The Inspiration Behind Dream Reaper

3D book cover for Dream Reaper by Alistair Cross: The cover is a pale man wearing a black top hat with smoke billowing from his mouth.

As with most books, the inspiration for Dream Reaper came from multiple places, some of them interesting, others not so much. I don’t remember where the initial concept for Alejandro came from, only that one day, several years ago, I wondered what might happen if an angel fell to earth, and ended up with a severe case of amnesia. What kinds of things would said angel do if he didn’t know he was an angel? How would his otherworldly powers express themselves if he had no memory of how to use them?

It was a while before this idea had much chance to germinate, though. I put it on hold to begin work on other novels, but in the back of my mind, I always knew I would return to this idea and turn it into a book. It was just a matter of when.

Then one day, I saw a tall man walking down the street near my house. He wore a three-piece suit, carried a shiny black briefcase, and had a cigarette in an ebony holder clamped between his teeth. His sunglasses and shoes reminded me of gleaming onyx, as did his hair, which he wore slicked-back into a short low ponytail. He struck me as somehow ominous and I said to the person I was with at the time, “There goes my next villain,” and filed his image away for creative safekeeping.

But I didn’t think anything beyond that – I didn’t think of any particular story for him, and I certainly didn’t think about tying him to my idea of the amnesiac angel. That idea came several months later, when I was out for a run one evening, and once again saw the man with the briefcase heading my way. As I passed him, I caught the scent of something slightly burnt and sulfurous, and – having watched far too many episodes of Supernatural – I thought to myself, “Demon!”

And at that moment, a story began coming together, and I hurried home to jot down my ideas. It occurred to me that if an angel with no memory fell to earth, he would likely begin accidentally tipping the scales of nature. This would undoubtedly bring demons to earth to restore the balance. And on that note, I wondered how valuable the soul of an angel might be to a demon.

And I wondered what on earth was in that shiny black briefcase. I pegged the man I’d seen as a salesman of some sort and it wasn’t long before it occurred to me that the character – whom I’d named Mr. Gremory Jones – was a salesman of sin itself, that within his shiny black briefcase was whatever it is that you, personally, simply cannot live without … and for a price, you can have it.

After establishing the roles of the angel and the demon, I created Prominence, a small, dry town in California where nothing exciting ever happens. I populated it with the kinds of people I thought might live in such a place, and before long, I had a very large cast of characters – all of whom would be affected by the unholy war that would be waged, unbeknownst to them.

I then created a series of friends and foes for the angel – the human gods and monsters who would help, hinder, protect, and deceive. The core cast ultimately became a cop named Nick Grayson – who had a very minor role in my novel, The Crimson Corset – a psychic, a priest, and the beautiful young shop owner whose life the angel Alejandro had come to earth to save before crash-landing in her koi pond during a violent storm and losing his memory.

So … the inspiration for this book – like the inspiration for all books – started as nothing more than a seed of intrigue. Book ideas are shifty things that come from unpredictable places. Sometimes it’s something you see on television; sometimes, it’s something you read in a book. Other times – as in the case of Dream Reaper – it’s something much quieter, something as innocuous as a passing stranger who inexplicably sparks something inside you. And once that inspiration is lit, you find yourself involuntarily concocting the story, pulling threads together and weaving a tale from what appears to be thin air.

But in truth, there’s no such thing as thin air. Stories are all around us, all the time. All you have to do is wonder.