So here it is, the second part of Loki’s back story. It was really exciting that we were able to split one of the death flashbacks over two episodes, playing with readers’ expectations a little, and I feel lucky that I was the author who got to do it. One reason for this approach was to build some suspense and doubt over Loki’s character and what he did in his final moments — and consequently what he might do in the future — but I also think it was necessary. You don’t want to rush the story when you’re engaging with topics as serious as bullying, school shootings, and teen suicide.
Knowing that this episode and the previous Loki story, “The Most Dangerous Game,” would present triggers for some, I felt a huge pressure to make those scenes authentic and relatable, and handle them with sensitivity. To be honest, I was nervous that I would “get it wrong” somehow. Fun fact: In the zero draft of my first novel, Fair Coin, a character planned out a school shooting using his universe-hopping technology. As I was writing that dark ending, I knew I wasn’t a good enough writer (yet) to make it work, and it didn’t feel right for the story so I totally rewrote it in revision. But it was also easy to give up that initial concept because I was afraid, already thinking ahead to how people would react if some version of it were published.
That was in the back of my mind as I worked on “We’re Dead In This Ghost Town.” I’m a better writer than I was eight years ago, but I was still worried about screwing it up. I can’t say whether I succeeded in handling this subject matter well, but I tried. I tried to convey some of the desperation and panic and rage and loneliness that might lead someone to do the unthinkable. I tried not to play to stereotypes except to subvert them. And most of all, I tried to remember that everyone’s story is different — and I was writing Loki’s. Fortunately I also had a brilliant, thoughtful group of writers helping me make the story as good as possible and motivating me to push myself, do the work, get it “right.” Now the story is out there, and I can only hope that I’ve done it justice.
Interestingly, because Loki’s flashbacks were so heavy and challenging, I reveled in writing the present-day scenes as he and Holden explore the abandoned city. I let myself have fun with the setting, and let my imagination run weird and wild with creepy mannequins and dragons (dragons?!) and pop culture references and humor. It was a joy to write a strange sort of happy ending for Loki, and creating such a fantastic adventure was probably a subconscious response to the gritty reality I had to write in the other half of the story. I was convinced that when my fellow writers saw my first draft, which had gone somewhat off-outline, they’d ask me to dial it back, but instead they embraced the oddities, especially the dragons. Which is one of the many reasons I love this team and this series so much. Hopefully, you do too.