Meg Whitlock, author of The Dark Man’s Son, kindly sat down with me and answered a few questions about her terrific novel.
Thanks so much for your time, Meg!
I love the different angle taken for this story. It’s not angels and demons, it’s something different. What was the inspiration for writing The Dark Man’s Son?
Oh, wow, that’s a complicated question. Alex/Claire/Helene is a character I created a long time ago, and she’s really evolved over the years, as have the Guardians themselves. Originally it was just her, then there were a whole bunch of them, and then I settled on the idea of two. The idea of this particular book started percolating a few years ago. I wrote the scene where Jason gets mugged and Alex saves him, and I really liked that. This ordinary guy finds himself in this crazy situation…how does he deal with it? Where does it take him? It all flowed from there.
Not many books are written in third person omniscient anymore. I confess, it suits the book. Was that a conscious decision from the start?
Yes, absolutely. I’ve tried to write in first person before, and I just can’t, really. It doesn’t suit me. I like getting inside the different characters’ heads. I never really intended for Jason to be the main character, so originally it was all supposed to be from Alex’ pov—but then, how relatable is she, really? So it changed to Jason. But, then, I like Cassius so much…so I said to heck with it and just threw everyone in the pot.
The guardians are a new idea twist on the good and evil dichotomy. Why do you think God found them so appealing as a ‘go between’ for humans? Does that tie into the Mandate being such a strict rulebook for the angels and demons?
First of all, I needed something to sort of bind the power of both angels and Guardians—hence Mandate. Otherwise you’d have these omnipotent immortal beings running around doing whatever they wanted whenever they wanted and it would just be chaos everywhere. So angels have no free will at all and Guardians have limited free will. It keeps things in check.
I like the idea of angels, but not the way we tend to see them in popular culture, like Roma Downey on Touched by an Angel or Clarence in It’s a Wonderful Life. Nice angels. The angels in my story are great and terrible beings of celestial intent, and you really don’t want to meet one if you can help it. Biblical angels. They’re scary.
Humans can do whatever they want. They have total free will. That’s probably a scary idea to…well, anyone…seeing it for the first time. I can imagine angels and everyone else looking down going, “What the HELL have we done?!” Hence, Guardians. Partly under Divine control, but also able to relate to humans and their human condition.
Think of it like…you’re a loving parent, and you don’t want to smother your kids. You want them to make their own decisions, but at the same time you want them to make good decisions. In that spirit you find them a couple of quirky tutors, one who tells them to eat their vegetables and brush their teeth, and the other who gives them cake and ice cream before supper and teaches them how to make Molotov cocktails. Ultimately it’s the kids’ decision which tutor to listen to, and probably they’ll take a bit of wisdom from both and go through life somewhere in the middle.
Let’s talk about the ending a bit. You decided to have the story end on a cliffhanger—I turned my kindle page and went “What?!” So it succeeded. What was behind creating a cliffhanger ending rather than a wrap-up?
To wrap the story up the way I want to would’ve required…well, a whole other book! Obviously there’s a lot that’s going on with Jason now, and we don’t know what’s in store for Alex. Plus there’s still a ton of Alex’ history that I’d like to explore, and it would’ve felt awkward putting all that in Dark Man.
I assume there’s going to be a sequel, given the ending. Are there any other forthcoming books?
Yes! I’m working on the sequel now. There will be angels. There will be djinn. Lucifer will be back and wreaking all sorts of havoc. Jason will be wrestling with his fun new burdens. We’ll learn a lot more about Alex, including about Arad, the father of her son, and of course about Vanant, her son, himself. The structure will work like Dark Man—that is, flashbacks intercut with scenes from the present—and I really want to explore the parallels between Vanant’s story and Jason’s. They’re both “unique in creation,” as Jason so bitterly says, but their lives took very different paths.
So far the flashbacks take place in ancient Persia, because that’s where Arad’s story takes place. I’m not sure where the story will take me, because it’s always a surprise.
Meg Whitlock has been writing nearly all her life, and she’s glad she finally got over her laziness and wrote the book she’s been dreaming about for years. She graduated from Queens University of Charlotte with a BA in Comparative Arts with an Art History specialization and an Ancient History minor…which is a mouthful no matter how you say it. She has four cats (including an invisible one), a car named Babar, and a vivid imagination.
In 2001 her one-act play, “The Shoebox,” was produced by Catawba College in Salisbury, NC and presented at the American College Theatre Festival. She was honored by Art:21 and the Mint Museum of Art for her essay “Kara Walker: Using Stereotypes to Provoke Thought,” and she’s won awards for both her fiction and non-fiction writing.