Mr. Monster: Time for More Demons

Last week I talked about my overall philosophy of sequels—that they must have more of what the readers liked in the first work, while adding something new and exciting and unique, while extending the main character in a fresh and logical new direction, all while being better written and more awesome than anything you’ve done before. In other words, they’re really hard.

With all of that in mind, I sat down to plan out some sequels to I Am Not a Serial Killer. Lurking in my notes from that book was a single line about series potential: “A serial killer who hunts serial killers, except they’re actually supernatural monsters whose methods mirror standard serial killer behaviors.” In the first book, of course, I’d used souvenirs: many serial killers take pieces of the bodies they kill, as souvenirs or trophies or even for food. I built the first book demon around that idea, coming up with a spooky supernatural reason to explain why he would need so many body parts. It worked pretty well, so I figured it was a good place to start in planning the sequels, and I sat down to list some other standard serial killer behaviors.

Cannibalism? That’s a cool one, but probably too similar to the “steals body parts” idea. Rape? Definitely typical to the majority of serial killers, but not really something I wanted to deal with. I could technically have gotten away with it, even in YA, because the YA horror market is far, far darker than most people realize, but I really just didn’t feel comfortable with it, personally, so I discarded it.

How about kidnapping? That really piqued my interest, as I’d just read a couple of really fascinating articles on the subject. Kidnappers are not all serial killers, of course, but those who are have a really interesting subset of quirks: they often have self-constructed dungeons to keep their victims, they choose their victims based on very specific concepts, and they tend to have strange, almost ritualized ways of communicating with their victims. Another great benefit to this idea was that it would shake up the formula from the first book, by focusing so much of John’s investigation on one location instead of following a killer through the streets; it might even be fun to have John himself get kidnapped. What I really liked about the idea was the tiny hint of pathos buried behind it; one of the more famous serial kidnappers was a man named Gary Heidnik, who kidnapped women because he wanted a family. I loved how the demon in the first book had an element of sadness, a sort of yearning for humanity buried inside of a horrifying evil, and the kidnapper idea seemed open to similar possibilities.

So I liked the idea, but I needed a supernatural backstory to explain it. Maybe he kidnaps people because he…? I couldn’t think of anything. I hopped on the Internet and hunted around for ideas, looking at famous serial kidnappers to see what they did, and why, and after some reading I hit on the idea of torture: many kidnappers, especially those who eventually kill their victims, will often torture them first. I had a very cool supernatural basis for the torture, too, though obviously I can’t tell you what it is.

I folded the torture together with the kidnapping and I had a pretty cool bad guy, but there was still one piece missing: why were there two demons in such a small town? Isn’t that kind of a stupid coincidence? My first thought was a variation on the Hellmouth idea, but not only did Buffy already do that, I really didn’t want these things to come from Hell. They’re only demons because John calls them that—their actual origins should be far different. I switched gears at this point and started coming up with ideas for their background, and while I jotted them down a solution presented itself: if these things were an ancient group, and if the demon from the first book had spent so much time trying to be human, it made sense that the others would lose track of him—and it made even more sense, given that, that this ancient group would be looking for him. So, why are there two demons in Clayton? Because the first one got some national attention when his disguise started to slip, and the other has coming looking for him.

The ideas were coming together. I had a cool idea for a bad guy, and a good reason or him to be there, and a neat (and terrifying) supernatural background to pull it all together. That same night I sketched out plans for the third book, as well, but you’ll have to wait a while to learn about it. For now I’ll give you just a few hints: first, the serial killer traits I use in book three are stalking and ritualization. Second, the basic outline for book three really, really creeped me out. I didn’t realize I had it in me.

Tune in next week for the second half of the sequel planning: where should John go next?

11 Responses to “Mr. Monster: Time for More Demons”

  1. Wow!! You’ve really got me wanting to read ‘Serial Killer’ when it comes out in a couple weeks! Shoot! You got me wanting to read it now. I can’t wait, dude!!! ‘Tis gonna be pretty darn awesome!

  2. Ellie says:

    I can’t wait for the last book! I keep re reading ‘Im not a Serial Killer’ and ‘Mr Monster'(Which is amazing!) over and over again! When’s the third book being released??

  3. Sean says:

    So I finished Mr. Monster two nights ago, and overall, I really enjoyed it. It was difficult to get through the first quarter mostly because it felt like it was a family drama (and I hate family dramas), after I made it past the first hundred pages or so, I really started enjoying it and pretty much couldn’t put it down.

    I will admit, though, that I figured out who the killer was as soon as John met him/her for the first time. My wife had already read the book before me, and when I told her my theory, well, she isn’t very good at hiding her facial expressions, so she kinda confirmed my hypothesis. I won’t say that the mystery was too obvious, but I will say that perhaps you and I think way too much alike.

    And now I’m scared to read any small spoilers you may give about Full of Holes, because if I figured out Mr. Monster without hints, well, Full of Holes might very well be completely transparent . . .

    All of the above aside, I really did love the book though. I spent the next two days thinking about it, which is really a good sign.

  4. Steve D says:

    For me, it isn’t who the killer IS in Dan’s books, it is what the killer DOES, and how does the killer affect John. I knew who the killer was in the first two books right away. But that didn’t bother me. This is why the Dexter novels have failed so badly for me. The focus has been taken off the character. This is one of the many reasons I like Dan’s 3 John Cleaver books so much.

    And Full of Holes is released next year around the same time if I’m not mistaken–in both the US and UK.

  5. Arlene says:

    I hate that its next year. Argh.

  6. Steve D says:

    If it makes you feel any better, I’ve already read it. It is at least 10 times as awesome as the prior two novels.

    Yes, I am evil.

  7. Arlene says:

    I hate you deep, Steve. But don’t worry. Hate is a form of affection coming from me.

  8. Hannah says:

    I was waiting for kidnapping and torture! Way to go!
    I can’t WAIT for Mr Monster – is it out in Australia? A friend is having her grandparents bring it from England next month, which is exciting :)
    I’ll also admit I knew who the killer was in the 1st book by halloween, but then when you get up to John finding out it’s like: “Yeah! I knew it, I – WHAT?!”
    Because I am so obtuse I got the murderer part, but not the subtle demon hints. Such a good book!

  9. Alan Kellogg says:

    I vaguely recall a creature in the Planescape setting for D&D. Based, I believe, on the author’s reading of work done on flatworms, his creation takes the heads of the creatures he has defeated, and their souls with them. Until the head rots away the creature can call upon his captive’s knowledge and skills. Naturally the victim is quite insane. The fiend usually has a number of gibbering heads hanging from his belt.

  10. Crystal Phillips says:

    I’m from a growing town in Australia and where I come from there are no big bookstores, which makes it hard for a 14yr old bookworm like me. I bought serial killer when visiting a Borders one holidays. I chose to read it for a class assignment on a novel of our choice and the teacher nearly didn’t let me read it because it was ‘inappropriate’ (but she’d seen me reading stephen king and all sorts of things and saw me as being ‘mature’). I thought serial killer was AMAZING and I’m a huge fan. So when I heard about a sequel I started hunting down every bookstore in the area and no one has even heard of Dan Wells Or I am not a serial killer in their lives. I asked my dad who lives in sydney to buy me mr monster. well, he bought it a couple of days ago and i want it now so bad, but my dad, seeing as he is an ever bigger bookworm than I, decided to read it on the train out of boredom and he tells me now that he just has to finish it!

  11. kaylee says:

    when is the third book coming out in the US?? i am addicted!

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