[Editor's note: Proving that you can have too much of a good thing, we've got an extra copy of Children's Crusade. Leave a comment for a chance to win it!]
We had the opportunity to catch up recently with Scott Andrews. His latest book, Children's Crusade, is a bloody, marvelous and bloody marvelous conclusion to his particular corner of the Afterblight world. We were very pleased to get a few minutes of his time.
Yes. I like stories that have a beginning, middle and end. I would be wary of revisiting the well too many times and hitting diminishing returns. The day I got the commission for School's Out, once I'd finished doing cartwheels, I came up with the basic outline of all three books and knew, before I wrote word one of book one, that I wanted it to be three and only three. Look at how Lost picked up once they decided they were going to end it rather than stringing it out until they were cancelled. Big lesson there.
That said, I have set up threads that could spawn a second trilogy, but whether that will actually happen is impossible to say at this point.
(Per usual, what started as a simple interview turned into much more - read on about the nature of plotting, how to borrow a Ranger and the cruel betrayals of Joss Whedon.)
I don't want to give anything away to our readers, BUT... not everyone makes it through the book. And I won't lie - a few of the deaths really shocked me. As the author, how do you decide who lives and who dies? All that god-like power...
I never write with the explicit intention of shocking the reader - that's a blind alley, a stupid thing for a writer to do, and kind of insulting to the reader. If there are shocks, they happen almost by accident, which is the best way.
I don't want to sound wanky and say 'the characters write themselves!' coz obviously that's untrue and I always sniff derisively when I read an author saying that. But I know what they mean, and I've found with each of the books that there comes a point where it feels like the events of the story are carrying me along with them and I'm just holding on for grim death, transcribing them. Obviously I'm controlling the story, but it feels like I'm not. It's odd, hard to describe without seeming to be completely up myself, and it's a great feeling.
What I tend to do is plot the book as it would happen if all the heroes' plans worked, then I have the plans go horribly wrong and as the characters improvise to compensate, so do I.
So to answer your question - I really had no fixed idea who would live and who would die. Right up until a character actually breathes their last there's every chance they might make it out alive. In the end, those characters who die were just in the wrong chapter at the wrong time, and paid the price.
Also, I firmly believe that a character's death should be surprising and should hurt the reader. I remember how devastated I was when Tara died on Buffy, or Wash bought it in Serenity, or Penny died in... hang on... WHEDON!! (shakes fist)
So if a character's death surprises me - and they always kind of do, actually, even as I write them - then hopefully they'll surprise a reader too. And I like the idea that the deaths of my characters knock the reader back. That's satisfying, 'cause it means the characters worked and connected.
Children's Crusade reads like the Afterblight's All-Star Game - with substantial appearances from characters developed by Paul Kane and touching on villains and themes first introduced by Simon Spurrier. We touched on this before, but what's it like working in a world this cooperative? Does Mr Kane mind you killing off a Ranger or two?
Paul picked out the two Rangers who have lead roles in the book and handed them off to me for development. But he did rein me in on their use of firearms and their rule that they should fight to wound, not kill, wherever possible. Also he was kind enough to say that I nailed Robert's character - then gave me a whole slew of notes on what I'd got wrong about the scene where he met Lee :-) So I did rejig things to keep him happy. (Cause, you know, he scares me!)
I always intended to tie book three very closely in with The Culled. As time passed and The Culled started to seem less immediate I questioned whether it was still wise, but I eventually decided that it added texture and rewarded long time readers. There's even a very small reference to one of the character from that book in the long flashback in the middle of this one - see if you can spot it.
I should stress, though, that you don't have to have read the other books to enjoy mine, just that it's an added layer if you have.
As the last in the trilogy,Children's Crusade might not be the best book for Afterblight virgins. What would you suggest to our readers that want to get into the series?
There's a chronology at the back of Children's Crusade. I'd recommend reading them in chronological order, which just co-incidentally means starting with School's Out. How about that :-)
What's up next for you?
I have three Highlander audio plays for Big Finish being recorded at the moment. That's pretty exciting for me, as I love writing for actors and audio and have always been a passionate Highlander fan.
I have a screenplay and three totally different novels started and ready to proceed but, I must be honest, I'm exhausted right now. I've written this trilogy while having two children, with all the sleep deprivation that implies; moving house twice, with all the stress that implies; surviving a bruising stretch of unemployment, with all the financial difficulty that implies; and so many 9-5 job changes that my head is still spinning. I need a break!
So for now I'm just concentrating on my 9-5 job, running the website for a Government Department (seriously, after I finish typing this I'm off to the Commons to talk to a Minister about social media - lucky they don't know what happens in Childrens' Crusade, or they'd never let me in the building!), catching up on my reading, listening to lots of Doctor Who audio plays, and reintroducing myself to the wife and kids.
When I've recharged my batteries I shall pick one of my on-hold projects and dive into it, but I'm in no hurry for the moment.
Ok. Zombies attack. You can have one weapon, one sidekick and one song for your zombie-slaying soundtrack. Go...
Thank you very much for your time.
School's Outm Operation: Motherland and Children's Crusadeare all available from your local, independent bookstore. Children's Crusade was released on May 19, 2010, from Abaddon books.