Guardian Series Retrospective #4 – DEMON ANGEL, Part 2

Meljean’s note: This post is part of a series of entries about the Guardians paranormal romance series. As I write the last book in the series, I’m re-reading all of the books and novellas that came before and posting information, reactions, and pieces of trivia for each one. THESE POSTS WILL INCLUDE SOME SPOILERS, though I will try to keep the details of those spoilers to a minimum.

I’ve broken up the post into three sections: the writing section, which discusses why/how I choose settings and characters; the re-read section, where I’ll mention what I still like (and maybe what I would have done differently); and the series trivia section, where I’ll point out the parts that relate to other books, and that can act as a refresher for the series before you read Michael’s book later this year.

Please understand that this means you will get a “behind the book” look at the series, which is not always awesome. After all, there is a person behind the books – me – and it’s often true that enjoying fiction is easier the less you know about the person writing it. With that in mind, I will try to keep comments about my intentions to a minimum.

These are not reviews of my books, but I might be critical of some aspects of the writing. It’s been years, after all, and my writing style and approach has evolved. If I say something critical about a part of a book that you loved, please don’t think that I’m bashing your opinion – it’s just that I’m already hyper-critical of my own work, and I can’t help but approach the stories with an eye toward “how would I write this differently now/how would I improve this?”

I also use bad words now and then.

Please feel free to comment below and ask me questions about this book — I touch on a lot of things briefly, but I’m always willing to give more in-depth answers. If an answer to your question will spoil the final book in the series, however, please understand that I won’t answer it.

This post is about “Demon Angel,” and I’d like to focus on that story in the comments. If you ask a question about another book (or if your question will be answered in another post) I might just give a brief response and let you know a more complete answer is coming up. Please also feel free to leave your own reactions/responses to the book – and I’m not offended if you didn’t like it.

Demon Angel

Re-Reading DEMON ANGEL

Okay, well — the tl;dr version of what follows is: I still really like it, but I wish I could clean up a lot of the writing and make some of the worldbuilding stuff clearer for readers.

This isn’t going to be a review with a plot summary or anything. I’m going to assume that everyone has read this, because otherwise a lot of the stuff that I mention won’t make any sense at all. The trivia stuff is below, so if you are reading this as a refresher or to familiarize yourself with some of the story arc before reading Michael’s book, you’ll want to skip to that.

Things I Like About This Story

  • Lilith and Hugh
  • And a good thing, too — right? But this isn’t always true of characters I write; I don’t always like them (or rather, I don’t always start out liking them.) I know some readers had trouble with them, but that doesn’t bother me like some of the other issues with this book do, simply because I always feel that’s a matter of taste. Of course I wished everyone liked them, but it’s very easy to shrug that away. Characters are like people in that way, I think. Nobody likes everyone, so I can’t expect that every reader will love every character, either.

    I think I went over what I liked about them in the previous post. I love that Lilith is a bad girl and that she doesn’t apologize for it. I love that Hugh is a martyr and that he doesn’t apologize for it. I love that they are so different and yet understand each other so well (although it took a long time to get to that point.) I love that he would die to save her, and that she would kill everyone to save him.

  • The Other Guardians
  • Selah — Actually, that’s not quite true. I don’t really LIKE her in this book, but I like her in this book. I wrote her as self-righteous and judgmental, and that’s what I like about her. The Guardians aren’t all one hive-mind. Hugh is different from Selah who is different from Michael who is different from Bradford.

    Michael — Ooooh, mysterious. I knew he was going to be a BIG HERO later in the series, although when I first began writing DEMON ANGEL, I envisioned only three books: Hugh & Lilith’s, Colin’s, and Michael’s. (I revised that upward to eight books long before I finished this one — because, wow. This book was long long long, and there was no way my story arc would fit in three books.)

    Bradford — mostly because he’s a pain in Lilith’s ass.

    It’s funny to me now, because those are the only three Guardians in this book. I have this horrible tendency NOT to write sequel-bait, which I should really get over.

  • The cover

  • Because it was my first cover ever! OMG! 😀

    Okay, but seriously. I think this is a super-pretty cover. I do love it. Look at her hair! It’s like a Pantene commercial! And every single thing on here is exactly what I asked my editor for … except maybe the pink.

    In the art department’s defense, they made this cover before I turned in the book, and I don’t think that anyone (even my editor) knew how dark this series would be. So it didn’t really fit the tone of the series, but the series itself is kind of a weird mix between PNR and UF. It took a while to find the right look for the covers.

    Would I love for these early books to be rebranded and given covers like the later books in the series? Yep. Is it probably going to happen? Nope. Unless I become a super-bestseller.

  • Sir Pup!
  • Sir Pup didn’t come about until my post-“Falling for Anthony” revision of the series. When I wrote that novella, he still didn’t exist in my head. He didn’t exist until I began rewriting the first chapters (and adding the Part 1 to the book.)

    And he’s there because I simply couldn’t stand the idea that Lilith had been so terribly alone through her torture in the Pit. I created Colin for her, but that wasn’t quite enough, because she can’t really *show* Colin that she cares for him. They both know she does, of course. But the only one she can really ever show affection to is Sir Pup.

    I also love that he’s a “bad” hellhound because he’s able to return that affection. In that way, he’s a lot like Lilith — she’s a bad demon. Plus, he’s fun in the same evil way that she is.

  • Auntie and Savi
  • In the same way that I had to give Lilith a Sir Pup, I had to give Hugh a family, too. Because, quite simply, these are two massively fucked-up characters. I thought that a romance between them would be unbelievable if we couldn’t see that they were rooted emotionally in the world in some way. They’re screwed up, but they aren’t completely broken. Hugh’s a cold bastard, but he does heal a little bit after he kills Lilith — and it’s all thanks to his relationship with these two women.

  • Colin
  • Obviously, right? I must have liked him. My second-longest book in the series features him.

    But I hadn’t really intended to write a book about him — at least, not in the very first TEMPTING HUGH version. He was just going to have a secondary romance, and I was going to put a dead wife in his backstory, and he was just going to be an irreverent, cynical friend of Lilith’s. But I enjoyed writing about him too much.

    Dumb trivia: I originally intended to hook Selah up with Colin. Then I realized the conflict between them (I’d still planned to put a dead wife in his background, and basically, he would just be “Oh, I loved her and she died of old age and I’ll never love again!”) would be totally stupid and not really much of a conflict at all, so that idea was gone before I wrote “Falling for Anthony.” Then when I added Savi, she and Colin clicked so, so much better — and the conflict with a human was so, so much better.

  • The Nosferatu Plot
  • Ritual murders, whoo! I liked starting the contemporary part out as kind of that mystery. Pretty much every book has that mystery thread running through it, though not as explicitly involving detectives and stuff. So apparently it’s something that I enjoy.

  • Detectives Preston and Taylor
  • I love these guys. I love them as partners. I love the way they play off each other. I love Preston’s love of the weird and how Taylor is the straight man (at least in this book.) I think it’s totally fair to call them my Mulder & Scully (and Taylor has red hair as a fangirl’s nod to Scully).

    And of course, Taylor was always intended to be Michael’s heroine. It was SO HARD not to be obvious about it. The only thing I allowed myself to have between them was letting Taylor look suspiciously at Michael when she was at the first crime scene.

    But anything more wouldn’t have fit. This was Lilith and Hugh’s book. And Michael wasn’t giving anything away, anyway.

What I Would Do Differently Now

Okay, and let me preface the next section by saying that this is not the opposite of the “What I Like” section. I don’t dislike this stuff — but I can see where it would be better.

  • I would present the worldbuilding more clearly.
  • Many readers noted that they were confused. There are two reasons for that. One, there is a TON of information to take in and the world is pretty complex. Even if I’d written it very clearly, I’m pretty sure this might have still been an issue. Two, I didn’t write it clearly. I wasn’t trying to be coy or anything, I just didn’t want to be Obvious Infodumping Meljean, so I left some things implied rather than explained.

    I wouldn’t do that now. I think readers are perfectly capable of understanding it, but I also feel that I was making a lot of readers do unnecessary work to understand it. The books are complex enough as it is. Why make reading them harder? It’s easier to focus on the romance and the story if the whole thing is easier to read.

  • I would clean up some of the writing itself.
  • It’s not terrible, but I had some stylistic issues that I’ve smoothed out over time. Some parts read clunky to me now, and although some of it is deliberate — especially the structure of Hugh’s grammar — there are quite a few parts that I would just rewrite to find a better rhythm.

    I imagine this is true of every writer looking back at their first book, though. (Hell, I look back at the novella I wrote last month and still see things to fix.)

  • I’d clean up the ending to clarify Lilith’s bargain with Lucifer.
  • I know that a lot of readers were completely confused about how that worked and how Lilith lied to turn it around. This is basically the same as cleaning up the worldbuilding and being clearer about some of the rules, but because it’s in such a critical part of the book — the climax — it’s even more important.

    I feel like this list should be longer, but I’m actually happy with most of this book. If I could go back, I would clean up a lot of things, but I wouldn’t change anything (if that makes sense.) I’m happy with the plot, the romance, the resolution. It’s just the technical part of it all that I wish I could revise.

Favorite Scene

  • All of them that Lilith is in. Plus the one with Hugh and Colin and Savi at Auntie’s restaurant.
  • Okay, that’s a cheat. But I can’t choose.

Stuff That Relates To Other Books in the Series

SPOILERS!!!!

Please note: I’m trying not to repeat myself too much. If you are using the trivia to refresh your memory before Michael’s book is released, you’ll probably want to check out the trivia in each post, just because there are so many related points that compiling them would make for a huge, huge list. So I’m trying to focus on the things that are introduced in each book, rather than cross-referencing every single thing between them.

  • Michael’s Sword
  • It ends up in Belial’s possession at the end of this book. He uses it in Hell in Demon Bound to torture Jake and Alice.

    For Michael’s book: This sword is all over the freaking place.

  • Closing the Gates
  • Lilith’s bargain with Lucifer forces him to close all of the Gates between Hell and Earth for 500 years. This affects every other book in the series.

    In Wild Thing and Demon Marked, we’ll see that Lucifer sent demons out with plans to create new Gates. The portal that Lilith was sucked through in England in 1217 is the same place where Nicholas’s mother attempts to sacrifice Ash in Demon Marked. Those ruins are where Hugh and Lilith first met.

    For Michael’s book: This plays into the plot of Michael’s book in a huge way.

  • Special Investigations
  • This is a law enforcement agency created after the Guardians (and a demon) come out to the U.S. government — Lilith is the director and Hugh agrees to train Guardian novices. This plays into almost all of the other books, providing a base of operations for many of the Guardians (though not all of them.)

  • The Shielding Spell
  • This is introduced when Lilith sees Lucifer using the symbols to create the shield: silence, surround, and lock. The spell is used in almost all of the other stories.

  • Chaos
  • We see Chaos for the first time in DEMON ANGEL, when Selah attempts to teleport with Colin and the taint in his blood (thanks to Michael’s sword) anchors him to that realm.

    Chaos shows up in many of the other books, but most importantly in Demon Moon, when a demon and nosferatu attempt to free the nosferatu trapped in that realm. Savi and Colin can open a portal together, using a combination of blood, symbols, and their open psyches. They use that ability in Demon Forged.

    For Michael’s book: Chaos — and creating a portal to it — is kind of a big thing.

  • The Frozen Field
  • We see this for the first time, as well — it’s the field in Hell where people who have broken their bargain with a demon go. It means endless torture, with their face frozen into the ground, staring up at Lucifer’s tower, while their bodies are consumed over and over in Hell (because the bodies re-grow).

    The frozen field is always a threat in the background for other books in the series. It’s why everyone is so careful about making bargains. It plays a significant role in Demon Bound, because Alice is bound by a bargain and she’s terrified that the field will be her fate. In Demon Forged, Michael breaks a bargain and sacrifices himself to strengthen the field, which also serves as a wall (for lack of a better term) between Hell and Chaos. In Demon Marked, Ash spent years tortured in the frozen field.

    For Michael’s book: The field is shattered at the end of Demon Marked. That’s pretty important.

    My most frequently asked question:

    Aside from “Is Michael getting a book?” is — “Are Hugh and Lilith truly mortal at the end of DEMON ANGEL? Everyone else in the series is immortal by the end of their book. But they aren’t?”

    This comes often enough that I have a standard answer:

    I know this is a disappointment, but Hugh and Lilith aren’t immortal at the end of the book, and they won’t become immortal. It truly is impossible for them — neither one could accept becoming a Guardian, because it would mean suppressing their free will in order to follow the Rules, and if Lilith became a vampire, it would be an eternity of torture when she was forced to drink blood every day.

    And I know this offers little consolation, but in the Guardian world, there is a Heaven — and they are definitely going to be together forever.

    I love, love these characters, and please believe that I’ve tried to think of anything that would let them live forever without breaking the rules or betraying their characters, because it drives me crazy when authors break their own rules. But I also believe that they truly, truly have a happy ending, and that one hundred years together will be its own heaven for them (and they will be together afterward, too).

    And I know that sucks. But the rules of the world simply don’t allow them to become immortal in a way that would acceptable to them both. Neither wants to be a Guardian. It really would be a living Hell if Lilith had to drink blood as a vampire. There could be a miracle or something, but I’ve tried SO HARD to stay away from any sort of deus ex machina (which is what that would be — some angel coming down from on high to grant them a longer life.) And if angels show up and save the day in Michael’s book … that just kind of ruins the whole series. I mean, why would you need Guardians if you’ve got angels running around and fighting demons and trying to stop Lucifer? Because they are much, much more powerful than any Guardian, and I don’t want to take that victory away from the characters.

    So Lilith and Hugh will have a very, very long life. But without a miracle or some magical interference, they have to die in a hundred years or so.

    For Michael’s book: At least you’ll find out who is going to take care of Sir Pup.

Conclusion

I still like this book a lot! I do think it could use a good cleaning, but I don’t want to stab myself when I read it. So that’s a good thing.

Up Next… Wild Thing.