The mice laze around on the sofa, play Xbox and drink beer… They’d probably be smoking too if it wasn’t for this damn cold (only kidding honey, if you’re reading this!)… as it is, I’ll just have to stick to the beer thing, and making a point to toast the reversal on Gurkha rights of settlement which has been ridiculously overdue. Actually, I have also booked my honeymoon, but I’m now slightly irritated on that front because a day after I booked it I get an email offing £10 tickets to the start-of-season double-header match at Twickenham… on the first day of the honeymoon. That I’d arbitrarily picked as the start date. But I will be in Venice instead, hard to be too annoyed there really!
All this lazing around has however, occasionally working my way through the new Steven Erikson (which, good as it is could have done with a more serious edit) made me think about book stuff and how I want to keep spending my time. Let’s face it, I was a curmudgeonly old bastard throughout my twenties and have showed no sign of changing now I’m past it. The prospect of signing myself up to something similar, or longer, than the Twilight Reign fills me with dread and drains what passes for enthusiasm from my body. Maybe it’s some just miracle way of negating caffeine but whatever it is, I realise now that – huge fan of epic fantasy that I am – I don’t want to block off 5, 8, or even ten years of my life to one idea. George Martin’s got the right idea but doing it piecemeal between a load of other things and making enough money that he can still pay the bills, but you still get a lot of abuse for the approach, even when you’re like everyone’s grandpa but with a sword.
I’ve got to finish book 4 and write book 5. That’s doable, that’s not too much of my life committed to something that’s not a person or even a roof over my head, whether or not it contributes to said roof. But what if the Twilight Reign was ten books, or even twelve. I’d be most likely forty before I could really get my teeth into something else, without taking a publication break that would seriously annoy both publishers and fans. In addition to these books I’ve got the short story collection to put together, add a few more to and then see about publishing it in some form or another. I’m thinking I might do this in my post-Ragged Man break, before the edits come back or after depending on how long that takes. Hopefully there won’t be too much to add and it could be fun to look at the series from a different perspective, leaving me refreshed for the last book, but however much I’m going to enjoy book 5 * I’m REALLY looking forward just to doing something new, even if I do already have most of the idea sketched out. The idea I have for after those stand-alones had once going to be a major epic series, but I now realise I don’t want to do that, I want to be freer to actually invent stuff with each book rather than feel constrained by what’s gone before. My current idea is for it to be three ‘first books’ each of which are a stand alone from a different character’s perspective and could kick you off reading it, then a final volume that brings those three characters together and ties up the greater plot. Not sure whether that’ll work or not, but that’s the point – it’ll be fun to find out as much as fun to have a start and end of a book in sight!
The elephant in the room is, of course sequels/prequels. Often a good idea in financial terms, I can’t see myself wanting to return to the Twilight Reign until I’ve got a few books under my belt. If the publisher says they want one and aren’t interested in anything else at the moment, that could get tricky, but not something to worry about now. It does make me think, however that those writer who’ve been so committed to one world and series, Erikson, Jordan not so much now, Martin, even Rowling actually – how do you drag yourself out of that? How do you walk away and go do something else? I think I was lucky that I started working on something new when I was trying to sell Stormcaller, Moon’s Artifice has been running round my head for years now – it’s starting to scream to be written, there are novels I’m actually avoiding because I know they’ll make me think of further novels in that world. It’ll be interesting to see how others fare. Steven Erikson’s so wedded to his world I can’t believe he won’t start a new series based on it somehow when he finishes Book of the Fallen, just look at the spin-offs. George Martin is getting on in years, I can’t imagine he’d be foolish enough to engage in anything as ambitious as Song of Ice and Fire again – for him I’d say a smaller sequel would be the best option. J K Rowling, anyone heard what her new project it? Better believe the publishers will announce that one from the rooftops when they acquire it – the little collection of tales makes not a follow up book. Hmm, was that Yoda or some bastardised Shakespeare? Or both? Anyways, the sensible money is on something in that world, maybe even Harry’s exploits as a grown-up/Harry’s children. Jordan, of course, never finished, but I think we all suspect he’d never have left his famous world, Feist certainly hasn’t despite reports of the books going downhill big-time. Not read recent ones myself but it does rather look like he’s spanking something decaying and equine.
I admit I’ve only picked some well known examples here, but I can’t think of others at present. Anyone help me out here? Any writers who’ve done the same, successfully broken away from a long, major series. Does Bernard Cornwall count here, despite not being fantasy? Are the new books anything like as good as the Sharpes? I remember the confusion Winter In Madrid caused because C J Samson was just about to make it big as an historical crime writer, but he was determined to break out of that before he was caught forever so much respect to him.
* which I am by the way; it might not sound like I’ve got a lot of love for the series at the mo but Ragged Man’s proving a grind at the moment and will only be fun again when I start to rewrite it I reckon, too much of what I’ve got to write is dictated by what’s gone before. Book 5 will be different, I’ve not mapped it out as much, I’ve got a lot to decide when it comes to showdowns, just desserts, revenge and stuff, and building up to a crescendo is what I enjoy so the last book of the series should always be good on that front.