Guest Post: Dan Wells
Dan Wells. You all know how much we love Dan around here. He’s been a great friend to Elitist Book Reviews, and he writes incredible novels. To cap off this week of all things Dan Wells–in celebration of the release of his new novel, THE DEVIL’S ONLY FRIEND (Amazon)–we leave you with a guest post from our good friend, and one of our favorite authors.
As you may have heard, because I talk about it ALL THE TIME, the first book in my John Cleaver series I AM NOT A SERIAL KILLER (EBR Review) is being made into a movie. It stars, Max Records, Laura Fraser, and Christopher Lloyd, and I’m super excited about it, and it’s going to be awesome–in festivals next year, and theaters soon after. I had the chance to spend about a week and a half on set with the cast and crew earlier this year, and it was great to meet them all and see their vision for the film and share their excitement for the story and the characters. But then I realized something: now that I’d met those characters, how could I continue to do such horrible things to them?
The John Cleaver series has been called a lot of different genres–horror, urban fantasy, supernatural thriller, etc.–but at the end of the day, it’s really just a modern tragedy about a teenage boy. He tries to do what’s right, and sometimes good things happen and sometimes bad things happen, and in the end he “wins” but at some massive cost. His is not a happy life. One of the people who fares the worst is Brooke, his neighbor and childhood friend; in the new book that came out this week, THE DEVIL’S ONLY FRIEND, Brooke is in a particularly rough situation: she was “possessed” by a demon, and even though it’s gone now its memories are all still there, floating around inside her head, and that’s not a particularly easy thing to deal with. Brooke is played in the movie by a girl named Lucy, and she’s wonderful in the role and a delight to talk to in person, and then I had to go back to my hotel room and write more awful things that happen to her. All of a sudden these weren’t just characters in my head, they were actual people.
One night, after filming an especially rough scene where John and a monster scream at each other over a dead body, we all went back to the hotel and I saw Max Records by the back door, just standing alone in the sub-zero temperatures, and I asked him if he needed anything. “No,” he said, and then thought a minute and added: “Being John Cleaver is really shitty sometimes.” I can’t argue with that. And as much as I’d love to change that, and write a whole book where John and Brooke get to go to Tahiti and everything’s awesome and nothing bad happens… I can’t. It wouldn’t work. THE DEVIL’S ONLY FRIEND is the story of two people with crippling psychological problems trying to hunt a supernatural cannibal through a bustling city, and kill him before he hunts and kills them. It’s grueling and gruesome and sad. But that experience provides a powerful catharsis–maybe not for the characters, but for the readers. No matter what happens to John and Brooke and everyone else in the story, we the readers survive. We overcome our challenges and we move on, and just like them we “win” in the end, and just like them we pay a cost, and through this experience we become better people–not just in my book, but in every book we read. Every book where heroes see a problem, know the consequences, and jump in anyway to try to fix and help make the world better. That’s the power of fiction.
There’s a great quote from an old Mystery Science Theater episode: “What is it about the mouth of Hell that makes people want to run into it?” For me, and for John and Brooke, it’s the people we see on the other side–the people trapped in a situation they can’t get out of, desperate for someone to take a risk and help them. John and Brooke go through hell, and yes, I’m the one who sends them there, but they do it to help people. How could I NOT write that about characters I love?
The movie won’t be available until next year, but the books are out now. THE DEVIL’S ONLY FRIEND is the fourth in the series, but I think of it as the first book of a second trilogy–you can pick it up without any knowledge of the earlier books, and still love it and not get lost.
I hope you like it.