Redemption: the story behind Speak My Name (and a tiny bit of the sequel)
The church of my childhood marginalized angels and demons. Their stories were boiled down to sterilized concepts of good and evil. As a kid, that disappointed me. I wanted the devil to be evil, tragic, and compelling. I wanted angels that were more than fluffy winged babies.
The Prophecy, starring Christopher Walken came out in 1995. It turned the church’s view of these creatures inside out. The movie is the story of an embittered Archangel Gabriel, played by Walken, who continues to wage a war in heaven over the admittance of human souls. Both sides must travel to earth to find the world's most evil soul to help them win the war. The angel working for God’s side finds it, even as Gabriel hunts him down, and hides it in the body of a little girl. It’s an act of desperation. If Gabriel finds the soul, the will of God will be thwarted for all time.
Gabriel murders the other angel and ruthlessly finds the girl, ready to rip her apart for the soul.
Gabriel doesn’t believe he’s on the wrong side of the fight. But he becomes a monster that is even worse than God’s first fallen, just by going against God’s will.
This, I thought, sitting in the theater watching; this is exactly the story I want.
I wanted Gabriel, with his misguided agenda to fix his home and make it like it was when God loved him more than the humans. I identified with his bitterness and his brokenness. I wanted him to win, just a little bit. Nobody is the villain in their own story.
When I wrote Speak My Name; about a demon bartender named Frank, and an angel barfly named Ithuriel, it was with that Gabriel sitting next to me, the broken one. Frank still feels the pain of God’s scorn and Lucifer’s abandonment. Ithuriel is still traumatized by what he was asked to do in the war. He took Frank’s wings and cast him into the pit.
They both are exiled to earth, one by Lucifer, and one by God. They play a halfhearted game of collecting souls for their opposing sides, but both are still inconsolable at the loss of the only love they knew to care.
Mica is one of Gabriel’s mistakes. In heaven, it’s the Archangel’s job to remove all the secrets of the universe from the preborn. But obviously, Gabe’s a busy angel, and sometimes he misses a couple. Mica was born with all this forbidden knowledge intact. He sees what we don’t. As soon as he walks into the bar, he sees Ithuriel’s massive wings folded tight against his back. He sees Frank’s boiling red skin, and horns and tail. But mostly he sees Frank’s pain and doesn’t look away. That simple gesture opens up the world for Frank.
In The Prophecy, Gabriel is punished for his arrogance, sent home to a heaven that doesn’t love him anymore by his brother, Lucifer. I wished that it had turned out differently for him. Even broken children deserve love.
I wanted to give Frank and Ithuriel a better ending in Speak My Name. I wanted them to stop existing and start living. Stop pining for unrequited love and heaven, as it was. Unlike the rebel angels in The Prophecy, Frank and Ithuriel learn to want new things and learn that even if the love of God is out of grasp, redemption and forgiveness can come from other places.
Breaking Heaven is Lucifer's chance at learning to want new things. After his glimpse of the real heaven via Mica's soul in the first novella, he's forced to reevaluate his endless fight for revenge on a God who cast him aside, and his unfallen brothers who helped. He knows the truth, and only one other being shares that burden. Ithuriel.
Here's a little bit of how they work it out:
Ithuriel stretched out on the narrow cot on his stomach and rested his head on his arms and folded his wings. He envied Mortals their sleep. Sometimes he longed for it more than flight.
When he closed his eyes all he could hope for was dark. He welcomed it, dimmed in the light though it was.Then he felt breath on the back of his neck, felt something sharp stroke a wing. “Morning Star,” Ithuriel said, moving away from the demon slowly.
“I don’t go by that much anymore.” Lucifer withdrew, giving Ithuriel the space.
Surprised, he took it to stand. And in the next instant, Lucifer's breath was on the Ithuriel's neck again. This time he held Ithuriel’s wings down folded tight, with just the beginning of pain. Ithuriel froze, fighting the urge to struggle. “I prefer it to other names.”
“Mm., I'm sure. Forcing me to recall my former glory.”
“You don’t need my help with that. Everything about you is the longest sigh of memory, Morning Star.” Ithuriel kept his voice light.
Seconds passed the demon's breath on his skin. Ithuriel closed his eyes, found himself leaning back, just a fraction.
Then Lucifer spoke again, voice cracked and raw. “You haven’t asked me why I’ve come back.”
Ithuriel smiled. “You missed my company. Or have I become a tiny part of one of your grand schemes? I asked you to leave me out of it.”
“No need.” Lucifer said. “My scheming days are behind me. I only want a favor of you.”
Ithuriel wondered if he should be frightened. He was more curious. “Really? What favor could I grant the prince of hell?"
What indeed? If you are wondering where this all started, grab Speak My Name on Amazon: https://tinyurl.com/2ryb253v