James W. Hall On Writing The Big Finish


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I never intended Thorn to be a series character.  If I had, I would’ve given him somewhat different qualities.  For one thing, he is so reluctant to get involved in a new problem (a new novel) that I have to kill one of his friends or loved ones to get him sufficiently aroused.  By book 14, which is what The Big Finish is, I’ve accumulated quite a death toll.  In a small town like Key Largo, such a bad reputation would get around.  Everyone would shun Thorn, especially the ladies who have been particularly vulnerable to mayhem over the years.

While I’ve always liked living in Thorn’s skin and reminding myself of his perverse and grumpy views, it got a little too easy to throw the poor guy into his next adventure and watch him squirm, then watch him eventually rise to the occasion, and with ingenuity, stubbornness and abandon, defeat the bad guys and brings about his version of justice.

So with all that on my mind, I started The Big Finish with the idea that this would be Thorn’s swan song.  It didn’t work out that way exactly, but I did give him one more heart-breaking, tragic episode to recover from.

For nearly twenty years I’ve been living part time in North Carolina and have tried before to write about the state (Forests of the Night) that I’ve come to love as much as Florida.  I decided to give it another shot, and send Thorn to Carolina in an effort (again) to rescue Flynn, his eco-warrior son.  Things are far more complicated than they first appear, however, and Thorn’s attempt to save his son actually may put him in even more danger.

The pig farms that dot the eastern territories of North Carolina are the focal point of this novel.  I’ve done a lot of reading in the last few years about industrial farming, its terrible environmental impacts as well as the industries poor record of ethical treatment of animals.  I gave Flynn and his group this agenda in their most recent campaign to raise awareness about the horrible conditions in the areas adjacent to pig farms.

One part of this novel that I had particular fun writing was the section in which Thorn is subjected to a hallucinogenic drug.  Rendering his consciousness during this sustained episode while under the influence was a challenge but turned into a real blast.