The Witching Hours series lurched to life in 2015, in a series of scribbles made at the back of my university notebook. Writing in bright purple ink, I detailed all the horrifying things that could happen to Anna and Max, “the Crypt Kids,” listing all the steps of their adventure in Transylvania. I didn’t know if anyone other than me would ever read the story — didn’t know if I’d even succeed in writing it. But halfway down the page, I made a very specific note. It was a reference to a moment in a future book: a fourth sequel to a novel I hadn’t even started writing. It was exciting. It was ridiculous.
Three years and four books later, over the summer of 2018, I finally wrote that scene.
There was something pleasantly inevitable about writing The Dragon Crown. Book four had been a challenge: a collection of great scenes that took immense effort to fashion into a cohesive whole. In contrast, writing book five was a pleasure. No book has zipped along for me as quickly as The Vampire Knife did, but The Dragon Crown came close, always leading me easily into the next scene. Each time Anna fell, I knew where she would land.
And, best of all, at the end of chapter 12, is that scene, the one I wrote down in bright purple ink. I was utterly delighted to get there, and I hope any other readers who’ve followed the series this far will be delighted (and terrified) as well.
Book five also marked a return to my usual research process, which may also help explain why it came so readily along. Before writing The Vampire Knife, I read all of The Complete Grimm’s Fairy Tales; the next year, before writing The Genie Rings, I read as many of The Arabian Nights as I could get my hands on. To prepare for book five I read Monkey, the English translation of the seminal Chinese novel Journey to the West — and gosh was it fun. The opening sections were a bit slow, dealing as they do with the creation of the titular Monkey; but by the time the grand quest to obtain the sacred scriptures gets underway, this book becomes a blast. I loved reading five-hundred-year-old fairy tales that I’d never seen before, like the tale of the terrible goldfish king waiting beneath the frozen river, or the story of the farmhand Pigsy, whose appearance becomes more monstrous the longer he works. The book is jam-packed full of monsters and magic spells, and I stole a whole bunch of them to put in my own Chinese adventure: keep your eyes peeled for mentions of drowsy insects, magic winds, and some of the worst headaches imaginable.
The publication of The Dragon Crown also means that there’s only one book left in The Witching Hours. I feel sad that the series will soon be at an end, and I feel worried, too — because the events of book five have left Anna and Max more vulnerable than ever before. There are other scribbles in my old notebooks. I know some of the terrible things that are going to happen next.
This week, I will write the final chapter of book six. Will Anna and Max survive their last adventure? Will they make it out of those dark American woods, having avoided the colossal creature lurking within? I hope so. I’ve spent a lot of time with Anna and Max over the last five years, and it would be a shame to see them fall at the final hurdle.
But then again — some monsters have gigantic appetites.