And so another big fantasy trilogy reaches its conclusion with the publication of the third volume, King’s Wrath and the Valisar series, which has occupied my life for a couple of years, is now behind me, but there was a time when I was unsure it would ever end. I was writing King’s Wrath in Tasmania earlier this year and the story just refused to close. I am a writer who works to no plan and so the tale shapes itself in a most organic style. And, as if by magic, about 20,000 words out from when it decides that the story must finish, it appears to start narrowing itself down until I find myself in the climactic scenes wondering who will survive and who will perish. This is how it has been for four series now and so I have learned to trust my instincts and let the book work its own structure out.
As a result of this approach to writing I never set out to leave a story open for more tales. I rarely have much of an idea where any series will begin, certainly no inclination of where it will end – or even where each volume will close – and when it does finally finish up its book three I’m always surprised at the journey we’ve taken to get there. So leaving an open ending is truly beyond my ability, given the curious way that I tackle the daily grind of writing. And yet it seems that if I look at all my trilogies, each lends itself to more story and a couple of them have been all but begging me to go back and add more….particularly Trinity and The Quickening perhaps? I wonder if readers would agree.
So far I have resisted and to be honest I have not been tempted but just recently I made the bold decision that I was unlikely to write another epic series that took three years to publish. It feels like a milestone in my career to finally reach this mindset but while the notion of writing three books per story will no longer be my preferred structure, I also realised I wasn’t prepared to give up fantasy. I found myself at an impasse…but only briefly. The answer was staring right at me from my bookshelf because my favourite writer – Guy Gavriel Kay – writes most of his tales as standalone volumes.
And so next year I will be writing a standalone adult fantasy and I see no reason why an epic story with all the same qualities that readers have come to expect in my tales, can’t be delivered in one thumping book. I know it’s not the norm but I like the idea of stepping off the traditional treadmill in terms of structure. And increasingly I hear from audiences and individual readers that they would be as happy to read a single book as they would a trilogy. Many have embraced the news of the standalone warmly because they genuinely welcome the idea of not having to wait three years for a story to unfold. There’s definitely room for both formats in fantasy readers’ lives, of this I’m sure.
In a single volume I realise there won’t be a lot of time or space to build a new world and in order to make it instantly accessible to the readers who have followed me this past decade I have decided to break my own rule and return to the lands of The Quickening. And as the landscape of that second series of mine is so easy to grasp, newcomers to this next story will also find it just as simple to leap into.
This tale will not pick up where I left volume three – Bridge of Souls. Instead, it will be a new story in a different era of the empire, with new characters, perhaps new magic…who knows? I suspect that freshness will make it more invigorating to read and will add a new twist on a series that had its fair share of twisty-turny pathways to its story.
I’m surprised at how excited I am to be returning to Morgravia and Briavel and while I have little more than a thin thread of a storyline idea, I know it has pleased the Voyager team worldwide and I’m delighted that this book will be released across all English speaking markets in 2012 and hopefully beyond into my foreign language markets.
Thanks to all the readers who have read my stories and I hope you will keep travelling with me, this time back into realms we know rather well.
I suppose this begs the question…a return to Pearlis to find out how Herezah and Lazar are getting on, or into Penraven and more of the Valisar legacy and its enchantments? Well, I guess I’ve learned the lesson never to say never!