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 Falling, Maya 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 Coping, you’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.
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.