I wrote in my last post that writing is a slog punctuated by a few shining moments of applause. I got to enjoy one of those today, speaking on an awesome panel at Wizard World NYC. I spend a lot of my time alone in front of this computer, and those rare moments when I wade hip deep into people who speak my language are shots in the arm that I absolutely need to keep going. The fact that it’s work is double awesome. This is my job, and I love the heck out of it.
But then it’s over and we’re back to the work, and I wanted to talk about my work for a minute here.
BREACH ZONE (or, as Mark Lawrence calls it due to an unfortunate typo when I sent him the manuscript, Beach Zone) will be coming out in roughly 6 months, and it got me thinking. The series has been successful beyond my wildest dreams (which, of course, just makes my next set of dreams wilder), and I’ve developed something of a following, many of whom have become fast personal friends. For a guy who has been socially awkward all his life, that’s a blessing I never expected. There are so many awesome people in this community, and I’m so lucky to get to know even a few of them.
I think the thing I’m most proud of is that each book has done something really different. That’s by design. I know that a lot of writers are very successful writing novels in series that give the same shot of adrenaline that made them a hit in the first place. I love that. I must have torn my way through a dozen Robotech novels, and at least as many of Bernard Cornwell’s Richard Sharpe series.
But I never wanted to do that. Firstly, I’m not sure I could pull it off. Secondly, just as I try to spread myself thin keeping up with all the friends I’ve made since I started this grand adventure, I have a distracted (SQUIRREL!) magpie fascination with characters and story. I want to to write all the characters and all the plots.
And you know what? I think I can.
Take Joe Abercrombie. After writing his *amazing* First Law trilogy, he followed them up with a series of stand alone novels in the same universe. They all did very different things, ranging from a soured redemption story to a western in fantasy clothing. No one can argue (well, no one can argue correctly) that he hasn’t been a resounding success both artistically and commercially.
Joe has influenced BREACH ZONE in a major way. It was his THE HEROES that made me realize that a single battle taking place over a few days was fertile ground for a novel. BREACH ZONE’s tale of Manhattan under siege is a direct outgrowth of the impression he made on me.
There have been other influences that I’m proud to be drawing on. Mark Lawrence‘s amazing KING OF THORNS is a complicated series of flashbacks woven in an elaborate double-helix alongside the present day narrative. They coil and intersperse, delivering their gut-punching climax at the same brilliant moment. I’d always believed that straying from straight chronology was a mistake. Mark showed me that the real mistake was in believing there were rules in this business.
China Mieville, who I frequently and publicly admit to having a literary crush on, is another major literary influence, and there’s a chapter title that’s a heavy-handed, blatantly obvious homage to his triumphant THE CITY AND THE CITY.
And, as always, there’s Peter V. Brett in every stitch I sew, his influence permeating me not just professionally, but personally as well.
Those influences have swirled and mixed and combined to make BREACH ZONE a very different book from any other I’ve written. When I was first told that men couldn’t write romance novels (under their own names), I beat my chest and loudly proclaimed that I would be the first to break that stupid, bulls*!t, ridiculous, out-and-out discriminatory rule.
At its heart, CONTROL POINT is a tale of flight and discovery, a fugitive’s story. FORTRESS FRONTIER is my own spin on the classic medieval quest, the journey across the magical plain to the palace of wonders beyond.
BREACH ZONE is, in its bones, a love story. A tragic love story, (and don’t worry, there’s plenty of stuff blowing up) , but a love story nonetheless.
It’s not a romance (as the genre is defined) exactly, but it’s the first shoots of the seeds I planted when I made my oath to break that barrier. It’s my writing growing, changing.
All three books have done something very different from one another. Most folks agree that FORTRESS FRONTIER is better than CONTROL POINT. Mark and John (my UK editor), swear that BREACH ZONE is better still.
You all will be the judge of that. But whether the book succeeds or not, I am doing what I set out to do. I am pushing myself. I am refusing to carve out a corner hunker down in it, back to the wall, guns out, clinging to the ground I’ve gained. GEMINI CELL will be a military fantasy, but it will be cut from a completely different cloth than the works that came before it. I have an idea for a straight medieval fantasy that I want to write. My fans may not like that, but I hope they’ll bear with me.
I don’t want to be a military writer. I don’t want to be a fantasy writer.
I want to be a great writer.
It’s a hell of a thing to shoot for, but with people like you in my foxhole? I’ve at least got a shot.