Part III of David Wellington’s retrospective on his 13 Bullets series
Suvudu has been kind enough to let me blather on for two posts about the wonderful experience of writing the 13 Bullets series, now that it’s coming to an end. The final volume, 32 Fangs, is out now and I know my readers are most interested in this new book, and what comes next.
It’s always tempting when you start a series to let it take you where it wants to go – to let the books steer themselves, and just enjoy the ride. This series was different, right from the beginning. I knew how it was going to end: one last vampire, and one last vampire hunter. I was fuzzy on most of the details, but I had that one last big boss fight always squarely in mind.
And here we are.
Laura Caxton has given up everything in her life for this. She has become, in so many respects, the same as the man she started out hating, the man who became her mentor and then her most bitter enemy. The final book, 32 Fangs, charts her final evolution, and her realization that she has nothing else because there is nothing else. But it’s also the story of her nemesis, Justinia Malvern. One of the most fun things I did in the entire series was the sequence of historical vignettes in 99 Coffins, which related the story of Alva Griest, civil war soldier and volunteer vampire. I’d always wanted to revisit that. If vampires live forever they are witnesses to all kinds of history, and Justinia Malvern has lived a very, very long time. So a big part of 32 Fangs is told from her perspective, from her human youth to her final, obsessive fascination with Laura. I don’t want to give anything away, but don’t expect a sympathetic backstory. Malvern was always a villain.
The characters, then, are a big part of the book – but I never forgot that ending in my head, the one I started out with. This is a knock-down, drag-out fight, and I think readers will agree, a true climax to the over-arching story. Anyone who liked the previous volumes should definitely not miss this one.
It’s always tough to let go of something you’ve lived with for so long. The temptation to keep the story going, to keep letting things evolve, is so great. The characters take on their own lives and they don’t like being told their services are no longer needed. But as we’ve seen far too often in the last few years, a series that never ends is a serpent that gets lost in its own coils. It was hard, but I knew I needed a definitive ending here, and I’m very happy with how it turned out. But it does leave one question unanswered: What’s next?
My fans need not fear. I’ve been branching out recently, first with werewolves (Frostbite and Overwinter), then exploring other genres, with my fantasy series under the pen name David Chandler (Den of Thieves, A Thief in the Night, and Honor Among Thieves, all available now). I’ve also written a thriller and experimented with young adult fiction, books which will come out before too long. But I can feel my horror fans getting antsy. Don’t worry. It’s time for me to get back to my roots. I can feel it calling me, feel the call of the undead … I’ve got at least one more zombie novel in me, and it’s epic. To everyone who’s been waiting for a follow-up to the Monster Island trilogy, I have two things to say: thank you for your patience. And buckle up.
Will I ever return to vampires? It’s hard to say. I definitely need a break. But already my brain is starting to tick over with ideas. There were vampire hunters before Jameson Arkeley. There are other things lurking in the Pennsylvania woods, just as grim and deadly. And as long as there are vampires out there writing poetry for their human lovers, or worse yet, trying to impress them with their baseball skills, I’ll be there. Waiting, in the darkness. Watching. Getting ready to pounce.
David Wellington is the author of the Laura Caxton vampire series (13 Bullets, 99 Coffins, Vampire Zero) and the Monster Island trilogy (Monster Island, Monster Nation, and Monster Planet). He lives in New York City with his wife, Elisabeth. He maintains his popular website at davidwellington.net. Check back next week for Wellington’s second piece in his 13 Bullets retrospective.