It’s been six months now since the first Alex Verus novel, Fated, was released. I’ve done a lot of interviews since then and one of the most common questions I get asked is whether there’ll be more Alex Verus books after Taken. I’ve been holding off on giving a proper answer, but now I can finally give one!
Fated was the first non-childrens book of mine to be published, but it wasn’t the first book I wrote – it was the tenth. I’d had two books published before, the Ninja series, and they were books number four and five. After the Ninja books I hit a slump, and the sixth, seventh, eighth, and ninth books I wrote were all rejected. (For the curious, two were precursors to the Alex Verus series with a young adult heroes and an air mage main character, one was a story with no magic or supernatural elements set in an English university, and the last was a sci-fi story about a group of space fighters and their mothership making a journey home through the Earth orbitals during an intrasystem war. No, they’ll probably never see the light of day.)
So when I finally sat down to write Fated, I wasn’t thinking in terms of a long series – in fact I wasn’t really expecting to get published at all. I did have a certain amount of that perpetual optimism that all artists need to have to avoid going crazy (sure, everything else has been rejected, but maybe THIS one’ll work!) but experience told me the odds were low. As a result there’s a lot of stuff in Fated that’s . . . well, not that serious. In-jokes and references (most really obscure) and all kinds of bits and pieces that I lifted from other stories. I could have hidden where they came from easily enough, but at the time I didn’t have any reason to – after all, it wasn’t as though anyone was going to read it, right? The nod to the Dresden Files isn’t the only reference in Fated, and at the time I wrote it I never dreamt that I’d have a quote from Jim Butcher on the cover – it was just a throwaway joke. (I’m still surprised that so many people notice it.)
Fast-forward two years and I was starting Cursed. A lot happened in those two years. Fated had been completely rewritten (it was originally set half in Camden and half in another world, but that’s another story), I’d spent half a year in China, gone to law school, and done a few other things. Most importantly from a book point of view, I’d gotten contracts with both Orbit UK and Ace in the US for Fated, Cursed, and Taken. I knew three books in the Alex Verus series were going to be coming out – but I didn’t know if any more were coming out. Getting started as a debut author (which I effectively was, Ninja books or no) is a dicey business. In the same year that I finished Cursed, another debut UF author, Harry Connolly, had his Twenty Palaces series cancelled. (His contract was for three books, the same as mine, and he had a blurb from Jim Butcher and starred reviews from PW too.)
Partly as a result of this, I designed the first three Alex Verus novels on an episodic model. The idea I had in mind was something along the lines of a TV series – things change and develop, but each episode is a self-contained story that doesn’t require you to have read the previous ones. I’ve read lots and lots of reviews of the Alex Verus books, and one of the more common comments reviewers make is that so far there isn’t a dominating plot linking them. By now you can probably figure out why they were written this way – there isn’t a dominating long-term plot yet because I wasn’t sure there’d be enough books to do it in! (I’m kind of exaggerating here – there are long-term plot strands, especially in Taken, but they’re subtle and there’s no clearly established objective a la epic fantasy.)
So I kept writing, and I waited.
Which brings us up to the present, and the big news: yes, there are going to be more Alex Verus books after Taken! Sales have been good, enough so that Orbit and Ace have offered me a contract for two more books, Alex Verus #4 and #5. (No, they don’t have titles yet.) Right now I’m working on Alex Verus #4, and the first draft is about 85% – 90% done. The bad news is that the provisional release date is September 2013 – yeah, I know, it’s a long time, but honestly, this is a fairly normal delay for this type of book. The gap between my handing in the final draft of Fated and its publication was more like two or three years. The good news is that at my current rate it takes me about nine months to write an Alex Verus novel, so the wait times should average out to less than a year rather than more . . .
. . . assuming there are enough Alex Verus novels, which is still to be determined. :) On the positive side, one thing I can tell you is that I’ve got absolutely no intention of stopping. I love the Alex Verus setting and I love writing its characters and right now, as far as I’m concerned, I’m going to keep writing these books as long as I can keep selling them. Alex Verus #4 and Alex Verus #5 are contracted for – after that, we’ll see.
One consequence of all this is that I can start to lay out some longer-term plans. There is a long-term plot in the Alex Verus series, and from now on it’s going to start coming into the open. Much of it is going to come out in Alex Verus #4, though observant readers will probably be able to predict the theme – there was always a natural direction for the story to go.
A question I occasionally get asked is how many Alex Verus books there are going to be. There’ll definitely be an end – I’ve never planned to write one of those series that goes on and on forever – but it’s still far in the future. If I had to pull a number out of the air I’d say something like 10-12, but that’s a wild guess, so don’t go treating it as gospel (not to mention that it depends on the books continuing to sell).
And that’s it! Thanks to all of you who’ve been supporting the Alex Verus series by buying the books. If all goes the way I’d like it to, I’ll be carrying on writing them for a long time!