Obviously it goes without saying that there are spoilers below. Go read Children of Kerensky.
What are my favorite moments of the novel?
There are a lot of things I like personally in the novel. When you are telling a story, some scenes pop with you – they are fun to write either because of their complexity or flow. So here are a few of the ones that I enjoyed the most as the author – and why.
The Jade Falcon portion of the Prologue. There was a lot of back and forth about whether we should explain Malvina at all, or even try to. The phrase, “A serial killer in a BattleMech,” got tossed around on several phone calls. Arguments were made to not dive into how she ended up thinking the way she does, simply tell her perspective of the coming fight. That never felt right to me. From where I sat, she is a product of her genes and her environment. I didn’t want her to be cardboard, with no real dimension. The prologue explains some of her reason for being and behaving the way she does. Our world is made up of unintended consequences, and Malvina Hazen is one. She is a creature of decisions she was never even aware of and of a strange brew of genetics. I felt that had to be explored, even if it was just a half a chapter.
The second one I came up with almost as an afterthought. It was Ramiel and Chance sparring. It is less about them than it is about Alaric. Alaric is not a cuddle buddy. Alaric can be vicious and is ruthless. He’s also one of the two or so best hopes against Malvina. He’s complicated and at times, cold. The sparring scene allows Chance to explain who Alaric is without Alaric showing it. It’s a different angle on a guy that would never open up on his own for the reader. I also like it because it explores the relationship of a bondsman which is a quirky part of Clan culture.
I have two scenes that I love that are about Chance Vickers. One is with Damon Ward where she threatens to kill him. The two parts to that scene which are cool is her pulling the pistol and the fact that Damon is unfazed by the gesture. Let’s face it, these are warriors, they have weapons pulled on them their entire life. I love how she says she’s going to write his suicide note after killing him. Chance’s devotion to Alaric is a neat aspect of her character – and how deep that runs is fascinating. Another favorite moment for me is Chance meeting with Anastasia at the spaceport. Anastasia loves to punch everyone’s buttons but Chance gives as goods as she gets. Anastasia has been in Alaric’s mind. Chance has been living there most of her life. I love that Chance threatened to kill Anastasia. The dynamic of these two characters, even in this short scene, is cool (to me). If you believe Chance wouldn’t follow through on these threats, well, you are wrong.
Alaric’s decision to invite the Jade Falcons to Terra stands out as well. Alaric is playing the long game here in terms of strategy. This is either brilliant, or the seeds for an epic failure. It puts Clan Wolf in the position of having to go all-in, no matter what happens on Terra. If you think of it in that light, Alaric is essentially gambling with the fate of the Inner Sphere.
Alaric visiting Stephanie Chistu. For the low cost of burning a few frequent flyer miles, Alaric was able to drive Malvina into a hissy-fit and threaten to kill one of her best military leaders. That scene with Alaric and Stephanie, while short, tells you a LOT about Malvina Hazen. Read it carefully. Chistu’s response to Alaric asking what Malvina would do is perfect. Chistu understands Hazen almost as much as Malvina does.
Garner’s meeting with Niels Carns was created in the final rewrite. Garner needed to emerge more as a character. He is a bad-ass in his own right with that little section. Garner wants to win the fight for Terra. Yes, he challenges Alaric, but in the end, he wants in the big game. Oh – and watch out for Carns…
Finally, it is the end of the book. Pew, pew, pew – bang! Until the last minute, the final bits of space battle were actually in Hour of the Wolf. There was a lot of resistance to even including that chapter, period, so we had to resolve that first. I came with footnotes to a meeting, true story. An editor (Phil Lee) suggested ending with the jump of the McKenna’s Pride. I REALLY liked that idea of ending with Clan Wolf jumping to Terra – besides, Hour is huge. As a result, this became a full-fledged novel in length complete with the start of a cool space battle. I say the start, because Children ends with the jump of the Wolf fleet.
Space battles in BattleTech are rare and open to a myriad of debates about jump point sizes, weapons ranges and effects. Yes, these are real-life arguments. Fiction sometimes goes past the rules. We don’t break the rules, but we are not limited to them as authors. Just because we don’t have a rule for it, doesn’t mean it isn’t possible. These kinds of discussions are good, helpful, irritating, and ultimately make for a better book. I can say that now. At the moment, it is often like a duel of BattleTech trivia. “I’ll take jump point mathematics and hyperspace mechanics for $200 Alex…”
I have caught some flak for not showing the Capellans in all of this. Well, read the title of the novel. If you want Cappies, you will have to wait.
The Chopping Block
The original cut of Hour of the Wolf included many pieces of Children of Kerensky – and more. A few chapters were cut. Not because they were not good, but because of changes we implemented to the plot and to make the book flow better.
The original intent was to show how Alaric and Malvina became the warriors that they became by the time of Hour of the Wolf. So you would see Malvina come up with her prize ‘Mech (which is in Children still), where “Black Rose” came from, where she developed her reaction to ‘bellycrawlers,’ and her willingness to kill her own forces to achieve victory. You’d get the same development with Alaric. John and I spoke and decided that the fans might not want to get all of that background – they would want more action close to the ‘big event.’ So we restructured the book.
I had written in the first draft a number of sections about Alaric and Chance refining their invasion plans, how he arrived at a broad-front strategy, etc. They were good, but it bogged down the story.
Originally someone wanted me to have Anastasia not only recruit the Wolves in Exile but the Kell Hounds. It was one of those things that sounded good, but complicated things. Not only that, it limited what we can do with the Kell Hounds right now – so that was removed.
In the first draft it was still a viable idea so we had a chapter showing the first real encounter between the Jade Falcons and Colonel Evan Kell’s Hounds. It was an awesome chapter, pure Malvina…oozing with Kell Hounds goodness. Obviously that ended up on the cutting room floor, but may come back as a standalone short story since it does not impact (immediately) the events on Terra.
I had also crafted a really cool chapter where Katherine tells Alaric his true genetic origins. Talk about messing with the mind of a small kid. I really thought that it filled in a neat gap in explaining Alaric’s personality. Am I really trueborn, or tainted in some way? At the same time, it didn’t move the story along. As such, it too fell to the axe.
Malvina’s relationship with her Falconer is a little creepy and potentially inappropriate. I was going to hint that it was even more so in one draft, but backed away from that. No point in layering on even more batshit crazy to that character. It is hard to picture Malvina wearing a “Me Too!” t-shirt too.
In the original draft, there was a chapter where Malvina and Aleks are fighting food rioters and she witnesses the death of her sibko instructor. It is the first time she has that moment of Malvina rage and starts wasting the rioters. It was good, a bit long, but solid. Unfortunately it did not advance the story for the reader – so it disappeared along the editing road. The event happened and is referenced in Children, but the description of it died a glorious editing death.
The Ghost Knight chapter was originally longer and far too revealing as to who the Ghost Knight is. The problem was it was Mission Impossible level stuff in terms of complexity and introduced too much about the character in question. John had me trim it and it is much faster.
There is, also, the infamous cat chapter. I had a chapter with Malvina at the age of seven protecting a pet cat (Rose) from other members of her sibko. Without going into detail, it elicits a response from readers. Loren insisted that we keep it in Children or Hour, but we couldn’t find a place for it without bogging down the story. John made the call to cut it. It was nasty, I get it, but still, it was fascinating and revealing. Who knows, it may yet make the light of day.
Some Easter Eggs you may have missed
I put some things in very deliberately. This is not a complete list. Sometimes these things are just fun, especially when people catch them.
“This is damned peculiar…” Admiral Kirk from Star Trek II The Wrath of Khan
The 18 minute gap in the surveillance system. Akin to the missing 18 minutes of the Nixon Watergate tapes. There’s another Nixon reference in here too. Malvina’s list of enemies and targets. Nixon did that. Anytime you can drop Nixon references is a good day.
Alaric had his Watch prepare a report on Clan Wolverine. Say what…?
Paul Moon married Inanna from Forever Faithful. Their babies are likely large, smart, and able to use Tarot cards and crystals.
The broad front strategy – go read The Longest Day.
There is a Midway reference for you historians as well. Right at the end, Clan Wolf hopes to catch the Republic fighters in the middle of rearming.
Ramiel is the bloodkin of Angela Bekker from Roar of Honor. That alone should tell you what a bad-ass this guy is.
November 6th is my birthday – and the day that Clan Wolf penetrate Fortress Republic. I gave myself a present – Terra. It’s the perfect size and the right color!
“Set condition one…” Battlestar Galactica.
Mercury – this is a reference to a project I worked on in my former day job. We used code names for all sorts of stupid stuff.
Task Force Ostend refers to the raid on Zeebrugge and Ostend in WWI. Google it and you will get the reference.
Alaric saying he will draw a circle around Anastasia’s body in her blood. This happened once before in BattleTech. Anyone remember this reference?
So where does this leave us?
Allow me to lay it out for you. In Divided We Fall, we know the Dragoons are coming to the party, but we don’t know if they will make it on time? In Rock of the Republic, we know the defenses of Terra and the kind of war Devlin Stone hopes to wage. In Icons of War, we get the McKenna’s Pride. In this novel, we know who is coming from the Clans at the onslaught and what their strategies are. Clan Wolf has pried open a jump point, but will that be enough? And…Malvina is coming… We know the Cappies are out there, and the rest of the Clans and Houses – but no one knows for sure how they will react to what is coming. (Well, I do…)
The arena has been reserved, the seats are filled, and the parties are entering the ring in a three-way (if not more) cage match for the fate of the Inner Sphere. The three greatest (arguably) warriors of two eras – Stone, Hazen and Ward, stand ready to fight a no-holds-barred battle to the end. This is the payoff, the big show, the ultimate contest. This is the match of the century. Tukayyid? Bah! That was the pre-game show. This is the big one, over a hundred years in the making.