About this time last year, I was writing a post about the future of the Alex Verus series. Taken had just been released, I was 90% of the way through the as-yet-untitled manuscript for Alex Verus #4, and I’d just got home from my second convention. The big news I had to share was that yes, there were going to be more Alex Verus novels after Taken, two of them in fact. It was big news for me, and still is – getting a new series established is a nerve-racking business. For every Sookie Stackhouse or Dresden Files, there are twenty or thirty urban fantasy series that fizzle out. They don’t make a splash, not enough copies get sold, and when contract renewal time comes around the publishers say no. The books fall off the end of the conveyor belt and everyone forgets about them as new releases come along.
So for me, getting that contract for Verus #4 and #5 was a really big deal. It wasn’t just that my publishers and readers liked the books (although that mattered a lot), it also meant my series was past the most common point of failure. It’s very common for SF/F publishers to contract for two or three books in a series, but most of those series don’t get beyond number three. From an author’s point of view, this is actually a pretty good argument for trilogies. Not only does it stop series bloat, it means you can be sure you’ll actually get to finish your story.
But no-one ever said authors were 100% rational, and while it might have made sense for me to design the Alex Verus series as a trilogy, that wasn’t what I did. The story I wanted to tell was much more episodic and uneven; I didn’t have a middle and an end in mind, and at the time of writing Fated I wasn’t even very sure about the beginning (in fact, I wasn’t expecting it to turn into a series at all). During Cursed and Taken I was still finding my feet in a lot of ways – I’d never written a series with any kind of real length to it before, and so I experimented, trying different things to see if they worked.
It wasn’t until Chosen that I started really thinking about the Alex Verus books as a series, a continuing story rather than separate episodes. This is probably fairly obvious if you’ve read the book – the past and future figure into it much more strongly than in the previous two. During Chosen I had to think about Alex’s past and the kind of person he was, which in turn led me into thinking about where the story was going. And as a part of that, I started to get my first ideas about what the major plot of the series was going to be.
Chosen’s reception made me very, very happy. I’d had the feeling at the time I was writing it that it might be the best of the series so far, but it was very satisfying to see that so many people agreed. Sales have been great and I don’t think I’ve read a single bad review for it yet – now that I’ve said that I’ve probably jinxed it and I’ll get a bunch of people tomorrow telling me that they hate it, but whatever. Important part is that I was happy with it and you were too, and that’s what counts.
Which brings us up to the present! As of right now I’ve just finished the rewrite of Alex Verus #5, provisionally titled Hidden. I’ll write more about that later, but for now the big news is that there are going to be more Alex Verus books afterwards, too! We’ve got draft contracts in from both Penguin US and Orbit UK for Alex Verus #6 and #7. The timeline is still very much up in the air at the moment, but here’s my (hopeful) schedule. (Do note before you go writing these in that this is when I’d like things to happen, not when I know they’ll happen.)
• November 2013: Start work on Alex Verus #6.
• May 2014: Finish first draft of Alex Verus #6.
• September 2014: Publication date of Alex Verus #5, Hidden.
So that’s where things stand right now! There are various other bits of news, but none that are remotely as important as the new contracts. It means I can get going on Alex Verus #6 without having to worry about whether it’ll be published, which is a weight off my shoulders.
Well, back to work. I’ve got a series to write!