I push up, the fires of hell right behind me, the screams of the demons like razored claws in my back. The weight of the world presses down on me but I can’t give up now, there’s daylight in sight, above me, just the faintest trickle. I fight on, dirt beneath my nails, my lungs on fire, every muscle drenched in acid. I’m nearly there, it’s so close…
Then I burst into the sun, I claw my way out of the mud, out of the blood, out of the festering ruin of hell… I’m free! I’m free!
So yeah, that’s kind of how it feels, having just finished the last chapter of The Devil’s Engine: Hellwalkers. (I love that my autocorrect wants to change that to Hillwalkers, which sounds like the over-seventies version of the book). Writing any book is difficult, but writing the final book in a series is always a huge undertaking. You have so much responsibility. Not least to your characters. I mean, you create these guys, throw them into hell (literally, in this case), you give them this huge undertaking. You come to love them, really love them, like they were your children. And you want the end of the story to work for them. I mean not all of them, some of them will die, horribly, but you want to be able to save as many of them as you can. And you want them to be able to step out of the end of the story and say, “Wow, that was incredible.”
You have a responsibility to yourself, too. A responsibility to tell the very best story you are capable of. I think I have. I’ve tried. I gave this everything I had and I think it works, I think it’s a story I can be proud of. I put my heart and soul into this—sometimes I think I literally put my soul into it… I wrote the last few chapters in a fit of sobs, because it felt like this was an actual piece of me I was pouring out. I know for a fact that I gave this as much of myself as I was able.
But the biggest responsibility, for a writer, is to YOU, the reader. I mean, I write these stories for you, nobody else. I want you to come out of this series feeling a little like I did when I finished writing it. Not screaming and pooping your pants (well, not just that), but going through that amazing process of closing the book, taking what feels like your first breath in forever, wiping the sweat from your brow and seeing the world around you like you’ve never really seen it before. I LOVE that feeling, the mix of exhaustion and delirium and relief and disappointment that you’ve left this fictional place and these fictional people and you’ll never go back there—not until you start reading again. I want you to feel like you’ve been on an incredible journey, an unforgettable adventure to hell and back. I want you to feel like you’re giving these characters a hug and saying, “Thank you for sticking by my side. We did it. We did it.”
It seems like a lifetime ago that the idea for this series popped into my head. I was walking down the street, listening to Hans Zimmer, and I had a sudden image of a girl fighting demons in a parking lot, and a boy stumbling into the chaos by accident. From that moment, I couldn’t stop thinking about it, and the idea just grew and grew and grew. It always seems to happen this way—I have no real memory of actually writing these books, but I can remember every explosion, every monster scream, every stench of hell like I was actually there. I’m settling back into the real world now like I’ve been away for a while. It may take me a while before I stop flinching at every backfiring exhaust, and thinking that there are demons inside my house every time one of my kids yells out…
I’ll be speaking a little more about the process of writing this series soon, until then here’s the two tunes I was listening to that formed the heart of this series. The first is from Superman Returns, and is the one I was listening to when the idea for the story first occurred to me. The second is from The Thin Red Line, and I had it on repeat while I was writing the last few chapters of Hellwalkers (whilst sobbing my heart out in front of two very confused pugs…).
Thanks so much to those of you who have said lovely things about these books, and to everyone who is a fan. You guys are amazing!! 🙂