Peter Octavian and the world of the Shadow Saga were the beginning of my career as a novelist, and continue to be the undercurrent that flows beneath everything I do. But that wasn't the result of any real planning on my part. I created the character during my senior year of college. I still have the first draft I wrote of the opening chapters of the book that was then called Shadow Time, but which became Of Saints and Shadows. It's differentthat first draftbut Octavian is already who he would eventually become. He was there from the opening lines, familiar and known to me, somehow.
But as I wrote the first third or so of that first Octavian novel, in my mind I saw it not as the first book in a series, but as a standalone. A thing unto itself. It was only when Ginjer Buchanan (who has edited the entire series) made an offer to buy the novel and a sequel that I realized perhaps Octavian's story wouldn't be over when Of Saints and Shadows was completed. Then the wheels began to turn.
I've written a lot of books since then and a lot of time has passedI turn 44 in a few months, a long way from collegebut Peter Octavian has never been very far from my mind. The gaps between books have gotten longer; it's been eight years since The Gathering Dark. Yet the one thing that never changes is this: every time I do a signing or attend a convention, readers ask me when I'm going to write another Peter Octavian novel. Friends ask me, too. Other writers. So much so, in fact, that the new Octavian novel, Waking Nightmares, is dedicated to all of those people who never stop asking for a return to Octavian and his world.
Rest assured that I always intend to go back. I get sidetracked by other projects that excite me or things that seem to need doing more immediately, but Octavian is always there, patiently waiting. I see Ginjer at least once a year, usually more than once, and the subject always comes up. One of us will mention that we'll probably do another Octavian novel at some point, and then the topic of conversation shifts and we don't get back to it for a while.
This last time, Octavian had grown impatient. I started to get foreign editions of the early books from Russia and it made me focus on just how long I had been away from the character and his world, and I started to grow impatient to get back to it as well. Ideas began to coalesce, and they led to renewed conversations with Ginjer about where Octavian would be now, what his life would be, and what might happen to him next. I worried that he might have begun collecting dust, and it was time to shake the dust off and give him a brutal new shine.
When the decision was made to roll out the entire backlist of the series with new covers as a build-up to the release of Waking Nightmares, it sparked fresh creativity in me. As much as I wanted to thank the people who had been reading all along, I knew I was not just writing for them, but for the readers who would be discovering the series for the first time. Waking Nightmares needed to be Peter Octavian for 2011, a turning point that would be connect the past to the future… and for me, and sadly, for Octavian, that sort of talk usually means something awful is going to happen. Octavian would have to go through some serious nastiness.
I knew things were going to go badly for him, but I didn't realize how badly until I started writing.
For years, I'd heard authors talk about characters taking over their own stories. I always chalked it up to the kinds of things writers like to say to make our occupation seem mysterious and arty, and I've always tried to shy away from the literary putting on of airs. Sure, the writing process is loaded with epiphanies large and small, eureka moments when the puzzle pieces fall together, or when you realize that what you're writing is very different from the way you initially conceivedor even later perceivedit to be. But characters "taking over?" It just sounded silly to me.
Until the first time it happened, while I was writing a dark fantasy novel called The Myth Hunters a few years back. The Myth Hunters was the first book in an trilogy called The Veil, and it happened to me a lot in those three books. Characters I had never imagined would suddenly arrive in the story, fully formed. I didn't know what to do with them, but they quickly asserted themselves, becoming a vital part of the story. Others would behave in ways I would never have predicted if talking about the plot, but just felt right when I got to those moments in the tale.
That happened againin a major waywhile writing Waking Nightmares. I had been so looking forward to writing Octavian again, as well as the earthwitch Keomany Shaw and Octavian's girlfriend, Nikki Wydra. But quickly, Nikki took a back seat, not taking part in the main action of the story at all, and it became Octavian and Keomany, plunging into darkness and chaos and black magic. New characters who were in the original outlineMiles Varick and Amber Morrisseytook over their own stories, their fates evolving and becoming far more intriguing to me than I had ever expected.
And then there's the young, tattooed, freshly-made vampire, Charlotte. She wasn't in the outline. Octavian and Keomany, responding to a crisis in the small town of Hawthorne, Massachusetts, enter a room full of death… and there she was, waiting for them, and for me. Charlotte seems almost to have invented herself. Her existence and her story were a revelation to me, and she quickly became an integral part of both Waking Nightmares and of the future of Octavian's story.
The more I learned about Charlotte and the insidious figure of the vampire Cortezwhose mystery simmers in the background of this book, awaiting future explorationthe more I realized that Waking Nightmares truly is a turning point for Octavian. More accurately, it's a bridge between the past and the future. Finding that bridge has focused my attentions on Octavian and his world like never before, and I can't wait to discover what Octavian and the handful of characters who survive this installment have waiting for them as the repercussions from the events of Waking Nightmares roll out across this world and into new pages.
You'd better believe I won't be waiting eight years to find out.
Other Books in this Series