"This isn't the end, Sam."
"Then why does it feel like it is?"
On November 20th, I dropped a bomb on Verania in the form of The Consumption of Magic which was also the last blog post I wrote here on my website. Those two things are not mutually exclusive. I wanted to give the story time to breathe, for people to make up their own minds about what happened, and what is still yet to come. I knew far, far in advance that this book was going to be risky but ultimately, I write in the service of the story I want to tell, which might not always be what the readers expect. Many times these expectations coincide, so that's a good thing. Sometimes they don't, but I don't feel regret about it at all.
Spoilers follow, obviously. Legit, if you don't want the Lightning books ruined plot wise, click away now.
The Consumption of Magic was, for the most part, always going to end the way it did. I say for the most part, because in my initial planning, I had the bold (and seriously terrible) idea of Sam of Wilds sacrificing himself at the end of Consumption, only to have the fourth book be told from the point of view of Knight Commander Ryan Foxheart (with Sam returning at some point, of course). I thought about it for a week or so, but decided against it. With regards to the narrative, it would have been interesting to see the story of the fall of Verania from a different perspective, but I thought something would have been lost in translation. I knew what Sam was going to go through between books III and IV, and I didn't think I could properly convey that if told from Ryan's perspective. So I shelved that idea, and went back with my original plan, and then I started writing the books.
Yes, Ruv was always going to be a villain. This wasn't some last minute change I did just for shock value. I knew from the very moment I started writing A Destiny of Dragons that he was going to be a bad dude. I can't begin to tell you the absolute glee I felt when I seemed to get away with it, hearing from so many people (much more than I expected) that Ruv would need a story too. Tj, he just HAS to have a happy ending! HE HAS TO!!!! Maybe with Justin???
And I always responded yeah, sure, maybe, we'll see! while cackling evilly. Ruv was never going to get his own story because Ruv is a dick and did an awful, awful thing.
Which brings me, of course, to Morgan of Shadows.
It hurt. I'll admit it. I love Morgan quite a bit. But given that I'm playing around with fantasy tropes, I did want to explore the idea of the Hero needing to learn sacrifice. This was hinted (rather blatantly) in Destiny: the Star Dragon told Sam very clearly that he would learn what true sacrifice was. I was honestly surprised more people didn't figure out he was going to be the one to die; there's a big history with wizened wizards meeting their end: Gandalf (though he did return) and Dumbledore, just to name a couple. I did worry for a bit, if it was going to come off as too tropey and rather cliche, but I needed to strike at the heart of Sam of Wilds. And while Ryan or Tiggy or Gary or Kevin would have hurt, I think Morgan was the most precious of all. Because Sam did have it relatively easy, for the most part. He has coasted, I think, maybe a little too easily.
But in giving a shocker of an ending, I also knew I ran the risk of having that be all people focused on. Everyone talks about the twists, and not necessarily what came before. Film, TV, books, it happens all the time. And I get that. But I don't want the book to be remembered just because of the ending, love it or hate it. Big things happened.
Leslie and Pat were such a joy to write. I knew going in that I needed each of the dragons to have a distinct personality, that they wouldn't be lumped in as all being the same. The fact that they were lesbians and mated? That came because a reader asked me when I announced I was working on sequels to The Lightning Struck Heart why I didn't include queer women in Verania. While it might not have been exactly what this reader was looking for, it did open my eyes. I come from a queer male perspective, and that's mostly what I write. But I do believe I need to be as inclusive as possible, so Pat and Leslie were born. Not because of a reader demand, but because the reader was right. Of course there are queer women in Verania. It just so happened I chose to make two of them dragons this time around.
(In addition, I have a queer female character in the upcoming Normal Person sequel, in my upcoming YA The Extraordinaries (two, in fact, in a relationship), and potentially in Ravensong. I hear ya, okay?)
And then there was my favorite scene out of everything I've written in these books. I alluded to it last year, but I can talk about it now: Sam jumping off Kevin's back to land on the Great White. I had that scene fully visualized near the beginning of writing Destiny, which meant I had a shit ton to do to get to it. I don't write scenes out of order, so it was a bit of a reward for me to get to that point. And it's short, but I adore it. I found it thrilling. I hope you did too.
As I've written in many different forms before, this book was about friendship and family, of love and sacrifice, both the physical and the mental. The stakes are big, far bigger than they started out to be when a band of merry misfits had to save the prince who'd been kidnapped by a dragon. This cast of characters (the good guys, at least) will do anything for each other, not because of duty or a sworn oath, but because they love each other.
That being said, this book will, I think (and mostly accept) be remembered for the ending. And not just for the Ruv/Morgan/Lady TIna/Caleb (truth corn leaders son!! AHAHA) debacle. Sam had to make a choice. Whether or not it was right one remains to be seen (or even if he made it for the right reasons). He chose to leave with the dragons as the Great White said was necessary. He will return to a world much different than the one he left. Dreamspinner wanted to put an excerpt for the last book, A Wish Upon the Stars. I said no, and told them to just use the blurb instead. I preferred it that way, as I'm an asshole. (And hell, that blurb is almost as shocking as the ending, no?)
There are a lot of threads that have been left dangling. I tie up most of them (thank god for editors who point out when I didn't) as this is the last book for Sam of Wilds (if that's even still his wizarding name. hmmm....). Gary will get his horn from an unlikely source. Randall and Myrin will come face to face. Tiggy will smash things. Kevin meets Gary's twin, Terry (make of that what you will). And Sam will have to deal with the consequences of the decisions he made, and all those he left behind.
(Hint: Ryan and Justin are pissed.)
You aren't going to like every story choice I made with A Wish Upon the Stars. Knowing it was the last book, I took some chances I might not have otherwise. Yes, there is a happy ending (it's a fairy tale, after all), but it's the road to that ending which is a little...skewed. As I said before, I write in service to the story, and in this story, I went in some directions people might not expect. But I think it works well, and the payoff?
Man, it's going to be nuts.
A Destiny of Dragons was my spin on The Lord of the Rings.
A Consumption of Magic was my spin on Star Wars.
A Wish Upon the Stars?
Can't quite reveal that yet. But Sam will return from the Dark Woods, and villains will hopefully be defeated.
(There might even be the return of a certain bard to sing another song, a spiritual successor to Cheesy Dicks and Candlesticks.)
I will say this, though: the title, A Wish Upon the Stars, has multiple meanings. Over the course of the series, Sam has wished for many things. In this, the final book, he'll wish for the most important thing of all. Because, of course, a certain prophecy still needs to be fulfilled.
A Wish Upon the Stars will be released in March. The specific date, cover, and pre-order will come soon.
I can't wait!