Gerald Welch talks Legacy with Critical Blast

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Having grown up in Jersey City and spending most of my working life in Newark, New Jersey, I have always had a great love and respect for Warren Murphy’s The Destroyer series. Warren himself was born in Jersey City, and his most iconic character, Remo Williams, started out as a Newark cop. Don’t tell Chiun I called Remo more iconic than him, he would not appreciate that at all….

I had lost track of the series over the years, but I was definitely curious when I heard that Warren Murphy had developed a spin-off called Legacy with Jerry Welch. I immediately fell in love with Legacy. Freya and Stone are terrific characters, and in just a few short books, Murphy and Welch have managed to expand the world of The Destroyer in some brilliant new ways. Jerry has been wonderful about answering any questions I have had about the series over the last few years, and I was glad to be able to sit down with him and do a full form interview.

ACE: How did the idea from Legacy come about?

JERRY: Legacy was one of two series ideas that I pitched to Warren. I suggested that Donna Courtois and I could write what was referred to then as “Young Destroyers” and I could solo write a series featuring stories of the Masters of Sinanju called “Masters”.

Warren turned down the “Masters” pitch but used the proposal story I gave him (“Monuments”) in the “New Blood” compilation of fan fiction. He really liked the concept of “Young Destroyers” but didn’t like the name. We played around with “Dynasty” for a while but finally settled on “Legacy”. Donna went off to write a Destroyer (called ‘Number Two’), so Warren asked if I would be interested in working with him on Legacy, as if he even had to ask.

There was a lot of work that had to be done before we wrote the first scene, namely character creation. Warren hated the versions of Sunny Joe and Stone that appeared in The Destroyer, so it was up to me to keep them as close to Destroyer continuity as possible and still get Warren’s approval. Fortunately, Freya was kind of a blank slate, so there was a lot more wiggle room to develop her as a person.

Originally, Stone and Freya were to be led by Smith’s then-assistant Mark Howard, but Warren hated Mark’s psychic powers, so he told me to create a new person to lead Stone and Freya. That’s when I came up with Benjamin Cole.

ACE: Was it always intended to be a series, or was it just a one-off to see what would happen?

JERRY: Legacy was designed to be a bit different than The Destroyer. If you think about it, Legacy is more of a serial than a series, because the beginning of one book continues from the end of the previous book. Each Legacy is written like a television episode. While you can pick one up at random and it make sense, you get more out of them by reading them in order. This also gives me the dedicated chronological space to track character development. Authors can say what they want, but we learn much more about our own characters after a couple of books.

ACE: What was the process of writing these books like when they started?

JERRY: A lot different than how we do things now. Warren wanted me to take lead on the project because, well, he had a ton of personal projects (He put so much time into Bloodline and I was so glad that he was able to finish it before he passed) and he was pushing me to grow as a writer.

Part of the original deal had me work out plots and story arcs for the first twenty-five books, because Warren wanted to ensure we had large story-arcs as well as individual entries. I think he wanted to see how well I could juggle different size arcs. So, I would flesh out the plot to the book at hand, submit a two or three page outline, and Warren would tell me what worked, what didn’t and what to watch out for. I would then write the manuscript and he would edit it. I would see his edits, make suggestions and then he would have the final say.

ACE: How has the process of creating these books changed since Warren’s passing in 2015?

JERRY: Quite a bit. Even though Warren is gone, his name is still on the cover and I try to honor him with each page that sits behind that name. Dev and I take more care in what’s inside, which is why Legacy 7 was delayed. We could have released a good book a month ago, but after discussing the final manuscript, we figured out a way to make it better. While working on that, I changed the epilogue as well to help Legacy #8. So, while I’m sorry that the book was delayed, I would have had more regret knowing that we could have released a better book. Patience is a harsh - but worthy - mistress.

ACE: Were you and Warren concerned there would be a lot of pushback from the fans about these huge additions to the Destroyer mythos?

JERRY: Actually, that was the first thing he warned me about. He said that it would be difficult for people to read a Sinanju series that didn’t include Remo and Chiun, so I had better write about some very interesting characters. There was a small temptation at the beginning to cheat and have Sunny Joe act more like Chiun to give him and Stone the Remo/Chiun interaction, but, as I said, it was a cheat. Sunny Joe isn’t Chiun and shouldn’t act like him. Warren also said that Destroyer fans might be put off by the different writing style, because Legacy is purposely aimed toward a younger audience, so you’ll see less sex, cursing and gore.

I still get emails and reviews asking for more Remo and Chiun, but this isn’t their story. Well, book seven is partially Chiun’s, but even then, he fits within the framework of Sunny Joe, Ben, Stone and Freya.

ACE: Are you more like Stone or Freya?

JERRY: Wow, that’s a good question. I guess that I’m Stone in my weaknesses and Freya in my strengths, so it helps me identify with each. That is also why I ignore pleas to wave a magic wand and have Stone just quit smoking. In a world where he dodges bullets and shatters rock, giving up smoking cold turkey is unrealistic for him. It will happen – it has to if he is going to progress – but, just like in real life, it will take time and it won’t be easy.

ACE: What can Legacy and Destroyer fans expect to see in the coming books?

JERRY: The Legacy side of the Sinanju universe is still growing and in more important ways than just adding new villains (though they are coming as well). Expect to see character progression and more importantly, change through growth. You should not read Legacy #20 and see the same characters that you saw in Legacy #2. That being said, you’re going to be seeing more of the world Stone and Freya live in. You’re going to learn more about Mike the bartender, Paul Moore and others and how they fit into Stone and Freya’s world.

ACE: As a writer, do you have to approach an established setting like Legacy different than when you do something completely original?

JERRY: Of course. I didn’t create this playground, so there are rules to obey. Freya will never eat a hamburger. Stone will eventually have to stop smoking. Fortunately, I was a Destroyer fan before writing Legacy, so I am spending the time to explore those rules and what it means to Stone and Freya to become a Master of Sinanju. Legacy is the story of Freya and Stone becoming Masters of Sinanju. After they become actual Masters in, say, book fifty or so, you’ll notice a change in storylines. The bottom line for me as a writer is that I want people to feel the same way I do when I read a good book. If I can do that, then I’m doing something right.

ACE: You love to put in little Easter Eggs for fans of your other popular series, THE LAST WITNESS. Are we ever going to see a true crossover between the two series?

JERRY: You already have (laughs). As of book seven, we’ve had two villain crossovers (one of which is an Easter Egg but not hard to spot) and I think that it’s cool how we handled it. We didn’t promote it as such or give direct links between the series. It’s just a little reward for readers of both books to hopefully give them that extra little ‘wow’ factor.

That’s one of the main reasons I love Easter Eggs so much. I want a reader who sees something in, say, book twenty-two to notice something and think, “That’s not how it was in book four!” but when they go back to look at book four, BAM! It was there, but was written in a way they wouldn’t notice it.

That’s the extra level that I strive for, as well as one of the reasons Dev probably reads over the books so many times, so he can spot them. Oh, and anyone who likes Easter Eggs will be eggstatic if they compare the Legacy and Last Witness omnibuses. A lot of work went into both of those books and when the Legacy Omnibus is released (after Legacy #7), readers will know that we haven’t just been sitting around twiddling our thumbs. The Omnibuses are my greatest and most exhaustive works to date and I hope readers get a deeper understanding of what each series means.

ACE: Will Freya ever make a friend that you don't kill by the end of the book they first appear in???

JERRY: Of course! But because of who she is and, more importantly, where she is, it's not going to be easy. Freya spent the first decade of her life wandering around Europe, basically isolated from everyone but her mother, so her interaction skills need far more development than her Sinanju skills. Besides, one of her friends isn't dead, just wishing Freya was.

ACE: What’s next for Gerald Welch?

JERRY: This year? A move from Texas to the St. Louis area, two more omnibuses, another Legacy, another Last Witness and my second album. Hopefully it will be better than Alien Summer.

ACE: I am pretty sure it can’t be any worse, LOL!  Thanks, Jerry!  I appreciate you taking the time to do this!