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Notes on The Killing Saga

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The origins of The Killing Saga

Originally, the Killing Complex was a two-part novel. The first happened entirely inside the Complex, and in the second, Cassie was taken out and used by a mysterious rich-man as a bodyguard. My plan was for Cassie to overthrow the rich-man (who had some secret horrible connection to the Complex) and save Thomas, the book ending with her turning up at his cage, offering her hand, and the two of them walking away into an unknown future.

You’ll of course spot that part two is now The Killing Shield. My planned ending did not happen for two reasons. First, I hit a problem when it came to the logistics of Cassie’s Complex take-down, an actual real-time conversation you can read between Cassie and Stefan (or me and myself) towards the end of Shield in which Stefan/me poo-pooed every single idea I/Cassie had about how she might get this done. It was just impossible. Granted, my story had an impossibly strong woman fighting a horse with a stick, but I had to keep some semblance of believability. Cassie just couldn’t take down the Complex by herself.

Secondly, Stefan being a bad-guy became problematic because… well, he muscled his way into my heart. If you’re a writer, you might recognise this phenomenon: characters sometimes take their own path without your permission. Whether Stefan managed to Stockholm-syndrome me as much as he did Cassie, I don’t know. But he became too important to dismiss as the big-bad of part two, and I will always remember the moment I realised how the book was going to end. Cassie would save Thomas, but she’d have already fallen in love with Stefan. I was devastated – up to that point she was going to get a happy(ish) ending. Now I’d made everything even more complicated, but that’s just where the story had to go, and once I’d written that ending, I realised I really wasn’t finished, and I was going to be writing two novels. Shit.

So The Killing Complex was originally a two-parter, about 130,000 words long with a planned sequel in the works, and I was so excited by what I’d created that I immediately flogged it to agents, secretly expecting an influx of interest because it was so exciting! So original! They'd be fighting over it as much as Cassie fighting the ram.

They did not.

At some point, after waves of failure, I was building the second novel and it struck me that I needed to do a complete overhaul of the first. It had always nagged me that tonally the two parts of Complex were very different, and I finally made the decision to split them into two books. At that point they weren’t long enough to be standalone, but after a brief break and a re-read, I understood they weren’t good enough to be published either. They were flighty and amateur, a flick-book of plot that had a lot of promise, but without real love for the characters. The agents were right to ignore it. I needed to sit down and really know Cassie, and all the other players. I needed to start again.

I had already begun plotting out of the second book by this point, and had mapped out two parts to echo the structure of the first. So the moment I split The Killing Complex into two, I also had to split the sequel, and now I found myself working on four novels. What an idiot!

But working on them all concurrently meant I could create a really cohesive whole. Plotting the third and fourth found me inserting key characters back into the first and second, flirting with foreshadowing and red herrings, and picking out poignant phrases that could echo throughout the series. I wanted to build something that could deliver extra on a second read; whether any reader had the inclination to go over it again remains to be seen, but hell, I had so much fun doing it, and if anyone is going to get some enjoyment out of this thing it may as well be me.

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