Saying goodbye to Boone Shepard had a much bigger effect on me than I thought it would. Before the release of The Silhouette and the Sacrifice I’d assumed that, given the manuscript had been completed for so long, I’d already kind of let go. But the day before publication it hit me hard; this was it for Boone. And while a few people who’ve finished the book have asked about the potential of a fourth instalment, I would put that in a box marked ‘extremely unlikely’. I wrote a little story to send him off into the sunrise, and since then there’s been a Boone shaped hole in my heart. His story feels finished, and it’s a hard thing to accept.
But maybe, in some ways, letting go of Boone has liberated me. Hindsight is very much 20/20 and it’s slowly become clear to me that, in some ways, the last decade of my writing life has been very much built around the twin pillars of Boone Shepard and Windmills. Without going into depressing detail, Windmills hit a couple of brick walls earlier this year that led me to put it on ice for the foreseeable future, while Boone came to his natural end. For the first time, I’m facing a slate of work that involves no variation on either property. And that feels bloody weird.
But at the same time, exciting. I can’t say much about a lot of the projects that have consumed my time in the last few months, but there has been some thrilling forward momentum for a couple of them. Nothing concrete, but enough to know that we’re on the right track. As for the stuff I can discuss, The Trial of Dorian Gray has no less than four different versions currently in production (a film and radio play in England, two stage versions in Australia) while I’ve been hard at work with an awesome team of writers developing Heroes into a web series, the pilot of which is scheduled to shoot early next year. The series will broaden the scope of the play/radio play over six ten-minute episodes. It’s been thrilling to see what different voices have done with these characters, and I can’t wait for people to see the finished product.
Meanwhile, my major literary project right now is the ongoing adventures of Maggie, the protagonist of Sunburnt Country around whom I’m planning a whole series of standalone novels. The first of which is an expansion of Sunburnt Country, the rest new ideas for crime stories shot through with horror. In some ways Maggie is a spiritual successor to Boone; the wandering nomad who stumbles into situations and rights wrongs, but in almost every way that matters they couldn’t be more different. Where Boone was fast talking and cocky, Maggie is laconic. Where Boone eschewed violence, Maggie’s quick to administer shotgun blasts to those who deserve them. Where Boone was weighed down by his past, Maggie doesn’t think about hers. At least, not until it comes back to bite her.
I love writing Maggie, and I think there’s a lot of potential in her stories. But it’s early days and it will take a long, long time to know whether this, or any of the other seeds I’ve been planting of late, will actually grow into anything.
But I’m optimistic. As I think you have to be. Pessimism hampers ambition, and honestly, I think working in this industry requires a willingness to be at least a little bit deluded.
This year marked the end of both Movie Maintenance and Boone Shepard, along with an indefinite hiatus on Windmills. I’d be lying if I tried to claim that these endings or pauses weren’t a mix of depressing and terrifying at times. It’s easy to rest on the laurels of proven successes. But nothing is permanent and if you rely too much on what’s already established you’ll find yourself at a loss when it’s suddenly pulled out from under you.
New horizons mean new possibilities. And, very probably, new failures as well. But you can't have one without the other.
Writing words about writing words.