Thursday, 21 November 2013

GUEST BLOG: So you’ve written a million-word fantasy epic, what happens next? - Tom Lloyd

The quick answer is, something else – something different. If I was an epic fantasy author machine, I’d probably keep banging out the trilogies to give my loyal fans more of what they want. Except it wouldn’t be the fans I was doing that for – the group most interested would be the Orion Sales Department. Sure if I was a big bestseller who could guarantee sales for a new Twilight Reign novel, I’m sure my publisher would be waving lots of money at me for the next in the production line – you see that all the time. Now I’ve not seen sales figures, but I’ll bet money I can barely afford to wager that, to pick the first example I can think of, Pratchett’s book, Nation, despite excellent reviews, will not have sold nearly as well as the next Discworld book to follow. And that’s bloody Sir Terry Pratchett, almost an industry in himself. I stopped reading Raymond Feist years ago, but those are still coming and Pug’s still saving the world I believe – and selling so far in excess of mine it’s not even funny. Except to Raymond and his publishers maybe.

As it is, the question I got asked was – what’s next? The ending of Dusk Watchman was pretty final, but there are always stories to tell in an entire world, lives in potentia just waiting for me to pick up a pen (keyboard?). The epilogue gave a glimpse that life goes on despite the destruction and horror and I certainly had a pang of wanting to know the lives of the generation to come – but you have to know when to end a series like that, otherwise you’re just undermining your own work.

So what did I want to do? Without even knowing it, the story becoming Moon’s Artifice in my head was pretty different and taking on a shape of its own in part because of those years of epic. It’s set all in a single city, not across half a continent. It takes place roughly over a week, not two years. It has a small set of characters and no real armies, Twilight Reign had 500 named individuals and more people died in each of its instalments than are ever involved in Moon’s Artifice. The higher castes at least have gunpowder weapons and are an entirely different breed to the shining knights of the Twilight Reign despite the universal markers of arrogance and privilege you can see in both.

But that’s the bigger picture. Looking closer, you see Narin is clearly no Isak – he’s not been built for the job, he’s not a hero and he’s certainly no superhuman white-eye. He’s a copper and not even a particularly good or senior one either. They’re both moved by a sense of duty, but in utterly different ways. Narin’s best friend is an immoral, dangerous indiv— ok, so that one might have a few similarities, but we’ve none of the high politics going on around them, none of the wealth or power Isak could bring to bear. Narin must work inside the structure of his world, either evading or seeking permission from his superior. Isak answers only to the Gods, and the answers he gave them tended to not be hugely tactful.

It’s funny how sometimes things just fit together though. I started writing Isak when I was eighteen and that’s the age he starts out at. Narin I’d always planned to be older, early 30s, and I got around to writing him when I was 32. In the Twilight Reign, Tila & Vesna’s wedding was written two weeks before my own, in Moon’s Artifice Narin hears he’s going to be a father and a few weeks after I delivered the manuscript, my own little girl arrived. But such is life and for me, it’s often just a sign you’re going in the right direction.

So whether you’ve read the Twilight Reign or not, Moon’s Artifice will feel very different. It may put off some fans who want huge epicness with extra demons on the side (though there are demons still, I may be doing something different but I’m still me) but it may win me others among the non-european-medieval-epic crowd. Only time will tell, but there’s more to me than the Twilight Reign and in the immortal words of Blind Melon ‘when you stop dreamin' it's time to die.’

Tom's latest book: Moon's Artifice is 21/11/13 (today), by Gollancz.

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