Where do the monsters come from?
Earlier today a reader asked me how I choose which monsters to include in my Cross books. It’s a good question, and I don’t think I’ve been asked that before. So I thought I’d answer it here.
First off, I had to decide whether I was going to include monsters at all. When I first dreamed up the character of Cross, I was obviously thinking of Christian mythology, so it was a natural to include angels and the like in the books. In fact, the first book, The Mona Lisa Sacrifice, kind of began with my idea to have Cross hunting and killing an angel at the Gaudi church in Barcelona.
But the Cross books obviously have a lot more than angels running around in their world. You can blame Alice for that. I’d been thinking about the character of Alice for years — a supernatural, eerie real-life Alice in Wonderland who lives outside of the Lewis Carroll books. I’d originally been considering writing a book about a professor with magical powers who was friends with Alice, but that book never happened. When I started thinking about Cross, however, I immediately knew Alice had to be his friend.
Once I introduced Alice to the Cross books, the floodgates just opened and all the mythology came pouring in. I figured as soon as I had one supernatural creature besides angels, I may as well have them all.
I think it was the gorgons who came next. I was thinking about the Winged Victory statue I’d seen while travelling Europe, and the idea of Medusa popped into my head and then that part of the story all fell into place.
When I introduced the faerie, I originally only thought of them as a side plot, something to ensnare and challenge Cross in his quest during The Mona Lisa Sacrifice. But I really liked the character of Morgana and Puck, so they took on more of a role in that first book and moved up to co-stars in the second book of the series, The Dead Hamlets.
Judas? Well, that’s a natural fit for the book. It seemed like he would be the sort to take on the form of other nasties, so that explains some of those moments in Cross’s history (I don’t want to say too much more for fear of spoiling things for those who haven’t read the books yet).
As for the other weird creatures, such as the mummy from The Mona Lisa Sacrifice and certain oddities from The Dead Hamlets, that just came from setting the action in familiar places. I wanted a scene in The British Museum, because I’ve been there and think it’s rich with drama. Once I decided to set the action there, I just thought about what fun, supernatural creatures I could introduce using that very setting. The same goes for the Tower of London and the Paris Catacombs and all those other places I write about.
When it comes to the monsters, I try to remain as truthful to the spirit of the place and the historical moment as I do when it comes to the regular moments in the books. In The Mona Lisa Sacrifice, for instance, I put a great deal of historical research into the Great Depression to make sure I depicted those moments in the book accurately — and I put an equal amount of research into spiritualism and faerie photography and other occult trends that inform the book. I wanted the supernatural stuff in the books to have some historical intersection with our world rather than just being big bad nasties dropped in seemingly at random. That’s why a certain demon who appears isn’t all fire and brimstone but instead lives in a Raymond Carver suburbia (and yes, there are lots of literary allusions thrown in, too).
Of course, you could ask how all these creatures are running about without anyone noticing, and that’s a fair question. The easy answer is that the people who notice wind up dead or in the faerie queen’s court — or worse, in the Royals’ dungeon! All these creatures have survived as long as they have because they know it’s a hostile world out there, so they keep a low profile. There’s a little more to it than that, though. Let me just say I address some of it in the third book, The Apocalypse Ark, and leave it at that for now.
I hope that answers some of the questions readers may have of the books. It was certainly interesting for me to look back on my process and think about things again. Why, it’s almost like I had a plan when I started writing!
Still haven’t figured out how to get a Mind Flayer into the books yet, though….
I have plans for Alice, though. Big plans. Big, weird plans.
Have you read…?
The Mona Lisa Sacrifice
The first book in the Cross series, featuring the enigmatic character of Cross, the man who woke up in Christ’s body after Christ left the earth to wherever it was he went. Written under the alias Peter Roman. Because, you know, Christ, Romans….
Click here for more details.