The Devil's Dreamcatcher (Holiday House, YA, 2015) is the sequel to The Devil's Intern (my very enthusiastic review), which told how four young people confined to Hell (for not good reason--they aren't bad people) got ahold of the Devil's time travel device and used it to try to prevent their own deaths. They weren't successful. Now their more or less peaceful lives in Hell (the overcrowding is the most unbearable day to day torment) are disrupted again when the Devil's main lieutenant, a Roman General named Septimus, sends them on a second time travelling adventure outside of Hell--the Devil's Dreamcatcher, an innocent boy forced to serve as the vessel for the Devil's nightmares, has been stolen away, and must be brought back before insomnia drives the Devil truly over the edge.
The adventures that follow are told from the point of view of Medusa (known in life as Melissa), who is struggling to make sense of her past (it's complicated) and make sense of the task at hand. The task at hand becomes even more complicated when a foursome of angels, including Jeanne of Arc, arrive on the same mission--finding the Devil's Dreamcatcher. Angels and Devils end up having to cooperate, something especially hard for Jeanne, and friendships and loyalties are tested to the limits of (dead) human endurance as the eight-some struggles to make sense of the web of demonic lies in which they've been snared.
It really is quite complicated, and confusing at times, but I found that if I relaxed and just went with the flow of things, trusting that there would be explanations, I'd understand eventually. I did...more or less, and just in time to get to the end of the book, which sets things up for the next installment, an even more worrying adventure. What makes this story work well is the focus on the friendships the characters have for each other, and their love and loyalty. The depth of their caring for each other makes the reader care for them. This book was perhaps less fun than the Devil's Intern, whose plot was more straightforward, but I was certainly glad to continue the adventure.
Note to Time Travel fans--The Devil's Intern is a solidly time travel book, but here time travel is more a means of moving the characters around, and less important in its own right. The characters jump from place and time lots, but don't linger long enough to enact all that meaningful with past times and peoples (although the people whose WW I England village they accidently set on fire might disagree). So I wouldn't seek this one out if time travel is your main goal.
Donna Hosie; my questions are in red, her answers in black.
1. Which came first, your vision of Hell in all its crowded hellishness or the characters that form the core of your story? (and speaking of crowds, your Hell is basically an introvert’s worse nightmare!)
Septimus came first, then The Devil. The first scene I ever wrote was with just the two of them, and as I wrote that, the world-building for Hell really started to take shape. As an Atheist, if you asked me what my idea of Hell was, I would say having to work in an office for the rest of eternity. That's my basis for this Hell. It's work, it's hot, it's overcrowded and claustrophobic. Hell is bureaucracy gone mad!
And you just know the Grim Reapers would send introverts to Hell instead of Up There!
2. Your characters come from several different time periods; did you pick periods you already knew something about, or did these decisions happen for creative reasons that then required you to go do research?
It's all creative. Medusa was the first character from Team DEVIL that I imagined. I knew straight away she was a 60s girl from San Francisco, but definitely not a stereotypical flower power girl. Alfarin came next, and I chose a Viking because my mum likes Vikings! Because there's a thousand years separating Medusa and Alfarin, I knew I needed a character who slipped into the middle of those two time periods. I did a lot of research on historical world events because I wanted a character whose death came about because of a specific moment in history. When I realised that the Great Fire of London was in 1666, all those sixes was too great a plot point to miss, and so Elinor was created. But I knew nothing about all three time periods and so research has been key to writing this series. Mitchell arrived last of all, and he's modern day, but even then I've had to research Washington DC for his back story. I love research though. As an English girl, I've grown up learning about culture and time and history. It's great fun to learn whilst I write.
3. Do you have a favorite character? If you do, are you more likely to spare their feelings in the story telling by easing their fictional path as best you can?
Mitchell is my favourite character. He's so well-meaning and loyal, even if he is clueless around girls! I have a lot of fun writing his scenes, but for some twisted reason, he is the one character I'm hardest on. He really gets put through some horrible events in book three, and what I do to him in book four (which I'm currently writing) is beyond comprehension! It doesn't pay to be liked by me!
4. I see there's a third book in the pipeline, and that you’re working on the fourth. Will there be more to the series, or do you find yourself thinking of some next thing?
Writing a book from each character's perspective was an idea I had before my agent even sold THE DEVIL'S INTERN, but I can't imagine finishing with this world until there has also been a book from Septimus's perspective, or at least with him as the MC. He's a former Roman general, The Devil's accountant and number one advisor, and his story arc becomes quite Machiavellian as you progress through the series. He's almost like my version of Dumbledore!
5. Do you find writing the first books in a series easier, because there's all the room in the fictional world for them to explore, or later books easier, because the characters' paths are clearer to you?
I find writing first books in a series harder because I don't plot. By the time I get to subsequent books in a series, I know my characters, their voice, and I have a rough idea of what horrors I want to do to them!
6. I see on your website that you were a writer of fan fiction before you were published. Has this had an effect on you as a writer or on your writing career? Is it a path you'd recommend to young would-be writers, or would you discourage them from it?
I used to write about the Marauders, especially Lupin and Sirius who I shipped! It had no effect on my writing career, but it was great practice, so I wouldn't discourage anyone from doing it. In fact when I talk to schools, I suggest that as a route would-be writers go down. It's far easier to write about something you already love. You just have to stay respectful to intellectual property law and not profit from it.
Thank you Donna! I will look forward with particular interest to Septimus's point of view!!!