Since Smyle is still a relatively new release for me, I’m not going to spoil anything major here. Instead, let’s talk about what the plan initially was between Band of Fallen Princes and Smyle.
While On Hallowed Lanes was a failure in my eyes,, it helped me realize that it was time to try my hand with a romance novel. You can read about Forever and Farewell elsewhere, but I’ll say this – it was a breath of fresh air writing in a genre outside my wheelhouse, and it made me realize I needed to put a clock on the Rankin Flats stuff.
Initially, I thought that meant a total of four books beyond Band of Fallen Princes. These were going to include a novel introducing a life-giving character who suffers the ill-effects of the people he heals. This guy was going to be one of Annalise Fox’s first recruits for a new task force, and would be put in Garrett’s charge so he could gain a better idea of how the man functioned.
It was a great idea, capped off by a fantastic character swerve at the end of the novel (no, not a villainous one) that I don’t want to reveal here because if I revisit the Rankin Flats universe, this is probably an idea I’d like to revisit. The only elements of this novel idea to really survive were the Ranch and the villain, the Plague Mistress.
That was originally going to be titled Plague of Life. Are you seeing a pattern here of me cannibalizing my old ideas for title names and characters? I’m guessing it’s a thing all writers do. Very very minor plot spoiler here for Smyle, but this would’ve also been the novel where Smyle deduces who the vigilante of Rankin Flats was.
That novel, what would have been Rankin Flats #6, would be followed by an untitled darker book centered around a mind-controlling woman who breaks Garrett’s closest loved ones. I liked the idea of her mind control powers – it’s more like a gaseous fog she emits than anything directly controlling them, which gave people a realistic chance of fighting back against her powers. This was going to be a grim novel, possibly ending with Garrett and Brianna’s separation and/or divorce after Brianna cheats on Garrett with none other than Ed. They would’ve been mind-controlled, of course, but that would have left the doors wide open for Garrett to go solo again with Murphy in time for Smyle, when the real villain is revealed and Garrett tries to rebuild all he has lost.
They were pretty solid ideas, actually, and like I say, they’re ones I might revisit with future characters in this universe. But the more I plotted them out, the more I realized they felt like I was playing out the clock on Garrett, Brianna, and Murphy. These stories deserved fresh characters and ideas, and so I shuffled them to the back of my mind while trying to figure out what the next real step would be.
Then it hit me – why not pull the trigger on Smyle finding out who Garrett really is within the very first chapter? What kind of chaos would that bring? The idea took root, and from it, Smyle was born.
I don’t want to say too much more here about it. I think it’s one of the top novels in the series, up there with FATSOM and Bone Carvers. If you read it, you’ll have to let me know what you think.
Plague of Life will be here soon. You can now find it up for pre-order on Amazon. I’m days away from having a complete series done. That’s pretty damned crazy.
Tomorrow, I’ll touch on some musical inspirations for the Rankin Flats novels. Thanks for reading!