Today I hand the blog over to my pal and fellow Star Wars alumn Greg Mitchell, who just finished publishing his Coming Evil trilogy. With my own Merkabah Rider series drawing to a close, I thought it’d be interesting to hear what he had to say about completing a work that’s taken up so many years and so much effort.
Is it common for writers to experience “empty nest” syndrome?
For the first time in nearly fifteen years, I don’t have any more writing to do on The Coming Evil Trilogy. It’s done. Over. They’re all out now, available for your purchase. Some characters met their demise, some found their true calling. But there’s nothing left to say, no more battles left to write.
The books are finished. And I’m not sure where to go from here…
Here we are, a month after I released Dark Hour, the third and final installment in the Trilogy, and it’s only now slowly beginning to settle in that I finished what I started when I was twenty years old.
For the uninitiated, The Coming Evil Trilogy tells the story of the once-scenic Greensboro, a small town in its death throes thanks to the highway being moved a few miles to the left. The economy has shriveled up—the people have shriveled up. Their apathy has attracted the attention of the enigmatic “Strange Man” a gleefully sadistic demon with a leather fetish, and his army of pint-sized flesh-eating gremlins. The Strange Man has a bone to pick with Greensboro for banishing him over a hundred years ago, but his true sinister intent isn’t revealed until the very end of the series. For three books, we encounter a ragtag group of small town folk who must combat these hellish hordes with something that they’ve all forgotten—faith. And so begins the terrifying blood-soaked struggle to discover what is worth fighting for in their lives, what is worth hanging onto. At its core, The Coming Evil Trilogy is a coming-of-age tale, where boys become men and shoulder the mistakes of the previous generation while trying to decide how they will impact their world.
Not only is this a coming-of-age tale for my characters, but it’s been a bit autobiographical as well. You see, I had something to prove, too. I began writing the first book in the series—The Strange Man—back in 1998/99. I was a young screenwriter with a two-fold passion: I loved monsters, especially the creature features of the 1980s, and I wanted to work in Christian films. However, at the time, I noticed a depressing trend in the Christian Film Market. They were heavy on the message, or the “sermon”, but at the expense of things like characters, plot, action, subtext. It wasn’t surprising. At the time, Christian films were super low budget. They were only about a half-hour long and were made explicitly as “gospel tracks” to be viewed on Wednesday night Church Youth Group pizza parties. They weren’t meant for entertainment, but to get their message across in a short amount of time and serve as an ice breaker for future conversations.
But I was just out of high school and I wanted to be different. I wanted to blaze new trails! I wanted to prove that you could have your “message”, but that it could grow organically out of an engaging story with real, believable, relatable characters. I was convinced the story could be fun and exciting, all on its own! I was desperate to prove that I could write something (hopefully) enlightening, as well as entertaining. I also wanted to take it a step further—I wanted to write this Christian movie…as a horror movie.
Well, yeah, so that didn’t go over very well with the Christian Film contacts that I had. “No one wants to see that” was the general attitude. But I wanted to see it. I was often wrangled into those Wednesday night pizza parties when I was a teenager, and I would have killed to see one of those “gospel-tracts-on-film” as done in the style of “The Lost Boys” or “The Monster Squad”. Heck yeah! I was convinced that, if I wanted to see it, surely there was someone else who would appreciate it too. Hopefully a whole bunch of people.
I sat down and wrote a half-hour “Christian creature feature” entitled The Coming Evil, but it went nowhere. No funding, no interest, no nothing. But I began to love that little dude and I wanted to know what happened next in the story. So, I kept writing. And writing. Soon I realized that one movie could not hold all the ideas I had. In fact, three movies couldn’t hold the ideas I had. But, just maybe, a trilogy of novels could.
I took that original script, re-branded it The Strange Man, and expounded it and adapted it into a novel that I first self-published in 2006, and then saw re-released by Realms Fiction (to stores!) in 2011. Whether for good or for ill, it still holds a bit of that original concept—of a (hopefully) entertaining Wednesday night Youth Group film. For the most part, I thought it was successful. But, beginning with Book Two, Enemies of the Cross, the Trilogy turned darker. The books grew up. I grew up. I was no longer content with the “evangelical approach”, but wanted to explore deeper matters of faith. About faith tested in the face of tragedy. Where is God when we lose a loved one? Why is God silent when we cry out to Him? Why should I even care? What does any of this “God stuff” matter at all?
Enemies of the Cross turned into my own journey through my doubts and my anger and my feelings that God owed me something in this life. The monsters became stranger, the violence turned more heated, and Greensboro—itself—became a nasty place. The Strange Man was winning. No one could be trusted. Out of the three novels, I think I learned the most about myself during Enemies. I was ashamed by some of my attitudes and realized that there was more to life than what I had been living.
But the story didn’t end there. Now, Dark Hour is out, and I’m proud to say it is the best thing I’ve ever written. It’s taken me almost fifteen years to get this story out, and it is, really, the result of reaching adulthood. At thirty-five I feel like I have a firmer grip on who I am, about my views on God, on humanity, and on the meaning behind it all. The book, like the journey, is sometimes ugly, sometimes beautiful, but I’ve found encouragement that there are things worth fighting for. Brotherhood, children, love, Truth. The odds have never been greater than they are in this final book, and the heroes will have to fight and claw and die for every inch of ground they earn back from the darkness, but they will fight. They will not give up.
Despite the ups-and-downs of this long journey, I never gave up. The Trilogy is complete. Now that it’s out of my hands and out in the world, I’m left in a new phase in my life. I still have more growing to do, more discovering to do—and I hope to write monster books about that too.
In the meantime, I hope you all check out the Trilogy. It was an eager young man’s bold experiment to fuse his favorite childhood monster movies with his blossoming faith. Looking back, was it successful? I suppose only you, the Reader, can answer that. But I’ll say this much:
I had the time of my life.
Go check out Greg’s blog and/or pick up his books on Amazon.
He’s also running a Goodreads giveaway of Dark Hour until April 1st, so head over there and enter for a chance to win a free copy.