Note: Spoilers for Wolfsong, Ravensong, and Lovesong. If you haven't ready any or all of these, click away as this post will reveal major spoilers.
In the original outline of Ravensong, Chris and Tanner were executed by Elijah in the streets of Green Creek upon the arrival of the hunters. Unable to take the loss of their friends after Elijah was defeated, Jessie and Rico left the pack, breaking ties, wanting to escape the wolf world. The plan after that, vague though it was, was to have Jessie and Rico show up again in Heartsong, as hunters of sorts.
For some reason, I thought this was a good idea.
And now, looking back, I have no fucking idea why.
Because that's stupid.
And I realized that just as soon as I started writing. Seeing the younger versions of Rico, Tanner, Chris and Gordo all together and how they stuck by his side when he was abandoned by the wolves made me realize that not only would killing off half of Team Human be unnecessary, but it would be a weirdly cruel thing to do, given all Gordo had been through. While these books are very angsty, there needs to be a line. It's one thing to slog through angst; it's something else entirely to drown in it.
So I didn't kill them.
I just hurt them.
(also in the original outline :Joe was infected along with Mark and Carter and turned Omega, but it was too much and took the focus away from Mark and Gordo.)
Hi, and welcome to my TED talk, where I'll be discussing a few key points in the story, what part made me unintentionally laugh my ass off (and got edited out), why I had to go and "ruin" Thomas and Elizabeth (what one angry tweeter wrote to me, yay!), the twist at the end, and what happens next.
First things first: Gordo was always going to lose a hand. That was not up for debate. That scene was one of the first I thought up. Oh, it changed a few times as to who was actually going to be the one doing it, but it was always going to happen.
Shortly after, there was a scene that made me just fucking die that ended up being cut, given how my editors thought it really went too far and undercut the seriousness of what happened to Gordo, and the gravity of his moment with Thomas. (And ultimately, they were correct in making me cut it.)
He wakes up, right? He asks where his hand is. Joe has to point out to him with no small amount of trepidation that Carter might have...gnawed on it a little while Gordo was passed out. And eaten parts of it.
I just...I don't know, man. I still laugh at it now. Fucking stupid, right? But it just seemed so Carter for reasons I can't quite explain. Alas, cutting it was for the better.
Second: Elijah. I have a...well. Let's just say I have a complicated history with religion. I tend to think most organized religion is no better than a cult (but you do you). I went in one direction with the idea of religion in Into This River I Drown, though it was vague enough that it wasn't meant to represent any one faith. But I have this fascination with those who use the supposed words of God as a weapon. It's a queer dichotomy, given how two people can so vastly differ on how they interpret scripture. In the end, Elijah, so indignant and righteous in her faith and fury, failed. And with the death of her and her clan, I think the backbone of the hunter movement was broken, though there might be some stragglers out there still causing up trouble. Which, honestly sucks because while she was obviously bad, she was such a cool character. She wore the skin of a werewolf, for fuck's sake.
Third (and this is a big one): Thomas and Elizabeth Bennett. Look. I get that people adored them in Wolfsong for the most part. I did too when I was writing them. But as I get older, I'm less and less impressed by perfection, and more interested in imperfection and flaws. Take away the fairy-tale shine, and what lies underneath? That's what I want to know about.
Thomas, especially, made bad decisions. Did he make them for the right reasons? Only time will tell. I think he did, but I still think he went about it the wrong way. With Gordo and Ox, Thomas messed up a bunch. He listened to the wrong people. Even worse, he trusted the wrong people. And Elizabeth, put in a desperate situation (as seen in Lovesong), had to make a choice. Follow him or let him go? She chose. Again, was it the right decision? Or was it made for the right reasons?
People are complex. What you see isn't always what you get. Ox saw the Bennetts one way. Gordo saw them another. Does it make one of them right over the other? I don't know that it does. But it was important to me that Gordo called them out for their manipulation of Ox. Looking back, Ox wasn't given a choice in the matter when Joe gave him his stone wolf at such a young age. Had he known, he most likely would have made the same decision, but I needed Gordo to be the voice of reason for this. It was important to me.
And coming back to Elizabeth, the reason the short story Lovesong exists is because of the scenes between Gordo and Thomas. Gordo was given a chance at forgiving Thomas, but what about Elizabeth? I didn't think it was fair, especially given how Thomas was her mate. I didn't want to take away from the momentum of the story, or Gordo's perspective, so I decided to give Elizabeth her moment in the spotlight. I like how it turned out.
(And to that angry tweeter who accused me of ruining Thomas and Elizabeth: eh.)
Fourth and finally: the ending. That scene between Michelle Hughes and Robert Livingstone? I love it so, so much. It's short, only a few pages, but it has so much to it, especially revealing the identity of the timber wolf as being Gordo's half-brother. And though I've done twists before, there's just something so satisfying about this one, given that you, the audience, are now in possession of knowledge that the characters aren't. It'll create a different kind of tension, and every interaction will be heightened. Who is this wolf? What happened to him? Where did he come from? What does he know? When will the pack find out, and how will Gordo and Carter react? WHAT THE FUCK IS HIS NAME???? (lolololol)
(Also, for those upset that Carter also has a dude as a mate, die mad about it. Everyone is queer. This pack is a goddamn Pride Parade, and I don't care if you hate it. Write your own werewolf story with hetero sex if it upsets you that much.)
But stepping back from this knowledge is the first glimpse of Robert Livingstone in the present day. What does he want? Are we to take him at his word that he only wants his son and nothing more? I guess we'll have to find out, won't we?
I'm going to be very close-lipped about it, much more than I was with the lead up to Ravensong. It's...different. With sequels, there is a always a strange desire to go bigger and darker, upping the action and the violence. I...didn't do that. Heartsong is a quieter book, more focused on Robbie and Kelly than anything else. Oh, shit goes down, sure, but there was something... innocent(??) about the two of them that I wanted to explore in more depth. It also gives Chris, Tanner, Rico and Jessie more of a chance to shine.
And it will bring the relationship between Carter and Kelly to the forefront. They'll need each other for what's coming. Because Heartsong is built around a deceptively simple question: What happens if you can't trust the people around you?
And that's it.
That's all I'm going to say about the wolves until next summer as we approach the release of Heartsong in September of 2019. Thank you, though. Thank you for being part of this journey. Thank you for letting me tell these stories. I'm proud of them. And I can't wait until we head back to Green Creek again, and hear our pack singing us home.