Behind the Story
- DEMON ANGEL was conceived around the summer of 2003, was originally a story titled HARBINGERS, and it starred comic book heroes in an alternate universe. But as I was writing it, I realized the story I had planned was too big for the original characters, and I was taking the plot and ideas behind much further than I’d anticipated. So I scrapped the original story, and began rewriting it with Lilith and Hugh, and called it TEMPTING HUGH. Hugh was a detective after Falling and had never slain Lilith, Lilith was still an FBI Agent but much more vulnerable, and Colin had been playing the informant for Hugh. That version was also eventually scrapped, because it was awful. But it caught the attention of Cindy Hwang, an editor at Berkley Publishing, who loved the concept and my voice, and she gave me some advice on re-working the story. What I came up with is what became DEMON ANGEL.
- It’s easy to name some of my direct inspiration for the story: I was taking a graduate class on John Milton at the time, and absolutely loved Paradise Lost (not to mention his other works and essays). The friendship between the demon and angel in another book I’d recently read, Good Omens by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman, fascinated me, and of course my romanticly-tuned brain began churning out ideas for an angel/demon romance. Then there was Batman and Wonder Woman, two of my favorite comic book heroes, and who also represented that dark/light relationship to me (and a friendship that is teeming with friction, both in their methods of attaining their goals, and with sexual tension) — in DEMON ANGEL I wanted to flip the core of that around, take each character to an extreme, and see what happened.
But those are just the little inspirations that I can specifically recall — there are a million other influences and ideas that show up, from Ovid to Dracula to Watchers by Dean Koontz. Every book starts with a germ of an idea, I think — but feeding that takes a lot more.
- I chose San Francisco for one simple reason: Oscar Wilde once said that “It is an odd thing, but every one who disappears is said to be seen at San Francisco. It must be a delightful city, and possess all the attractions of the next world.” And because he’s right.
The quote that Lilith offers to Colin (“The world is changed because you are made of ivory and gold. The curves of your lips rewrite history”) is also by Oscar Wilde, from The Picture of Dorian Gray. On the surface, it’s a lovely thing for Lilith to say, but it’s loaded with negative connotations. This is the full paragraph, and the quote in context:
The curiously carved mirror that Lord Henry had given to him, so many years ago now, was standing on the table, and the white-limbed Cupids laughed round it as of old. He took it up, as he had done on that night of horror when be had first noted the change in the fatal picture, and with wild, tear-dimmed eyes looked into its polished shield. Once, some one who had terribly loved him had written to him a mad letter, ending with these idolatrous words: “The world is changed because you are made of ivory and gold. The curves of your lips rewrite history.” The phrases came back to his memory, and he repeated them over and over to himself. Then he loathed his own beauty, and flinging the mirror on the floor, crushed it into silver splinters beneath his heel. It was his beauty that had ruined him, his beauty and the youth that he had prayed for. But for those two things, his life might have been free from stain. His beauty had been to him but a mask, his youth but a mockery. What was youth at best? A green, an unripe time, a time of shallow moods, and sickly thoughts. Why had he worn its livery? Youth had spoiled him. (The Picture of Dorian Gray, c. 20)
Given Colin’s vanity, his amorality, and his dislike for mirrors, there’s no way Lilith could resist.
- The medieval section of DEMON ANGEL is set in 1217, two years after the signing of the Magna Carta (this and the following skirmishes for power between King John (Lackland) and the barons are what is references in the novel as the “barons’ rebellion” (NOTE: A “baron” in medieval times was different from the title of “baron” in the Regency — it simply denoted a large landholder given special administrative duties by the king. In DEMON ANGEL, Robert d’Aulnoy is an earl– and his wife a countess — but he is also considered a baron. Of the barons who participated in the rebellion at Runnymede (the site of the signing of the Magna Carta), some were earls, some relatives of noblemen, and some otherwise untitled.) There are three primary reason that I chose this time period:
First was the role of the Magna Carta in Western history. It has often been named as the first step in the long road to current Western governmental structures, and the first step in placing power in the hands of the many rather than a few. Of course, the barons weren’t exactly egalitarian, nor interested in destroying the feudal system and setting up a democracy — but it was a step … and DEMON ANGEL is a book that also has many steps, and the themes of tyranny and rebellion fit nicely.
Second, it’s the age of Chivalry (though not its height). Hugh’s head is filled with troubadours’ songs about knights and maidens, and his ideals are shaped by tales of glorious knighthood. (One of them that Lilith mentions is the story of The Knight in the Cart by Chretien DeTroyes, a 12th century Lancelot story.)
Third, because of the Magna Carta and it’s role in Western history, because of the age of Chivalry, because English language literature was in its nascent stages, it seemed the perfect setting: if nothing else, DEMON ANGEL is my love letter to all of the writers and poets that I’ve read and fallen hard for over the years. I’ve been asked if the books are religious or inspirational, because they center so heavily around concepts that are religiously themed — but, quite honestly, that is not because of any religious agenda of mine, but because English literature so often centers around these themes. Christian mythology permeates literature from Chaucer to … well, it still does. And since Milton (who had his own opinions on government, tyranny, and rebellion) was one of my heaviest influences in creating DEMON ANGEL, it’s there as well.
- The full poem by Milton that Lilith tells Hugh is the reason Lucifer chose her last name is as follows:
- When I consider how my light is spent
- Ere half my days in this dark world and wide,
- And that one Talent which is death to hide
- Lodged with me useless, though my soul more bent
- To serve therewith my Maker, and present
- My true account, lest He returning chide,
- “Doth God exact day-labour, light denied?”
- I fondly ask. But Patience, to prevent
- That murmur, soon replies, “God doth not need
- Either man’s work or his own gifts. Who best
- Bear his mild yoke, they serve him best. His state
- Is kingly: thousands at his bidding speed,
- And post o’er land and ocean without rest;
- They also serve who only stand and wait.”
NOTE: in 1666, Lilith alludes to Paradise Lost when she says that “it may be better to reign in Hell, but only one truly can–the rest serve” a full year before Milton’s epic was published. Is this a mistake?
No. Lilith tormented Milton by playing his amanuensis (essentially, taking dictation) after his eyesight began to fail. Historically, Milton’s daughters filled the role — I took the liberty of suggesting that Lilith did as well. And, as Milton began writing (dictating) Paradise Lost much earlier than 1666, she would have been able to read and quote from the text before publication.
- Recently, the San Francisco Chronicle ran a series of articles surrounding the controversy oferecting a suicide barrier on the Golden Gate Bridge. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is at (800) 273-TALK (273-8255).
- A Demon Angel Q&A that I wrote for the Berkley/Jove newsletter is here.
- I will be posting more Behind the Story tidbits — please feel free to contact me if you have any questions about my novels or the research, visit the BookClub discussion thread at DearAuthor.com where I have posted answers to other reader questions — or, for day-by-day information, please visit my blog, where I have categorized all of my DEMON ANGEL posts here.