When an author brings a successful series to a close after years of unspooling the continuing story, how does she feel? How do readers react? How hard is it to tie up all the threads? Anna Hackett has been writing the Hell Squad post-apocalyptic science fiction romance series since releasing Marcus (Hell Squad Book 1) in 2015. She recently concluded the series with Tane (Hell Squad Book 20). Since I’m in the middle of writing my own Badari Warriors series (currently on book fourteen), I was especially eager to ask her some questions about the topic. I’ve been an avid Hell Squad reader since the beginning. No spoilers but I will say I was more than satisfied at the way Anna wrapped the adventures up.
Here’s the beginning of the blurb for Marcus, from 2015: “In the aftermath of a deadly alien invasion, a band of survivors fights on… ”
Here’s the blurb for Tane (Hell Squad Book 20): As the battle against the invading aliens reaches its endgame, a group of bad boy bikers and mercenaries will stand and fight for humanity’s survival…
Tane Rahia is good at one thing–fighting. Before the alien invasion, he fought as a mercenary in the worst jungle hellholes. Now, he’s the leader of Squad Three–aka the berserkers–and he’s fighting to protect his brothers, his friends, and the last of humanity’s survivors. It doesn’t matter if he dies, he knows he belongs in the shadows, doing the dirty work and taking dangerous risks so others don’t have to. There is no warm woman, no love, and no redemption for him, and especially no small, sweet alien woman who he struggles to ignore.
Abducted from her homeworld by the Gizzida, Selena endured captivity and torture. Then she found herself on a distant planet called Earth and rescued by tough, heroic humans. She’s recovered, made a new family for herself, and come into a power that she never knew she possessed. She’s determined to experience everything life on vibrant Earth has to offer and to protect her new home. And she discovers that one battle-hardened, intense man is the only one who ignites a passionate desire that leaves her breathless.
The humans have fought hard, but now the Gizzida have created three deadly, humanity-ending bombs. Tane’s not happy that Selena’s help is vital in the fight against the aliens, and nor is he ready to face her stubborn confidence nor the white-hot desire flaring between them. But as they enter their final make or break fight, Tane and Selena know they need to fight as one. They may not survive the final battle, but they have to try: for their friends, for the planet, for humanity.
Veronica Scott for AMAZING STORIES MAGAZINE: What were your major influences for doing the series itself originally?
AH: Hell Squad started with this idea of a battle-hardened soldier facing off with a pretty former socialite. I wondered what it would take for two so opposite people to have to work together and fall in love. The answer was an alien invasion! I also drew on the influences of lots of TV shows (like Falling Skies) and games to put together my post-apocalyptic world of humans fighting back against alien invaders.
ASM.: Did you always know it would end this way, or at 20 books? If not, how did you come to the decision to write the ending?
AH: I’m laughing right now. No, I never envisioned Hell Squad having 20 books. The first story, Marcus, was supposed to be a short story (called Darkest Before Dawn) that I was contributing to a sci-fi anthology. The anthology fell through and I knew there was more to the story. Clearly, things took on a life of their own. This series has always been very organic — I had no idea where it would end up or how it would end. I knew the fight couldn’t go on forever and I really wanted to give these heroic, tough characters the ending they had fought so hard for. Once I started writing the stories of Squad Three (the berserkers) I knew we were headed toward the final conclusion.
ASM.: Was it tricky to ensure we saw all the major characters in action in Tane? How did you juggle that when writing the book?
AH: The Hell Squad books have always written themselves! I guess I knew this world so well and the characters came to life so vividly from the beginning, so ensuring we saw everyone in the final book wasn’t that hard. The thing I was conscious of was to make sure everyone had an important role to play, not just appearing for the sake of appearing. But these characters have always worked hard together to fight and survive, so again, it wasn’t hard at all.
ASM.: I really admired how you kept bringing in fresh challenges and new characters over the life of the series. Which was your favorite ‘big development’ and why? How did you decide what to add to the basic stories?
AH: Each Hell Squad book has always showcased a mission against the invading aliens. Obviously, the main characters of each book have been critical to whatever that mission was. That means, the mission was always centered on whatever the strengths and skills of the hero and heroine might be. After that, I just let my imagination run wild! I have always worked hard as an author (in all my series!) to keep the stories fresh, interesting, and fun.
A big development in Hell Squad (and one that wasn’t planned) was the character of Selena. I never intended to introduce an additional alien species to the series, and I was just as surprised as Hell Squad when they rescued Selena and realized that she wasn’t human. She is the heroine in Tane’s book and a key part of the story.
ASM.: Over the entire series, who was your favorite character? Who was most difficult to write and why?
AH: I can’t pick a favorite! I love each one of my characters for different reasons. Marcus and Elle were the first, so they will always be special to me. I loved the banter between kickass Claudia and sniper Shaw. I loved General Adam Holmes finding the love of his life in Liberty. I love the tough female fighters of Squad Nine. The wild, bad-boy berserkers are always a pleasure.
Like I mentioned, this characters have always come alive and the Hell Squad books have always been very easy to write. So none of the characters have been difficult to write. I did feel some pressure in Tane’s book, knowing it was the end and two very anticipated characters. I wanted to make sure I wrote a book that the readers loved, but once I started writing, I forgot about the pressure and got lost in the story.
ASM.: Was it hard for you to leave the series behind? What will you miss the most about Hell Squad?
AH: SO hard! It was exciting to write the ending for these amazing characters, but at the same time, it was very bittersweet. These characters feel like family, so not writing more of their action-packed adventures will be hard. I’ll miss the intense feel of this series that is layered with grit, hope, survival, resilience, and love.
ASM.: What’s next for you?
AH: Well, I’m busy working on books in some of my existing sci-fi series (Eon Warriors and House of Rone). I have a new (non sci-fi) contemporary action romance series called Norcross coming out in September (loosely linked to my Team 52 series). And I am really excited for a couple of new sci-fi romance series that I am currently brewing right now. I’ll be hoping to launch them next year.
ASM.: Is there a TV series or movie you’ve binge watched lately?
AH: I don’t have a lot of time for TV anymore (that’s not counting kids shows as I have two young boys — their favorite right now is ‘Miraculous Ladybug and Cat Noir’, which is a fantastic animated superhero show!) I did recently watch a great limited series on Netflix called ‘Unbelievable’. It was different to what I usually watch (fast-paced action or sci-fi!) It was centered on two female detectives on the hunt for a serial rapist. It had a wonderful diverse cast and the qualities I love to see in my heroines: tough, never give up, and kickass in their own way.
ASM.: What’s on your To Be Read list?
AH: I recently read Nalini Singh’s latest Psy/Changeling book, Alpha Night, and loved it. I’m looking forward to her next Guild Hunter book. I am also waiting (im)patiently for the next Pamela Clare romantic suspense and Ilona Andrews’ Emerald Blaze.
For more about Anna Hackett and her books visit https://annahackett.com/