Wednesday, 22 February 2017

A Series of Wildly Different Events

It's almost here

There are now less than two weeks to go until The Song Rising officially hits bookshelves. I've gone all shaky.

Signed Collector's Editions, all ready to go.

By the time The Song Rising is published, it will have been over two years since The Mime Order went into readers' hands in January 2015. Back then, I was certain that the third book would be out within one year, as I knew The Song Rising would likely be the shortest of the seven. As I've discussed in another post, that was not to be.

Sometimes it's felt like the longest wait in the world. Now it's here, however, it feels like no time since I was waiting for The Mime Order to finally make its way into readers' hands, and had that fizzing cocktail of anticipation and terror and excitement sloshing around inside me. Now we're on the home run, I thought I'd talk a little about what you should expect from The Song Rising and the remaining four books in the Bone Season septology.

There are various ways of approaching a long series. One of those ways is to adhere to a pattern. In Harry Potter, J. K. Rowling followed the same rough structure for the first six books. We would begin with Harry at Privet Drive; he would then go to Hogwarts, discover a Voldemort-related threat to the peace, deal with that threat, and return to Privet Drive at the end of the school year. It worked so well because readers always knew what they were getting. If they liked the first Harry Potter book, they would probably like the rest of them. Fans knew what to expect, and we looked forward to that familiarity, knowing there would always be a great twist to keep us engaged. We knew Harry was going to get into some sort of fix with Ron and Hermione, but we didn't know what it would be, or how he would get out of it, and we were addicted to that mystery. We waited to see what would disrupt the ordinary life Harry was trying to lead. Many books, especially in Middle Grade, follow this sort of pattern; The Worst Witch by Jill Murphy and The Faraway Tree by Enid Blyton come to mind. It works especially well when the story takes place in a school or workplace (e.g. orphanage, hospital, office), where every day is meant to follow a similar structure. People respond well to familiarity and routine, but look forward to the disruption of the established order. That's what makes that kind of book so enjoyable.

With The Bone Season, I went for a different approach. Because Paige leads a life outside of institutions – she's a thorn in the side of the system, working beyond the rules of society – there was no reason for me to keep to a structure. She had routine to some extent when she worked for Jaxon, and if I were ever to write a series about the adventures of the Seven Seals, it would keep to that disruption-of-routine pattern: Paige would be at Seven Dials, hanging out with Nick and the others, until something came to disturb the peace. The gang would resolve the mystery and be back at Chat's for coffee by dawn. You can get a glimpse of the kind of pattern I would have followed if you read The Pale Dreamer.

As it stands, the series as a whole is not about the Seven Seals hunting down poltergeists in London for the rest of their lives. In The Bone Season, Paige is dragged away from the comfort of routine. When she finally has the chance to return to it, she is no longer able to live that life in good conscience. Without the option of routine for my protagonist, I decided on the opposite approach. Each book would be so different to the last that readers would be unable to guess what would happen in each installment. Unless you're clairvoyant, I'm fairly confident that none of you will have the foggiest idea where the plot of Book 4 will take you, or how it will end. In short, I want the series to feel as if it could bend in any direction at any time.

This approach has its upsides and its downsides. I don't necessarily expect readers to enjoy every Bone Season book equally, for example, because each book is designed to be a slightly different ‘genre’ to the last. The Bone Season was a prison break; The Mime Order was a murder mystery; The Song Rising is, at its heart, a heist, while Book 4 is a touch more political, laced with subterfuge. Books 5-7 are going to be so different tonally, with such a different focus, that I've mentally classified them as a second ‘arc’ to the series, even though they follow the same core cast of characters. I wanted it to be this way so the reader never knows what to expect when they pick up a Bone Season book, and finds it nigh-on impossible to guess the outcome of the series as a whole. All they know for sure – and only because I've confirmed it outside the books – is that Paige will be the narrator all the way through. The risk of that is that if someone loved something about one of the books in particular, they may not always rediscover that one thing in the other installments. The upside is that they might discover something new to love. I truly hope you will.


I can't promise that every Bone Season book will be anything like the first one. What I can promise is that you'll be with Paige for the whole journey, and that she'll take you with her to many unexpected places.  



What I'm working on 


Right now I'm preparing for my Song Rising tour in the US and UK. Dates are above, and more details can be found on my upcoming events page.

I'm also hard at work on the fourth Bone Season book and drafting a summary of a Priory-related project. I went for a meeting with Bloomsbury the other day, and to my relief, my editors love the first draft of The Priory of the Orange TreeMy first round of editorial notes are due in mid-April. I can't tell you how much I'm looking forward to sharing this book with you - I've worked hard on it over the past few months, and I can't wait to introduce you to the characters and the world. I don't have a release date for you just yet, but hopefully we'll be able to settle on that over the next few months. In the meantime, you can add it on Goodreads here, and here's your very first quote:




On my bookshelf


I've challenged myself to read 35 books for the 2017 Goodreads Challenge. My favourite book so far has been Welcome to Lagos by Chibundu Onuzo, author of The Spider King's Daughter. It follows five people, led by army deserter Chike, as they escape to the bustling Nigerian city of Lagos to seek a better life. When their worlds collide with those of a disgraced education minister and an up-and-coming journalist, they must make a series of impossible choices.

Another book you must pre-order is The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas, an unflinching look at the Black Lives Matter movement. The story follows sixteen-year-old Starr, who witnesses the shooting of her unarmed best friend at the hands of a police officer. As well as tackling an important and harrowing subject, Angie Thomas has created one of the best fictional families of all time. Starr's relationship with her father, Maverick, is a real pleasure to read.

Finally, two terrific sequels for you: The Scarecrow Queen by Melinda Salisbury and Traitor to the Throne by Alwyn Hamilton. The Scarecrow Queen was a stunning end to the Sin Eater's Daughter trilogy, while Traitor to the Throne has left me desperate for the final book in Amani's story.

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