Malus Domestica continues as Robin Martine and her boyfriend Kenway roadtrip through the American Southwest, only to befriend a mother and daughter on the run from a bikers-turned-werewolves. It’s Mad Max: Fury Road with shifters. I’m pleased to host author S.A. Hunt once again to talk about crafting this story and what’s next.
Crafting The Hellion
How much did you know about the plot of The Hellion while working on the previous two entries?
Pretty much nothing. I finished Malus Domestica (the original self-published novel, Burn The Dark + I Come With Knives) and as soon as I did, I knew I wanted to dive back into that world. But how was I going to follow up the first book? Well, I had recently watched Mad Max: Fury Road, and I was still charged up on that good, good action sauce, so I wanted to write my own action-filled chase story with monsters. And it had to be set in the desert, and had to involve the Winnebago Brave. It just kind of snowballed from there.
To be honest, I have no idea where the B-plot with Marina and Carly came from. I think I wanted to bring in some of that familial strife you see in TV shows like Sons of Anarchy and The Sopranos, and once Santiago started showing his ass I knew I had my villain.
What inspired you to split the book into an A Side and B Side? What determined which scenes went where?
That actually happened much, much later, in the Tor edits. For a long time, the book had a traditional chapter structure. During the editing in 2019, my then-editor Diana mentioned that the book had a lot of music in it—so why don’t I add more music and just drive on down to music town and music all the music?
So I did; I added several more songs to key scenes, and when I realized that the book was broken up into two parts by the scene in the abandoned house, I saw the opportunity to introduce an album-like format. There’s even a “hidden track” at the end.
I like it so much I’m tempted to keep it for future entries in the series, though I might change it up depending on each book’s theme. But for this one, an album just seemed so right.
Though there are werewolves, there are also werelizards and wereabominations. How did you decide what the biker members turned into?
It largely came out of each character’s personality. Although most of the Los Cambiantes chiefly have a “pack mentality,” which lends itself to the majority of them becoming werewolves, the top dogs Maximo, Tuco, Santiago, etc have distinct personalities—Maximo is larger than life, protective, intimidating. Tuco is sly, obsequious, oily. Santiago is patient, powerful, predatory.
When it came to the abomination, I wanted to use its physical form to illustrate the character losing control of its emotional state, its mental state, its physical properties. So when it comes down to it, the shapeshifters’ forms are really simply a manifestation of their own emotional energy.
What was your favorite scene or moment to write in this entry?
Probably the scene where Santiago gets pepper-sprayed in the kitchen. It was kind of a fascinating writing exercise crafting a frantic, angry scene where everything is described by touch and sound.
Honestly? The whole book was my favorite scene to write. This book came out of me easier than anything I’d written before. It was an easy birth. And so memorable. There’s the flashback opening with the witch, the Winnebago battle on the highway, the final tussle with Santiago on Fort Bostock. I loved it all. And the parts I added in editing were even more fun to write.
I hope Tor wants more, because I have plenty of ideas.
Will we see more adventures of Robin Martine and her magicians?
I hope so! Let Tor Books know you want more Malus Domestica by letting your friends know about the series—the more books get sold, the more likely it is that they’ll bring me back for more!
In the meantime, between you and me, there have been rumblings about the series being adapted to other media at some point… so keep your fingers crossed on that one, everybody!
What are your favorite reads for the spooky autumnal season?
Right now, I’m waiting for the library to get in a copy of Lovecraft Country so I can dive into that. The pilot episode of the TV series was so exciting, I ran straight to the library and put a copy on hold. Man, I need to get back to reading more, but it’s been an incredibly busy summer.
S. A. Hunt is the author of the Malus Domestica horror-action series from Tor Books, beginning with BURN THE DARK (Jan 2020). In 2014, Samara won Reddit’s /r/Fantasy “Independent Novel of the Year” Stabby Award for her Outlaw King fantasy gunslinger series. She is an Afghanistan veteran (OEF 2010), a coffee enthusiast, a fervent bicyclist, and she currently lives in Petoskey, Michigan. You can find her online at sahuntbooks.com and on Twitter as @authorsahunt.