It’s a big question.
With Knights of the Borrowed Dark – The Endless King currently being swarmed by puffins raised on a diet of stray commas and purple prose, I find myself… not at a loose end, exactly, (definitely not at a loose end, look at this nonsense) but asking myself, at trilogy’s end, what now? Where do I go? Where do I want to go?
I mean, I’m going to keep writing. That’s not in doubt. I am pretty terrible at everything else, for a start, and every other job I’ve ever had has gone something like this –
Me: Hey boss! Good news! I spent all morning weaving a complex narrative with lots of character interplay and some complex-yet-hopefully-accessible world-building!
Boss: Did you… did you clear Table 27 yet?
So I’m going to write some more. I pretty much have to, anyway. I tried quitting writing once, when I was teaching in Egypt. I always need something to stress about, and since I didn’t know anybody over there, I started stressing about the writing I was doing. (this has not stopped, by the way) I started asking myself was I good enough, (no) was I doing enough, (no) would I ever be good enough (no) and then I stopped and said –
‘Dave, you’re teaching English in a foreign country, you’re doing okay financially for the first time in your life, why can that not just be enough? You don’t have time to read all the books you want to read, why not just do that, and stop having idiot pipe dreams. It’s enough. What you’re doing right now, your job, all of it, is enough.’
(Note – I said all of this out loud because when you live on your own in a country where you don’t speak the language, you start talking to yourself)
So with this revelation reached, I cheerfully jettisoned my dreams, put on some Factor 80 and went for a walk. By the time I came back I had three ideas for short stories, two for novels, and was taking notes with a biro on my arm.
I’m not saying the above is healthy. Compulsion is a part of being a writer. Long as you remember to eat, get exercise and occasionally talk to other humans I don’t think there’s anything wrong with being obsessively driven. I used to think contentment was the enemy. That you had to be miserable to be good, that life had to be dramatic, that dramatic meant interesting, and if I was actually happy I wouldn’t be me, but some smug okay dude walking around in my skin. I’ve mostly put that idea to rest (for example, I know that contentment is not in fact the enemy but in fact a very particular type of Sunday) except when it pertains to my career.
Knights of the Borrowed Dark was an extremely personal story. The Clockwork Three, the Cost, Denizen himself – it was the book I had to write, the one that was running most closely under my skin. The Forever Court was more experimental, more political – it’s a weird book. I know some readers read it and said ‘Where’s Grey? What’s a Croit?’ but it’s the book I had to write and it’s essential for Book 3.
The Endless King is… big. Really big. And not just because the first draft was 125,000 words. (don’t worry, it’s shorter now) It’s about war, and it’s about survival, and it’s about what being a part of an Order means. What being part of a species means.
I want to learn a new thing with every book. KOTBD taught me how to write one. The Forever Court taught me about retroactive continuity, and stakes-raising, and unreliable narrators. What I learned with The Endless King (depending on what the puffins decide) was scope. It’s easy to write about Dublin. I know the place back-to-front and top-to-bottom. TEK goes… somewhere else.
AND THAT’S ALL I’M SAYING BECAUSE OTHERWISE I’M GOING TO GET TOO EXCITED AND TELL YOU EVERYTHING.
So now my job is figuring out what now. The world of the Knights will always be there, but I need a break and I need a challenge. I want to push myself and see what I’m capable of. There have been chats. I have some ideas. There’s two in particular that I am really into, and I’m working on right now. They’re different, but they’re still me.
I’ll keep you posted.
I am taking bookings for school/library visits! Check out the CONTACT tab above for the things that I do, which is… pretty much anything. I recently had a choir sing my fears at a shopping centre. So there’s that.
The Forever Court is out in the world! Reviews and ratings are always appreciated. Check out the CONTACT tab for details on how to do that.
Look after yourselves! Go read something. Listen to Fleetwood Mac. I don’t know.