Sunday, 6 May 2012

This week's word is: ENDING

Hello, dragon fans. This week it's the turn of me, Chris d'Lacey, to post a few words on the blog. Gadzooks is in heated discussions with some of the other dragons about where we might go next. Gosh. While they're being all creative and clever, I thought I would take this opportunity to write something about the ending of THE FIRE ASCENDING.

A lot of you have read the book by now and most of you have been very pleased with it.  The first few sections, in particular, have met with great enthusiasm.  As always, it's the ending that has caused most controversy. 

First of all, the final sections of the book were written no differently from the rest of the series.  They weren't pre-planned, they were just allowed to happen the way they wanted to, 'organically' as writers will say.  The reason for this is that I wanted to stay as true as possible to the way Gadzooks inspires David in the early books.  Any writer will tell you that one of the most exciting things about progressing a story is the way it begins to unravel as you write.  Plot ideas flash into the mind apparently from nowhere, and it's very hard to explain to someone who hasn't tried to write just where those ideas spring from.  In The Last Dragon Chronicles they spring from Zookie's notepad; in 'real' life they come from the writer's subconscious (we think).  In other words, Zookie is the material embodiment of David's subconscious, the physical vehicle of David's inspiration.  All David has to do to express his creativity is place his faith in Gadzooks and listen to him.  Simples.

Now, although I have a lovely clay model of Gadzooks, he's really in my head for the majority of the time.  He's always active, even when I'm sleeping, and he was never more busy than when we were writing the last few sections of THE FIRE ASCENDING.  At the time, I was alone in my mother-in-law's empty house in Leicester and I had an horrendous cold.  The last thing I wanted to do was sit at my computer with a couple of tissues up my nose and write.  But my deadline was approaching, and generally when I'm ill I would rather be doing something than nothing.  So I opened the laptop, and this is how it went.  I began at 2pm one Sunday afternoon.  I wrote Part 8, The Loaf Everlasting, in about an hour.  I thought it would be one of the most difficult pieces to get right because I knew it would have to deal with David's reaction to what had happened to Liz (for the sake of anyone who hasn't read the book I don't want to issue any spoilers here).  But the moment Alexa came to sit on David's knee and they began to talk as father and (very young) daughter, the piece took off as though I wasn't really there.  I rang 'Mrs Author'.  Jay was 200 miles away in Devon.  She said, "How are you feeling?"  I replied, "Terrible - but I've just written one of the most moving scenes of the whole series.  I have no idea where it came from."  She said, "Yes you do.  Are you going to stop for the day or does Zookie want you to go on?"  I said, "I think I might go on. Maybe just sketch out the interview sequence, see how it goes."  She said, "Good.  Call me when you're done."  And she put down the phone.

Two hours later I rang her back and said, "You won't believe this.  I've done the interview with Alexa (the only part I 'knew' about before I started the book) and I think it's pretty much perfect.  It answers just about everything in the series and it just flew off the keyboard."  She said, "Gadzooks knows what he's doing.  Is that the end, then?"  I remember looking at the laptop screen and shaking my head.  "No," I said, "the interview has thrown up an interesting query - why isn't Bergstrom in the book?"  And Jay said, "Well, you'd better ask Gadzooks about that."  So I did.  I was too weary to type any more that day, but early the next morning I sat down and I wrote the final part of the book, which also took about one hour.  Then I sat back and read through the final three sections as one piece - and I hardly changed a word.  It was so strong, but most importantly it felt so right.  Hand on heart, I have never felt more 'connected' to the universe than I did during those final stages of the book.  It was just amazing.

But that feeling, no matter how extraordinary it was for me, doesn't necessarily transfer itself to the reader's mind.  Inevitably, there will be some fans who will be disappointed, perhaps because the series didn't end the way they hoped it would, or they simply didn't 'get' it.  That's fair enough.  As soon as I'd written it, I had to try to understand it, too - weird as that sounds.  This is how I see it...

At the end of Part 7, Isenfier, the Ix Shadow is defeated and the Guardians of Quantum are brought into our space-time when the core of the Earth (the fire eternal) is breached and a hole opens in the 'known' universe. Granted the Guardians have never been mentioned before and their powers are never explored when they appear, but they clearly have the ability to manipulate time and matter, and that is exactly what they do.  They undo all of Gwilanna's meddling and reset the natural timeline so that all of Earth's history progresses as it should, right into David being at Wayward Crescent.  However, they do make one significant change, which is that they set the timeline in motion from absolute zero i.e. there is no 'missing' time that can't be traced before the 'big bang'.  What this means is, rather like the situation in FIRE WORLD, all the same people and events are present in this timeline, but there are subtle changes.  David is not a lodger at Wayward Crescent, for instance, he belongs there as Liz and Arthur's son.  And in this timeline he doesn't go chasing dragons or turning into polar bears, he's just an ordinary man - but, and this is a big, BIG but, he has an etheric memory of that other David, somewhere deep within his subconscious, which is strong enough to drive his imagination into rebuilding that world on paper, as a series of books, so mirroring the hero he really wants to be.  Some of you have said, "Oh, it's all just a story within a story in the end."  Of course it is.  How could it not be?  If you think about it, it's entirely appropriate.  All that my subconscious has had me do is create a rather clever echo of THE FIRE WITHIN.  These books have always been about TWO questions: Where does inspiration come from? and Are dragons real?  The ending I've written, the final few lines of it, in fact, answer both queries.  David uses the power of his mind to focus his thoughts and imagineer Gadzooks into being.  He creates a dragon out of nothing.  He 'dreams' it, as Liz would say.  He makes his 'dreams' come true.

Really, what you should be asking yourself about the ending is, how close were we to another book?  In the new timeline, anything could have happened.  The fact that it's all very ordinary and domestic (though tragic) is kind of reassuring in a way.  David gets his family.  Zanna gets her true love.  Alexa, although not a creature with wings sprouting out of her back, does fly very high.  But what about that transmorphic crystal that David pulls out from under his skin?  That tiny 'spike' that could have been, well, a shard of ice?  Didn't that make anyone go, "Hang on a minute, what's going on here? David involved in some sort of thought experiment, controlled by Bergstrom...?  That's a bit sinister."  And why did Bergstrom turn up in the graveyard at the same time as David?  And why does he think so much of Liz when he's apparently never really known her?  And what does Gwilanna/Aunt Sibyl know about Lucy's father.  Unless...?  Well, you can follow those thought trails if you wish, but I'm afraid we had to stop.  I looked at Gadzooks and he simply said, "It wouldn't be right if we didn't leave a few stones for the readers to turn, we've done enough."  And I agree.  Guys, enjoy TFA for what it is.  If you want a different ending, imagineer it.  That's your choice.  Until next time.  Happy reading.  Hrrr!

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