Time to dig in the ol’ Action Force Mailbag, and see what comes up? I don’t get a lot of mail, so maybe if I answer more often that will change. And, hey, what better excuse to sit down and address you, my sem-adoring public?
I was wondering why you keep writing more of Constance Verity, among all the other wonderful universes you have created? I would so love another Earl/Duke – Emperor – Nessie – Mack story, and there at least seems to be as much scope for furthering the story in any one of these as you could find for Constance.
Ever since my first book I’ve been asked this question, in one form or another, about nearly every book I’ve written. One of my favorite things about my body of work is that everyone has their own favorite novel, and while some are definitely more popular than others, every book has its fans.
In this day and age not having my career being defined by a single series or character has probably hampered me in some ways. Although there are benefits in others. I think it’s made me a stronger writer, and I’d like to hope that I’ve attracted a loyal group of fans who are willing to go to all the different places I want to take them.
That said, with ten previous books behind me, why did I elect to create the Constance Verity Trilogy? There’s no single reason.
First up, there was simply a matter of timing. I’d just left my previous publisher, Orbit. Which is to say that they weren’t interested in publishing the newest novel I had written. A novel that still hasn’t been published, I might add, but that’s neither here nor there. That’s the way this business goes. No slight on Orbit that they weren’t interested. It does neither the publisher nor the writer any favors to publish a book the publisher just isn’t into.
It was in this in-between time that my agent brought me to Saga, who were interested in working with me. But they were specifically interested in a series of some kind. At the time, I was also considering doing something like that because . . . well, if I’m being honest, I’d like to be more successful, and audiences do love their series.
That wasn’t the only reason. A trilogy allows me to explore characters in a longer form than I can in a single novel. While I think the prevalence of long-running series has some downsides, I also have to accept there are certain realities in this business. One of those realities is that you can’t make a living at this if you don’t sell books.
If I’d have my druthers, I’d simply write whatever came to me, and everyone would accept it as the genius it is. I’d retire to my own private island with my solid gold robot butler, and everyone would be happy and get free cake and Optimus Prime would be World President and puppies and rainbows and so on and so on.
I’m not saying I’m doing badly. I’m doing respectably. But I’ve been at a certain place in my career for a long time, and I’d love to climb a rung or two higher. A trilogy was an attempt to do that.
But why Constance Verity? Why not revisit some of my older characters and worlds?
Different publishers, for one.
But putting that aside, it’s been fifteen years since Gil’s All Fright Diner came out. Fourteen since In the Company of Ogres. Twelve since The Automatic Detective. That’s a lot of time. Not only does that mean the audience has perhaps dried up for those particular settings (though e-books help keep them alive at least), but what about me? Am I the same writer I was back then?
We don’t talk about it a lot but time marches on. Much of what I inspired me to write Gil’s All Fright Diner has changed. It certainly isn’t a novel I would write today. Like a person coming across a diary entry from over a decade ago, there’s a lot to appreciate about it, but it would be weird if I were the exact same person as the one who wrote it originally.
I knew too that I wanted to write something with a planned beginning, middle, and end. I could have probably worked out a way to revisit a previous novel, but trying to graft a larger story arc onto it would’ve been trickier. Starting fresh, without the baggage, seemed like a smarter idea.
But this doesn’t answer the ultimate unasked part of the above question. So let’s remove the subtext and just ask it:
Why are you writing this thing when I’d much rather you be writing something else?
I get it. I really do. Constance Verity might not be your thing. Or she might be your thing, but not as much as some other thing I’ve written.
I wish I had a good answer, but it basically comes down to demand. If any of my previous books had been international bestsellers or hugely influential, I’d probably be writing this post about how excited I am to be writing the fifteenth Duke, Earl, and Cathy novel. Who knows what would’ve been if I’d started writing sequels to Gil’s after it first came out? I certainly don’t. But I made my decision at the time and that ship has sailed.
For the record, I still am happy about that decision, but who knows how I’ll feel in another fifteen years?
My only words of comfort is that the Constance Verity Trilogy is not the end of my career. More stuff is on the horizon. That’s the way this business works:
One book at a time.
If you have a question or comment, maybe one you’d like me to address on this very blog, you can reach me at Hipstercthulhu@hotmail.com.
FIGHTING THE GOOD FIGHT, WRITING THE GOOD WRITE,