets her sights on Nathaniel, she's not worried about his fangs as long as his bank account is just as sharp. Not one to put all her eggs in one basket, Silvia also treats Henrick the werefrog to a little of her wrinkly good stuff. Sure, the extra long tongue is a bit of a turnoff, but she just saw the cutest pair of heels on QVC. No time for scruples when there's sexy footwear on the line.

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Henrick


Age: Unknown
Occupation: Insect control
Hobbies: Taking a snack break at the dumpsters behind the nearest buffet (he only comes for the flies)

About: Henrick is an obese werefrog who was quite the monster back in his day. Now, confined to an electronic scooter, his terrorizing the human populace days are well behind him...unless something really gets him riled up.

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Drew


Age: 25
Occupation: Assistant shift manager at Arbys
Hobbies: Rooting for the Browns, playing Xbox

About: Drew just wants to be your everyday slacker jock. He's got the good looks, nowhere job and deep thought avoidance radar that would make him the perfect addition to any state college frat keggar. Unfortunately, a small genetic inheritance keeps getting in his way, as Deidre learns first hand. Even the knowledge of Drew's dark secret can't douse the flames of Deidre's crush though she knows that the handsome jock never falls for the chubby nerd...or does he?

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The Thing in the Basement


Age: Unknown
Occupation: Vortex of destruction
Hobbies: Anything that involves mayhem

About: The Thing In The Basement shall not be spoken of.

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