From the summit of Mount Olympus, the world is rock and sea and sky. A blistering blue day quickly darkens to slate as thick clouds roll in. Not overhead—but at your feet. A thunderclap chases you from the peak. You scramble down a treacherously steep path to a long, sloping plateau of skittering gravel. Another crash of thunder. Zeus is angry. Then, not rain: hail.
My hike was part of a research trip to Greece and Turkey in preparation for writing Olympus Bound, the last installment of my trilogy of the same name. Starting with The Immortals, I’ve traced the adventures Selene DiSilva—aka Artemis, Goddess of the Hunt—as she lives a faded existence stalking the streets of modern Manhattan and defending its inhabitants from enemies both ancient and modern. Now, at the end of her story, I wanted her to return to her first home, and I’d traveled from New York to the highest peak in Greece to get the details right.
I had considered writing a longer series. After all, there are plenty of myths to explore, plenty of gods to meet. But open-ended series run the risk of complacency—there’s always another book that can make up for the previous one’s failings. To keep my story urgent, intense, and fulfilling, I felt I had to cut myself off.
Ending a series is, in some ways, profoundly liberating. Olympus Bound takes place over the course of two weeks. Whether or not Selene survives until the end (no spoilers here), she has just those fourteen days left on earth. Or at least, on the page. After that, she is out of my hands. So I decided to let her live her last days to the fullest. For once, I didn’t have to worry about setting up the plot for the next book or saving some good ideas for later. This was Selene’s last chance to do everything she—and I—had ever dreamed. She journeys back to her ancient homeland; she reunites with the rest of the Olympic pantheon; she fights her greatest enemy and confronts her greatest love.
At the same time, the final book in a trilogy presents a terrifying responsibility. I find that a book’s ending not only determines if a reader is satisfied with the book as a whole, it actually dictates whether or not they’ll remember it at all. That’s doubly true for the ending of an entire series. It’s as if the process of reading is like knitting a long scarf: the author takes you from stitch to stitch as the story takes shape before your eyes. But if she doesn’t bind it off correctly at the end—whoosh! The entire thing unravels as if it never existed.
Regardless of Selene DiSilva’s fate at the end of Olympus Bound, the goddess Artemis is an Athanatos. One Who Does Not Die. Myth has made her immortal, but I was determined to add to that legacy by creating a satisfying ending that left her embedded in the memories of my readers.
That day on Olympus, I paid my own sort of homage to the goddesses and gods. I sang their hymns, dreamed their stories, and offered sacrifices in the form of blistered feet and a hail-bruised skull. By the time I made my way down to the dubious pleasures of the small mountain shelter and its warmed-over spaghetti, the sky had cleared once more to a crystalline blue. But I’d learned my lesson: Don’t overstay your welcome on the summit of Olympus. Enjoy the climb, relish the view, then get the hell off.
The same might be said of finishing a trilogy.