Look, I don't mean to judge, but when I think about voids, I mostly think they should just sort of… stay where they are? Maybe get filled up with something? Certainly not ascend.
But it's been a few years and welp, here we are.
Announcing The Void Ascendant, the third book in the Beneath the Rising duology!
I'm getting to it. Here's the official announcement page, and here's our official cover! James Paul Jones did another excellent job, making something distinctive and meaningful but also keeping with the theme of the first two books. Speaking to a friend the other day, we agreed that the impact of this one is that you can't tell what's meant to be the 'positive' circles and what's meant to be 'negative' and hey, how about that, guess what the last book is about? (Or, when you get right down to it, what all the books have been about?)
Anyway, I made a rookie mistake after writing the second book and did not assume that there might be a third book, because it was a two-book deal so I thought "Okay, I am writing a duology, two books, I am writing exactly two books, because that's all they bought, I'd better make sure all the doors are locked and the chairs put up on the table at the end of the second one."
Apparently it is common practice (though no one told me!) for the publisher to request a third book if the first two did sort of okay (by the way, buy A Broken Darkness, it needs to catch up to Beneath). And by the time my editor approached me and my agent, the second book was all done in edits and galloping down the home stretch to being published. I will say though, I'm incredibly excited to continue Nick's story after Darkness. Some poor decisions were made and, well, you know what they say about chickens coming home to roost. (Which is that they do. Unless there's more to the saying? I should look it up actually.)
Some commonly asked questions follow! Or anyway, questions that I have been asking myself, and that friends have also been asking me, in between bouts of laughing at my pitiable naivete.
Didn't you pitch this as a trilogy?
We did, yes! I wrote Beneath as a standalone, my agent said that publishers liked to be pitched series, then the publisher purchased two books, so I just kind of erased the third book out of my head. At the time we were going through submissions for Beneath (spring 2017, I think?), I was indeed asked to write quick little pitches, like a paragraph long, for a hypothetical second and third book. The pitch for the second book does not remotely resemble what Darkness turned out to be, and the pitch for the third does not, so far, remotely resemble Void either!
Oh what was the third book supposed to be?
It came from, as mentioned, a very different second book. But basically, think 'The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath' but also 'The Expendables,' with Nick and Johnny as sort of, I don't know what you'd call it, magical mercenaries killing and magicking for money...oh, and their lives, I guess. Something Michael Moorcock might read and go 'Ah, I recognize this, carry on, maybe one more sea monster, off you go.'
Wait, now I want to read that!
Do not! Give my publisher! Any more ideas!
So you had A Bit Of A Time writing a sequel for a book you didn't expect to write a sequel to already, and now you're doing it again, is that correct?
That is correct. However, luckily the time of me panicking and drinking rum under my desk is over, and I'm well into the midpoint of Void using an outline that I think is pretty strong, and veers a little from the blurb on the cover page that I linked to, but not far.
How did you come up with that then, if you slammed all the doors shut at the end of the second book?
A very good question! And I still don't know if I did it correctly, really, but basically, I went at it as if I had planned for a trilogy from the start (which, as discussed, neither the first book nor the second book accomplished). (This is because when I was panicking and drinking rum after I signed the paperwork on Void, I googled 'how to write a trilogy,' and it turns out it assumes you're planning one before you wrote any of the books. Not helpful!)
So essentially, I have this idea of a trilogy (I mean a planned one) as being a suspension bridge, with a large overarching structure as well as a bunch of cables that hang down and provide tension to support the underlying structure that, you know, cars can drive on and whatnot. (Analogies are hard. Bear with me.) I knew starting the third book that I had not designed a bridge with the overarching narrative structure; there was no guide to how the trilogy as a whole should look. What I did have, though, was most of the underlying structure, which was the events of the books, as well as a lot of cables sort of flapping free in the wind, which was the themes, ideas, concepts, dropped hints, unforeplanned foreshadowing, one-off anecdotes, and cameo characters.
So, I re-read the first and second books and grabbed some of those cables that seemed as if they had enough slack to hold up another third of the bridge.
What were things that had been mentioned but not explained?
Did anyone want something that they didn't get?
Conversely, did anyone get anything they really didn't want at all?
How are they coping with that?
How have people changed?
Did anyone start anything that they didn't finish?
Was there a chance that anyone could have [redacted] and therefore not [redacted] at the end of the second book?
What have the villains been up to since book one? What are their goals and motivations? Have they too changed? How do they feel about how they've changed? Does it make them more dangerous or less?
Has anyone joined the villains?
Has anyone left the villains?
Is the uh, general spacetime continuum okay? It's probably fine, right?
Is the one thing that Lord Dunsany wrote that made me cry applicable to this book? (You don't know what it is, but anyway, yes).
Anyway, it was sort of an iterative process of 'What if X instead of Y' and 'What if more Z instead of B,' until I had an outline I was happy with. Not every loose end is tied up from the first two books; several more are created; but it's all about character, it's about Nick's choices and decisions, even when his choice is to not make a decision, and why he's acting the way he's acting, and why that's different from the first two books. (And why it has to be, to be narratively satisfying to me.)
It is! And I hope it is. And I hope I am never known for writing anything so bland and clean that all the questions are answered by the end of the book.
I like the title though!
Yeah I'm terrible at titles usually so it was like Darkness, I came up with about a dozen 'Help me' titles from my Terrible SFF Title Generator (which, as I occasionally remind people, has sci-fi and fantasy terms mixed together such that I often end up with things like 'The Quantum Dragon' or 'The Knight of The Five Engines' when it's not cheerily suggesting I title a book 'The Torus Torus').
I did want to suggest that the emotion of, I don't know, like emptiness, blankness, is a priority in this book. I wanted to evoke that feeling of hollow grief when you lose people you love, but also when you lose other things--opportunity, hope, chances, a future. And I wanted a little sinister hint of 'Uh, I actually thought voids didn't do stuff, they just kind of hang around being voids, am I wrong about that?' So my editor and I noodled over the titles for a while, came up with three we liked, asked Marketing if they had a vote, and this is what we ended up with.
So we should pre-order this, hey?
Yes please! Please do. We have a cover; we have a release date; we have a summary; we (almost) have a book. (I do think it's quite amazing that when you step onto the trad publishing treadmill it seems to be going fast enough with a completed manuscript, but in a very short period of time it speeds up, and when you find that you can sell a book on 'Hey I had an idea' and 'Here's two sentences about it,' it's going so fast that you're almost at a dead sprint, so I would like to warn emerging authors about that: selling a book on proposal sounds like the best and most exciting thing ever, but I hope you are good with deadlines!)