My original plan for the Dominion Trilogy book titles were (in order): Bringer, Guardian, and Oblivion. If you’ve read the books, you know that these are all titles applied to the main character in each respective book. But this plan was vetoed by Bethany House, who felt that Bringer especially would not grab enough attention on store shelves.
They suggested the new title for Book One, and I followed their lead by coming up with the new titles for Books Two and Three.
In Relentless, in the scene where Drexel is about to enter the interrogation room to talk to Payton, someone tells him that the FBI have an interest in the man they’ve captured (Payton) and want to talk to him (Drexel) about it. In a near-final draft of the book, the FBI agent was mentioned by name — “FBI Special Agent Ethan Cooke.” I stuck in this reference to add continuity for what would become a major character, but the reference was ultimately cut for space and relevance. Ethan went on to be properly introduced in Fearless and featured prominently both there and in the final book.
Every character changed and deviated from the original story arc I had planned for them, except for one. Payton entered my mind fully formed and never deviated from that original vision. The character who changed the most from my original plan? Daniel.
As many readers have noticed, there’s a printing error in Relentless. In Chapter 48 (page 324), there’s a scene where Daniel is chatting with someone online, and I alternated black-on-white text and white-on-black text to differentiate between Daniel and his friend. It didn’t turn out that great in printed form; the margins are all wonky, the black backgrounds run a little over the next lines of black text. The worst part is the end of the chat, where the last black background completely obscures the first line of the next paragraph of the story.
As it appears in the book, that paragraph begins mid-sentence with:
who was in the kitchen, but the sentiment was there all the same.
It should read:
Daniel pounded a fist on the desk. Lightly, so as not to alarm Lisa, who was in the kitchen, but the sentiment was there all the same.
To signify the culmination of the trilogy with the final book, Bethany House went to extra lengths to ensure it would have a unique presentation. The process used to create the dust jacket cover for Merciless was a first for the publishing industry, in the way it was achieved. Various color printing passes were applied onto silver foil paper, and the graphic designers and printers at Bethany House didn’t know if this would work until they tried it.
The original outline for the trilogy had Grant choosing to become evil in the third book, Anakin Skywalker style. After finishing work on Relentless, I realized this was no longer in keeping with the person he’d become, since he had basically overcome his personal demons in that book. Revisiting that inner struggle felt like it would just be an unsatisfying rehash (though I still featured him pushing back the negative internal influence of the Ring in order to create uncertainty around the “is he causing the global disasters?” question).
Rather than rewind the character this way, I wanted to turn the page and move forward with him, so I decided that the emergence of Oblivion would be yet another thing that happens to Grant that’s a manipulation by outside forces, and ultimately beyond of his control. Once again, the world pulls the rug out from under him just as he’s gotten his footing. This rang true thematically, and it gave me the opportunity to move Grant further forward than I’d originally imagined possible.
Grant is the underdog character I repeatedly did the most nasty things to — changing his identity, killing off people he loves, twisting him into something evil against his will — but what was essential to me (and what was one of the major themes of the entire trilogy) was how he chose to react to each of those things.
It was always part of the plan that Book One would be the “hero’s journey”/coming-of-age tale, Book Two would be a superhero story, and Book Three would be an end-of-the-world/”disaster movie” kind of thing. Each book had to achieve this while still maintaining the sense of continuity of telling one big story in three books.
Fearless was the toughest entry in the trilogy to write. It’s the middle of the story with no true beginning or ending, so there’s no real resolution to anything. Relentless kind of burst from my head in this steady stream of wild ideas; it was probably the easiest to write. Merciless was the most gut-wrenching, because I had to put these characters who I’d been with for so long through such hardships and darkness. I was more meticulous with the final book than either of the others, and it’s by far my favorite of the three.