The relationship between two sisters can be exceptionally close. Especially in times of struggle. At first glance it would seem Molly and Maggie are opposites. But it comes down to something more than that. Yes, they are emotional contraries to one another, yet they also seem to be parallel in some ways. Maggie is very diminutive but tough. Molly, the taller Caribbean princess
who excels at asking the tough questions.
Both are strong woman. But, in very different and almost complimentary ways.
Sisterhood can be like that.
One of my real regrets in this story is saying goodbye so soon to General McCarthy. "Big Mac" was a lot of fun to write about. His passing opens up a darker relationship with the Pentagon for Molly.
I have to say that the West Virginia country side took on a personality of its own in Manifesto. The town on the edge of eternity that was Elkins. The dark nights and thick forests shrouded in fog. Atmospheric only begins to describe it.
General John C. Beauragard is a purposeful question mark. I wanted all his actions to be reasonable and logical to his character.
Beauragard is not an antagonist or a protagonist. His is merely a man with is own set of values, morals and goals. How far is he willing to bend his morals and values to achieve his goals? "Well, we all have secrets,
"Just sayin' ...............just sayin'........"
This was one of the very first story ideas for FIVE YEARS AFTER. Most of the first ten ideas either did not make the cut, were laid aside or had their ideas incorporated into other stories.
The concept of taking one of the most vibrant cities in the world and turning into a dead husk of its' former self was just too compelling. It had to stay.
This was also a story that lent itself to taking time to describe the landscape. To paint a picture for the reader of the Big Apple in darkness. Not only was it a walk along the streets of an abandoned city it was an opportunity to look outwards as well. Through his radio Dylan is able to provide
another piece to the FIVE YEARS AFTER puzzle. Thirdly, RED ZONE was uniquely
positioned to provide a timeline from past to present. A big thank you to Robert Hinbest
at Erskines' who took an afternoon and patiently explained to me EVERYTHING about car batteries. Also, how to best use them for home electricity. His expertise was most appreciated.
The political intrigue as a lead in to "Armageddon" was truly engaging. Maggie Hunter was not even in the first draft of FIVE YEARS AFTER. Her character originated in a rejected story called the "The Drumhead." Like this story, Maggie's character took on a life of her own. She is being eaten alive by mental illness. How she got this way is something I can't wait to explore. Maggie's own worst enemy is herself and she knows it. Curiously, when her adrenalin flows in action she seems at her most stable. Her issues come to her like phantoms before she falls asleep at night. There are those brief minutes where she is alone to unravel her thoughts. It is then, before she sleeps that Maggie goes dancing with her demons.
Her trip to Orangeville shows that there is a bright side waiting to get out. The memories from her past
are vibrant and happy. There is hope.
This genre is excellent for social metaphors.
The metaphor for FIVE YEARS AFTER is our current economic situation. The dead represent the wolves at the door of many a
home and family these days as they struggle to make ends meet with little or no salvation in sight. The town of Orangeville was chosen because its situation is like so many others. It has been decimated by plant closures and business bankruptcies. Yet, parents find a way to carry on. Children still go to hockey practice, recitals and soccer games. A way is found to keep the wolves at bay for at least one more day. Hope lives here.
This was originally called "The Thin Yellow Line" in reference to the school buses used as sniper's stations. But, as time progressed the story became less about the school buses and more about
thin lines. The thin line between a lie and the truth. You can only tell yourself for so long you're okay when you know something is not right. The thin line between sanity and madness and the thin line that is the containment line.
Stress disorders among our troops are very well documented. Their efforts at finding help are not. The culture of the soldier is to be tougher than any situation they face. "I'm okay," is the standard answer to many personal who offer help.
Many other times the help is not forthcoming because no problem is perceived. One thing is a definite , our men and woman in uniform deserve much more than is available now. They have chosen to serve. It is that act that elevates them above us. They have earned our respect and gratitude. But, when they come home incomplete. They must have our understanding above all else. Yes, they have earned that as well.
This is kind of a "behind the scenes " look at each story. How it fits into the vast world of FIVE YEARS AFTER. In some cases, the research, under currents in the plot and personal feelings of the characters. There might be one or two spoilers in here. You have been warned. Please don't hate me.
Funny thing about facts. They make for a far better story. While researching the brain and its' many regions for this story I came across the temporal lobe. It is essentially the part that helps us hear. Since the dead have very good hearing the temporal must be fully functional.
The temporal region is also where our memory is stored. Let logic runs its course. If the dead can hear perfectly then the temporal region is functioning. If the temporal region is functioning.....
Then they must have memories.
How much memory? Dreamlike deja vu flashes that give them pause. Perhaps they remember who they were and try to return to places that are familiar. Worst of all, they are conscious and trapped in this new monster they have become. They are forced to watch every gruesome act. They would see their friends be torn apart by their own hands with no power to stop it, no mouth to scream and
no tears to cry. Truly, this is hell.
The second part of this story is from the viewpoint of a father. The hardest thing for any family man is to realize you cannot protect your children from everything.
As men, we love our families with an emotion that is so deep it is limitless. There will be a moment when men like these look in the eyes of their children and realize why they are here in this life. It is a richness beyond words, it is the vibrant colors of emotions that you can only feel but not describe. Yet, we are raised to be stoic. Woman who find men hard to understand must realize that when we fall we must pick ourselves up and not rely on others. Its just the way it is. The father, the strong provider. For them there is the lonely vigil watching your children grow as you keep them from harm. Then, you lie awake at night
hoping you are strong enough to get it right.
Fearful you may fail.
looking at the houses a concept came to me in bits and pieces. At one point, it was two different story ideas that were merged into one. As soon as I got home
I wrote the ideas down and began to work on a rough draft. Then, something unusual occurred. While walking my dog the next night a second story idea hit me
(The Bad Ones). The next night, it happened again. (Red Zone). I finally sat down with a huge pad of paper and wrote out any story ideas that came to mind. Within two hours, I had over twenty.
The idea of using SKYPE sped up the pace of things so that another large puzzle piece of FIVE YEARS AFTER could be laid out without slowing the tempo of the tale.
The impersonal nature of technology seemed to make his pain more intense.
His moment of confession seems out of place with his surroundings. Like tears in a world that refutes the right to cry.
survival and reclamation of his life. His journey also gives us a macroscopic look
at Pennsylvania and Kentucky at the outbreak. This has become a world of contradictions. John points out that the most heavily armed are not the safest.
The constant gunfire brings more and more of the dead who eventually overwhelm the neighborhood. In contrast, the end of the world sparks the beginning of his new life. Perhaps this is far easier for John than the rest of us.
His apocalypse has already transpired.
The rest of us are merely joining him.
For the addict, life must be lived in the moment. There is no other way. It is a daily struggle with the darkness of their souls. In every minute of every day a constant hunger is trying to pull them from their lives into a pit of self destruction. In an effort to keep one step ahead of the devil in his dark soul, he now travels the country helping others cope and recover from their own private end of the world scenario.
A cause and effect story. It is set in Ottawa under siege on all sides. If there is a sense in this story that the government seems to be living in a different world than we do, it is intentional. The government has little to offer the rest of the nation in the way of aid, protection or strategic direction. Helplessly, they watch with no way to intervene. For the rest of the country, Ottawa is so far removed from their reality that they might as well be on the moon.
Tom Roberts is a character worth exploring. A civil servant who is happy to toil away in the grey areas of Canadian politics. A worker ant on Parliament Hill. As the government slowly begins to fall apart Roberts quickly finds himself in uncharted territory. A decision maker. A rumor of a possible coup by the military has Roberts slowly being pulled into the vortex of political intrigue. The boy scout is about to be bloodied by reality.
General Clay Davidson is a man who has choices to make. As time passes, he realizes that there might not be any right answers.
Just decisions that forestall the inevitable.
As a writer, I can say the best thing you can do is listen to people tell their life story. Somewhere, somehow the story you hear could influence you in the future. I once met a history teacher many years ago who had lived the events he was teaching. I had read about the Battle of Berlin in preparation for this story. But, then I remembered our conversation. He had been there. His descriptions were far more vivid than any words on a page could possibly be. The claustrophobic sense of helplessness as you are hemmed in to smaller and smaller defensive perimeters. The impending finality of it all. The smoke, dust and debris that chokes the air out of your lungs. Unforgettable.
Now, his companion has turned against him. He has tried to live up to the teachings of his theology and has found himself wanting.
Perfection is a harsh judge.
In the evacuation of Louisville, it did not occur to him his congregation would go to his church and wait for him. His guilt is now a slow poison in his soul. I wanted the characters of FIVE YEARS AFTER to be defined not by their strengths but by their weaknesses. The memories and emotions that haunt us at our loneliest hour.
As a gofer, he ventures back into abandoned
Louisville running errands and retrieving articles. For a price, of course.
He also returns to give his now dead flock a proper Christian end to their lives. Slowly, he is washing the blood from his hands one drop at a time.
The Deacon was one of the first characters I came up with for FIVE YEARS AFTER. He has not so much changed through the rewrites but has grown and matured. I regarded him from the beginning as essential to the series.
In times of plague in the middle ages it was the church that held the fabric of society together. A sanctuary that promised something better when everything was falling apart. This simple act is much more than it seems.
After all, before deliverance there must first be faith that deliverance is possible.