While The Misshapes: The Coming Storm, and The Misshapes: Annihilation Day, may be part one and two of a three-part trilogy, the writing process between the two books couldn't have been more different. The Coming Storm had a long process to wrestle with the divine flash of inspiration, the initial charge of realizing that you can create a whole weird world from scratch, the wonderful feeling that you can make jokes and have thrills even when you're playing around with the idea of "What if you're not the chosen one?"
Annihilation Day, on the other hand, had a different road. We were able to write it with the knowledge that it would get published, which was a big comfort. However, in the time we had to write it, we had a series of unfortunate events in our lives: moving, a broken leg, a death in the family. We had to carve out the space to write and focus on The Misshapes during this epoch of our lives. If the first book had the luxury of time, of writing and discussing and rewriting, this book needed discipline. Before we ever put a word on the page, we laid out the whole book. There was brainstorming, giant notepads, outlines, and chapter sketches. The process behind this book felt more akin to being in a writing room for a TV show as opposed to what may be a normal novel-writing process.
The most exciting part about writing Annihilation Day was the fact that we had already set up the world of Sarah and The Misshapes. We're committed to writing an anti-chosen one story, and we had laid out a difficult task in the first book: telling the reader about the protagonist's world, even though, thanks to various twists, this world was lived-in and normal for Sarah. In book two, we had a different path. Doolittle Falls was already built. It had Heroes, Supervillains, Misshapes, and (the much ignored) "Normals" (you know, the powerless). PeriGenomics was twisting its mustache, and we got write about a universe that was far less simple. No more black and white, good and evil; now it was time for shades of grey, for moral choices.
In the history of trilogies, the second book is where the author (singular or, um, plural, in this case) gets a chance to dive deeper into the world, and to go darker. Much of the time, the second book is the villain's book. It's a chance to explore the motives behind the antagonist and a chance to see our heroes not as "the chosen one," but more so as people who are choosing to act in a heroic fashion. Perhaps the ne plus ultra of the second in a series is The Empire Strikes Back, our favorite Star Wars movie. Evil wins in that film. Darkness falls over the empire. The heroes (or Misshapes, in this case) are losing.
For The Misshapes, Annihilation Day means that there's some growing up ahead. Alliances change. Struggles emerge. And our central character, Sarah Robertson, explores the mystery that's shaped much of her life: is her mother -- a former Hero turned Supervillain -- really a force of evil? Is the narrative around Lady Oblivion the truth, or is it a cover-up?
If The Coming Storm was about a young girl learning about her power, no matter how silly or useless it seems to be, then Annihilation Day is about an older, wiser Sarah using that power to become a superhero. Her path may be knottier and weirder than the average touched-by-powers teen, but the result is funny and heartbreaking in equal measures. It's as if the resulting book echoed our strange process of writing it.
But one thing we can guarantee from Annihilation Day is this: there's weirder weather ahead, including the debut of the fire tornado.
Alex Flynn is the pseudonym for the writing team of Stuart Sherman and Elisabeth Donnelly. They met at a clandestine book club in Boston, where they broke into a fortified tower in order to discuss literature. They like garrulous Irish writers, Pushing Daisies, and anything involving The Tick, from the comic book to the short-lived series with Patrick Warburton. Their secret lair is currently in a hollowed out volcano in Brooklyn.
Click here to see them face the 7 Questions.
Click here to read my review of The Misshapes