In case you missed it, the Science Fiction Book Club chose A Kiss Before Doomsday as a featured pick. Which, as an author, is incredibly exciting.
To celebrate, I put together a behind-the-scenes special that the book club shared with their members this summer.
If you’ve ever wondered where writers get their ideas, read on.
Science Fiction Book Club: Spotlight on A KISS BEFORE DOOMSDAY
One of the toughest jobs a fantasy writer has is coming up with new and interesting monsters. When I sat down to write the second Dru Jasper book, I knew that the bad guys would be undead creatures. But today’s readers have seen countless undead foes. How do you put a brand-new spin on the idea?
Supernatural enemies pop up throughout the Dru Jasper series. In the first book, IT HAPPENED ONE DOOMSDAY, the Apocalypse starts with the Four Horsemen driving demon-possessed muscle cars. That inevitably led to some outrageous high-speed car chases, and I wanted to do more in the second book.
But that would be difficult, because in this book, the dead rise from the grave. How do you turn that into a high-speed chase? As far as I know, zombies don’t drive cars.
Or do they?
As I paced around my little office, brainstorming story ideas, I tried to think of the creepiest car experiences I’d ever had. Most of them involved slogging through muddy junkyards or exploring ghost towns and stumbling across the occasional rusted hulk of an abandoned Model T.
One time, when I was a kid, I found a creepy weather-beaten motorcycle shoved in the back corner of my uncle’s repair shop. It had been abandoned to the elements for countless years before being hauled inside for a restoration project that never happened.
I was young enough that I was only eye-level with the staring socket of the smashed headlight. The gas tank was blistered with rust. The gutted frame had no engine, only a gaping void curtained in by cobwebs and dead bugs.
That motorcycle terrified me.
If an undead creature of the night ever needed wheels, I figured, it would ride that thing. And that’s when a light bulb metaphorically clicked on above my head.
Suddenly, I knew how to create a horde of undead foes that had a completely original spin. I started scribbling a scene that ended up in the book, and I’ve included it here for you. Enjoy!
THE DEAD RIDE FAST…
Ahead, the watery yellow headlamps of old motorcycles rolled past the stop sign without slowing down. A half-dozen motorcycles. Then a dozen. They quickly spread out across the rain-slick intersection, blocking the way, throaty engines barking.
Greyson slowed the black muscle car to a stop. He gripped the steering wheel and frowned. The motorcycle riders, most of them hunched low over their handlebars, were wrapped in some kind of semitransparent gauzy material that trembled and shook in the falling rain.
Thick layers of what resembled spiderwebs wrapped the leather-clad riders to their old, rusted mounts. It was impossible to tell where a motorcycle ended and its rider began. It was as if they had become one.
Greyson dropped one hand to the gearshift and glanced back over his shoulder. For the moment, the street behind him was clear.
One of the riders rolled up to Greyson’s window. He lifted one arm from the handlebars as if in greeting, and the gauzy material tore away and fluttered in the wind.
Something seemed to awaken beneath the webs that wrapped around the rider. Hundreds, perhaps thousands of wriggling dark streaks swayed back and forth in unison, as if washed by some invisible tide.
Beneath the old-style visorless motorcycle helmet, there was no face. Only cloudy goggles over a stained skull wrapped in black-speckled webs dotted with rain. The creature’s bony jaw opened wide, revealing sharp teeth. His fingers bent, and sharp black tips pierced through the webs, like claws.
Greyson didn’t wait to see what would happen next. He shoved the gearshift into reverse, released the clutch, and fed the heavy gas pedal, sending his car shooting back out of the creature’s grasp.
The skeletal figure, wrapped in layers of black-speckled cobwebs, opened its bony jaw and shrieked in frustration.
Greyson yanked the emergency brake, locking up the front tires. At the same time, he swung the steering wheel hard right, spinning the long black car in the middle of the wet street until it faced the opposite direction.
As the nose came around, Greyson punched into first gear. He revved the engine and shot directly away from the motorcycles, tires warbling on the wet asphalt.
The gang of undead, now behind him, all streaked after him in pursuit. The motorcycles filled the street, trailing sheets of tattered webs like gossamer wings…