I often wonder what happens to characters after I’ve finished reading their stories. Do Mr Darcy and Lizzy live happily ever after? Will Jack Reacher ever settle down? I wrote And Fire Came Down because I wanted to know what was going to happen to my own character, the profoundly deaf investigator, Caleb Zelic.
I’ve written two crime novels featuring Caleb Zelic, and a lot has happened to him along the way. When Caleb first appeared in Resurrection Bay he was lippy, stubborn, and fiercely independent. In And Fire Came Down, he’s still all of those things, but the cracks are beginning to appear. And Fire Came Down picks up seven months after his best friend’s murder, and Caleb is struggling. His business is failing, his beloved ex-wife is avoiding him, and he’s haunted by the horrific events in Resurrection Bay. When a young woman dies in his arms after pleading for his help, it sets him on a course that will endanger both him, and the people around him.
I wanted to explore Caleb’s fractured relationship with his family, and to give him a chance to reconnect with them, so I set the bulk of And Fire Came Down in his hometown. It’s late January and the town is sweltering through a heat wave, and beset by racial violence. Although Caleb grew up there, his presence isn’t always welcome and his investigation risks igniting already smouldering tensions. But Caleb is driven by guilt and can’t let go. As he delves deeper into the case, the town explodes into violence, and Caleb quietly unravels.
One of the best things about writing a series is being able to follow a character and see how they change. Caleb is as obstinate now as he was when he first appeared, but he’s grown as a person and is trying hard to show his vulnerable side, with mixed results. I’m desperate to know what happens next, so I’ve started writing the next novel in the series. I’ve really enjoyed spending the past few years with Caleb, and I’m looking forward to the next few. Although Caleb is probably getting a bit nervous about what I’m going to put him through next.