I spent last year writing in a variety of genre, partly as an experiment, partly because I had (have!) so many ideas floating around in my head and wanted to get as many of them done as I could. Towards the end of the year, I had an experience with a group of professional writers where many of them came across as looking down their snooty noses at me because they were novelists and I was merely a writer.
To prove a point, I decided that it was time for me to write a novel. At the same time, my sweetie suggested that from a marketing and career standpoint, novels sell better long-term and make the author more money overall.
Mind you, that’s not my normal wheel-house for story-telling. For me, the novella is a wonderful place. 20k-30k words is long enough to build a world, introduce characters, and romp around, without needing to have a number of complex threads that must be pulled together and balanced. I had already written several novellas at that point, including one that is technically a novel by length, but not by style.
So it was time for me to write a novel. What to write?
As any writer will tell you, the question is not “where do you get your ideas?” but rather “how do you make them stop long enough to write something?” (And that’s a whole different discussion we might have later, over beer.)
I was at an event with my sweetie, down in Portland, OR, at a book signing organized by Powell’s Books. It was huge, and there were a lot of big hitters there signing, as well as mid-listers. My job at these sorts of things is “supportive spouse.” Running errands, hauling heavy bags for Phyl, whatever. I had a lot of time to kill looking at the racks.
My great complaint these days is finding the kind of book I want to read. Traditional (Manhattan Island) Publishing is deep into a number of sub-genres of SF that bore me to tears. And I hate to count all the times I’ve run into writers who say, “I had to write the book I wanted to read.” But there is truth there. In two hours and several thousand titles, nothing jumped out at me enough to buy. I had a half dozen maybes, but nothing I wanted: big space opera SF that was a-political and not a media tie-in (that is, written in the world of some television series, or movie, or table-top board game, to name the three big ones these days.)
I already had Javier and Doyle, and the beginnings of the whole universe that would become Alexandria Station. (Mind you, this was when I had just finished The Librarian for Beyond The Mirror, Volume 3, and The Science Officer, before The Mind Field.)
To let you in on how my brain processes: When I go to bed, lights off, snugged in, engulfed in darkness, I tend to pull out some story idea that has been rolling around in my head and let it turn to gumbo as I fall asleep, pushing the story farther or deeper or whateverer. I had had the core of Science Officer for years before I ever wrote it. There are a number of other pieces that will eventually get pulled out, cleaned up, and used at some point.
Occasionally, a story idea will hit me so hard that I have no recourse but to get up, fire up the machine, and start writing. I was laying there, right at the edge of sleep, when I heard a voice speak. I didn’t know it at the time, but it was Jessica Keller, the main character, telling me the keyword, the archstone that would pull it all together. All she said was “Auberon.” I had thought she said Oberon, from Shakespeare, but when I did some digging the next day, she corrected me to the older spelling.
At that point, it was just a matter of making notes as fast as I could type. I had the entirety of the first novel in my head. As I started teasing apart threads, I realized that there were at least six novels in the core axis of Jessica’s story, done as two separate trilogies. (And yes, I had the titles to all of them before I finished writing Auberon. At this point, I’m nearly done with the second one in the first trilogy, Queen Of The Pirates.)
Jessica is Jessica because I had an amazingly strong person upon which to base her, once I realized who my inspiration was. About half of my major characters in my books are pastiches of real world people, because you can take the parts you like and frame them. Such with Jessica Keller. (And no, I will not tell you who she was based on. I might tell HER one of these years. Maybe.)
I don’t have a political, or gender, or ethnicity axe to grind in my story telling. I have such a wide variety of peoples because I do get tired of Euro-male heroes, but mostly because I have a specific view of what the universe will look like that far in the future. (For comparison-sake, Auberon takes place starting in the year 13,439 C.E.) I’m probably wrong, but I want a rich galaxy, with every color, creed, and a variety of languages, beyond the seven basics I think we will end up with, based on the effect that technology will have to freeze things in place.
So I had Jessica. The first novel clocks in at a shade under 60,000 words. I just watched my sweetie finish the CreateSpace file last night and send it off. That means I will have a physical proof in my hands in a couple of weeks. At that point, I’m planning some giveaways, like through goodreads, or a few others (TBD, please let me know if you have preferences or ideas. This is for my readers, not me.) Auberon will come out on 5 May. Another novel will come out after that, and then Queen Of The Pirates is due at the end of summer.