The Devil’s Only Friend just came out this week, and not only did Dan answer a few of my questions about it, but you can win a copy (US/Canada), so be sure to enter to win (via the Rafflecopter widget) below the post!
Your John Cleaver series is wildly popular, and his story continues with The Devil’s Only Friend (and the start of a brand new trilogy). Will you tell us a bit about what fans can expect? Would new readership be able to easily jump in with this book?
I had three main goals in mind when I started writing this second trilogy: first, it had to be accessible to new readers as a new trilogy. Obviously people who’ve read the first three books will find more depth in this one, but people who’ve never read a Dan Wells book in their life can still jump in and not feel lost. My second goal was to explore the demons more: who are they, and where do they come from, and what are they like. The first trilogy showed that this things aren’t actual “demons” in the religious sense, and that they have the same faults and problems and the same capacity for sympathy that humans do. A lot of readers love the first book’s monster just as much as they love John Cleaver himself. I wanted to explore that more, and see things from their side, and The Devil’s Only Friend answers a lot of those questions. Thirdly, and perhaps most importantly, I wanted to use this new trilogy to take John in a new direction: not to repeat his character arc from the first series, but to build on it and show him grappling with new emotional problems. Life is never easy for poor John Cleaver.
How do you think John has grown and changed since the first book? What are the challenges of writing a character that faces such odds and as to grow up very quickly?
The Devil’s Only Friend picks up one year after the end of the first trilogy, with John working for an FBI team tasked with hunting the demons. This may seem, at first blush, to be a great situation for him: he has the support to do what he’s best at, with all the resources he needs to get it done right. But John has never done well with authority, and he definitely doesn’t play well with others. More than that, hunting demons isn’t really what he wants to do: he’s spent his whole life trying to stomp down his obsession with killing, and now he’s forced to obsess about it day after day after day. It’s wrecking him emotionally, and like you say, he’s only a kid. The people he works with treat him like a child but expect him to have the maturity of an adult, and he fights against those presumptions constantly. More damning, perhaps, are his own expectations–he’s seen what happens when he fails, and he doesn’t want that to ever happen again.
The Devil’s Only Friend introduces a ton of new characters, but there are three that I particularly enjoyed writing. Agent Potash is one of the people on John’s new team, a special forces operative who’s there as the trigger man: John figures out how to kill a monster, and then Potash kills it. He is, in some ways, exactly what John has always wanted to be, which also makes him, in a way, everything John’s trying not to be become. Their interactions are a blast to write. Another new character is Elijah Sexton, one of the monsters the team is hunting, who proves to be more human than a lot of the other characters. Seeing the world through his eyes, and learning from him what it’s like to be an ancient predatory monster, is fascinating. The final character I want to talk about I won’t give a name to, so as not to spoil it for people who want to read the first trilogy first. Suffice it to say that a fan favorite character is back, with new knowledge and powers that prove to be a huge asset to the team, but with accompanying challenges and setbacks that give John a focus to carry him through the whole new trilogy.
You’re a pro at writing about scary things, but what’s something that truly terrifies you?
Needles. I can’t handle them at all. I can watch the goriest autopsy scene you’ve ever seen on TV, and be totally fine with all the blood and guts and nastiness, but as soon as someone has to get a shot I fold like a birthday card. It’s really kind of embarrassing.
You’ve been a big reader from a young age. If you could experience one book again for the very first time, which one would it be?
The House of the Spirits, by Isabel Allende. I’ve read it three times, and I always love the moment at the end when the two different threads, and the different narrators, finally come together. I’d love to have that moment of revelation again.
How about recent reads? Anything you’d recommend?
I’ve been pimping this one for a while, but A Thousand Pieces of You by Claudia Gray is one of the best SF books of 2014. It’s YA, so it was completely off most SF people’s radar, but it’s a dimension-hopping romance with a fantastic plot, and I can’t recommend it enough.
Production recently started on the film version of I Am Not a Serial Killer. This is awesome, of course. How much have you been involved in the process? Will you tell us a bit more about it?
I’ve been heavily involved in the film, which is great because I have no official creative control over any of it. The director, Billy O’Brien, has become a good friend of mine over the last few years as we’ve been trying to nail down a script and raise money and hire a good cast, and he’s come to me for advice and clarification on almost every aspect of the story. I even got to spend about a week and a half on set, meeting the actors and talking about their characters, and it was awesome. Filming is done now, and they’re working on editing and effects, and if all goes well we’ll see it early next year at festivals like Sundance and SXSW, where obviously everyone will love it and studios will fight to distribute it into theaters nationwide. Fingers crossed.
What’s next for you, this year and beyond?
I just finished writing John Cleaver 5, the sequel to The Devil’s Only Friend, and that comes out next year. Also coming next year is a new SF series I’m starting called Mirador, an awesome YA cyperpunk thing; the first book of that series is called Bluescreen, and it’s about a group of girls in 2050 LA who play video games on the tournament circuit and get involved in a digital drug war. I’m also delighted to announce that I just signed a contract with Tor Books to sell them my latest novel, an adult SF standalone about cloning and the beauty industry and the end of the world.
About The Devil’s Only Friend:
John Wayne Cleaver hunts demons: they’ve killed his neighbors, his family, and the girl he loves, but in the end he’s always won. Now he works for a secret government kill team, using his gift to hunt and kill as many monsters as he can . . .
. . . but the monsters have noticed, and the quiet game of cat and mouse is about to erupt into a full scale supernatural war.
John doesn’t want the life he’s stuck with. He doesn’t want the FBI bossing him around, he doesn’t want his only friend imprisoned in a mental ward, and he doesn’t want to face the terrifying cannibal who calls himself The Hunter. John doesn’t want to kill people. But as the song says, you can’t always get what you want. John has learned that the hard way; his clothes have the stains to prove it.
When John again faces evil, he’ll know what he has to do.
The Devil’s Only Friend is the first book in a brand-new John Wayne Cleaver trilogy by New York Times bestselling author Dan Wells.