As promised two weeks ago, here’s some news about where I am with the Alex Verus series.
First things first: the manuscript of the final Alex Verus novel, Risen, is still with my publishers. I’m supposed to get the first-round edits back by around the end of February. If all goes to plan, release date will be the end of this year, December 2nd 2021 in the UK, and December 7th 2021 in the US.
The main topic of this post, though, is shorter fiction, ie short stories. As I’ve mentioned before, I don’t have any plans to write any further Alex Verus novels, since Risen is going to tie up Alex’s story in a fairly final manner. However, the Alex Verus setting is a big one, and there are many parts of it that didn’t get much attention. A lot of this is due to the series being written in the first person. Since the books are all from Alex’s point of view, you only see and hear what Alex does, meaning that some quite important events never get told because there’s no way for Alex to be there to see them. For example, one of the more common questions I get from readers is some variation of “where did Richard go in those missing years” and my answer to them is always that they’ll never know, because the reader only sees what Alex sees and Richard has absolutely zero inclination to reveal his personal secrets to Alex, or to anyone else. (The other reason you’re never going to know is that the full answer would be such a ridiculously long story that it’d be the length of a novel, if not several novels, which I don’t intend to write.)
There are other Alex Verus side stories, though, that are a lot more practical to tell – first meetings, background events, and day-in-the-life style accounts. A lot of them are stories that I worked out as background material or to flesh out characters, but which never made it into the books because they didn’t fit in with the plot. Some of the ones that I’ve sketched out are:
- Dark Academy: A story about Morden and Vihaela running Richard’s adept training school in the shadow realm of Arcadia.
- First Encounters: How Variam became Landis’s apprentice.
- Timesight: An episode from Sonder’s work as a Keeper auxiliary, involving Council politics and Caldera.
- (Redacted): A story following two major characters set after Risen (identities withheld so as to prevent spoilers).
I’ve got quite a few of these stories lined up, and I’d be interested in telling them. There are, however, a couple of problems.
The first problem is that I don’t know how much time writing short stories would take away from my main job, which is (and will continue to be) writing novels. I think – in theory – I ought to be able to write the occasional story in between novels during the kinds of periods when I wouldn’t be getting any work done on the main book anyway. However, I don’t know this for sure, and it’s possible that short stories would end up conflicting with my novel writing. If that ever turns out to be the case, then the short stories are getting axed.
The second problem is a much bigger one: it’s really hard to make short fiction commercially viable. Most successful short story writers, like Stephen King, are successful because they’re famous through having sold a truckload of non-short-story books already. There are ways to try to sell individual short stories, but they require quite a lot of effort and marketing, and I’m very doubtful that it’s worth the amount of work it’d take, given that any time I’m spending on that is time I’m not spending on writing the next book.
So what I’m leaning towards at the moment is a kind of experimental trial. I’ll put up a handful of short stories online, either here or on a site like Patreon, make them freely available, and ask readers to pay what they think they’re worth. Honour system, basically. Then, depending on how they do, I’ll either keep writing more, or I won’t. (If nothing else, it’ll be interesting to see what the answer to “what do readers think they’re worth” turns out to be.) This’ll still require a bit of time and effort to set up, but less so than any kind of shop arrangement.
Anyway, this is still all in the theory-and-planning stage, so it won’t be happening especially soon. Let me know in the comments what you think and if you have any suggestions.