On series and timing and more killer unicorns

I have been reading with interest the recent flurry of blog posts (in the wake of the release of A Dance with Dragons*) dredging up that old battle of George R. R. Martin’s fans against George R. R. Martin that became internet-famous once Neil Gaiman told everyone to settle on down.

People get very attached to series. A recent sampling of my mail and twitter feed:

“I’m thoroughly confused! Help! The series is clearly a trilogy. Are you working on the last book? Is it done but not published? Oy vey! I need to know what happens!”

“Loved your killer unicorn series! i was just wondering if there would be another one.”

“Will there be a third book in the Unicorn series?”

“Where did you get the idea for both books? Will there possibly be a third book in the series? I was close to weeping when I finished Ascendant.”

“Will we be getting a third Killer Unicorns anytime soon? I want more Astrid in my life.”

And when I’m not getting mail about that, I’m getting mail asking me to write more secret stories, or possibly a fifth Secret Society Girl book. Or both.

Which is all very wonderful, and definitely makes my writerly day. I love that people are so invested in my series and in my work that they would not only read my books, but would take time out of their busy day** to ask me to write more. I thank you, Amy thanks you, Astrid thanks you, and Bonegrinder thanks you.

Fine, fine, fine. But what are the answers?

On Secret Society Girl: Amy’s story is complete. I will never say “never” about writing more about Amy (or more secret stories) but it will only happen when I feel like I have something more to say about her. Right now, I feel like the poor girl had a really tumultuous year and deserves some down time. Where do I think Amy is right now? I think she’s killing it in NYC.

On Killer Unicorns: Astrid’s story is not complete. Anyone who has read Ascendant can glean that. I’ve written before that I envisioned her story as a trilogy. I know what happens to her, and I even know the title of the conclusion.

I just don’t know when I’ll be writing it or publishing it.

I know this is disappointing to fans of that series. I have even gotten flak for it on the internet — some readers have called me “sloppy” or even “irresponsible” for daring to envision a book not under contract.*** There is a growing expectation, I think, that book series must not only appear one after another, with nothing in between, but they must also appear in quick succession — 12 months or less apart.

This is not always the case, however. Megan Whalen Turner’s excellent The Thief was first published in 1996, and the fourth book in that series, A Conspiracy of Kings, only came out in 2010. Lois Lowry’s The Giver was first published in 1993, followed by Gathering Blue in 2000 and Messenger in 2004. Maureen Johnson’s 2006 13 Little Blue Envelopes only saw its sequel published this year, after Maureen wrote heaps more books.

I could go on. The point is, authors do not always write solely in one series and sometimes there are delays between books — they might be due to publishers, or to writers, or to phases of the moon. And it was neither sloppy nor irresponsible of me to write the (fictional) truth of Astrid’s story, in all its elaborate, messy detail. What would have been is if I’d gone back into a completed (and copyedited) manuscript and changed it; cheated Astrid, and the story, and the readers into a rushed, pat, and false ending just so Ascendant could tie itself up in a pretty bow.

There’s a story I heard once about Michelangelo and I think about it often. Sometimes, Michelangelo’s statues would be missing parts — their arms or their feet or etc. When his clients would complain, he’d say it was the fault of the stone cutters back at the mountain. They were the ones who had carved out the blocks of stone he made into statues, and they had left the hands, etc. in the mountainside. Michelangelo believed the figures were already there, inside the stone, and he just freed them. He wasn’t going to change where the hands went just because that was the shape of the stone block that he had no control over.

Now, I’m not Michelangelo! But I can see his point, though, had I known, I probably would have chosen a different stone. For me, while carving, I had every reason in the world to believe that the statue would fit. But, to really pound this metaphor into the ground, the edges cracked off while I was halfway through my carving. And now I’m stuck wondering how best to tack on a new bit of stone.

And I’m aware that the reader doesn’t really care about any of that. For me, I’m thinking, “Wow, I have four short stories and two books out in 2012!” For a reader who is expecting KU3, however, it’s “When is Diana going to write the book I’m waiting for?”**** We both have totally valid reasons for wanting what we want, and I wish to reiterate that your enthusiasm for this series makes me so very, very happy.

I do hope we won’t have to wait for 6 years to see more killer unicorns. The thing is, it hasn’t actually been that long yet (less than a year), and the paperback of Ascendant hasn’t even come out. A lot of people didn’t start reading Rampant until the paperback came out. A lot of people didn’t start reading any of the series until they discovered killer unicorns by reading “Errant” or “The Care and Feeding of Your Baby Killer Unicorn” in the three anthologies those stories appeared in (or by buying Errant online).***** And the paperback of Zombies vs. Unicorns (out this fall!) will hopefully lead even more people to discover the series.

And I do spend a lot of time thinking about the books and strategizing about how to make them happen. I’m actually writing another killer unicorn short story right now, so I’m still very invested in this world and as soon as the right opportunity to finish Astrid’s story presents itself, I’ll be all over it.

I’m just waiting for the right block of stone.

In the meantime, I have a lot of non-killerunicornsthree work going on:

  • For Darkness Shows the Stars, a post-apocalyptic retelling of Persuasion: (Balzer &Bray, summer 2012)
  • “Stray Magic” in Under My Hat: Tales from the Cauldron, ed. by Jonathan Strahan, (Random House, August 2012)
  • “Foundlings” in Brave New Love, ed. by Paula Guran (Running Press Kids, ~winter 2011)******
  • two other short stories in anthologies whose titles and publication dates are very far from being announced.

I have one other full-length book under contract right now, with Balzer & Bray. It will be a YA novel. That’s all I can say about it right now, mostly because my editor and I haven’t talked about it yet. I have a pretty good idea of what I want it to be, though I want my editor’s input and insight on the matter as well.

So there’s the complete status of my publishing schedule. I am sorry if it disappoints some of you. I was also disappointed when I learned that Astrid’s story would be incomplete for a while, but since that happened in January of 2010, I’ve had time to get used to the idea (plus I was busy with FDSTS and that whole making-a-baby thing).So yeah, Astrid & co. = on hold but not dead; killer unicorns = still going; more fiction by me = gangbusters. All in all, I’m happy.


* Also, I only just now this minute realized that the TV show Game of Thrones is based on this book series, which I guess I hadn’t realized because the book series is called A Song of Ice and Fire and only the title of the first one is A Game of Thrones. Which is so very HBO (Hello, True Blood).

** I’m so behind on answering mail. I should put that on my To Do list, too.

*** This is patently ridiculous, given that 99% of books were envisioned and written not under contract.

**** Can you imagine the folks who wish I’d stop it with the killer unicorns and write more chick lit? They’re really bummed. I get those emails, too. And believe me, I’d love to! As soon as I can sell some.

***** Wow, I really need to update my website, too!

****** This is a tentative release date. This anthology has been through the wringer. (Ringer? I never know which one that is.) Anyway, now there’s an edited line-up, a new editor, and a promise to donate proceeds to a shelter for homeless gay youth, so I’m very happy to be part of this collection!

Posted in Uncategorized, unicorns, writing industry, writing life

10 Responses to On series and timing and more killer unicorns

  1. Thanks so much for writing this. I have been thinking about adding an entry on this topic to my blog, or addressing it on FB. You are so right and so honest here. The order of books–and the time between, has a thousand variables, some planned, others not.

    See you soon somewhere, I hope.

  2. camille says:

    Hey, first off, just wanted to say that I can\’t wait for FDSTS. It sounds awesome and I really am looking forward to summer 2012. I do have a question: you mention that you have four short stories and two books going out next year (congratulations). Is one of them the YA book for Balzer and Bray?

  3. Diana says:

    Thanks, Camille!. Yes, the books are For Darkness… and the paperback of Ascendant, both from Balzer&Bray. The book I haven’t talked about yet but is under contract at B&B will be out in 2013.

  4. Tiff says:

    Great post, Diana – I’m obviously one of those people who would love to see one more KU book, but I’m not in the habit of bothering authors about this…(although I did bother Maureen for a 13 Little Blue Envelopes sequel for years)…I do know that it’s not really in the author’s hands.

    And while I understand wanting more from a series, I always get a little annoyed at people who want another book out of a series that’s obviously finished. Like Harry Potter. How could you want more out of that? Wasn’t that the perfect ending? Same thing with SSG – I kind of DON’T want more out of it (other than little short stories set within the timeframe of the series) because it ended so wonderfully, and I really, really don’t want to find out that Amy ended up unhappily divorced with two kids in Connecticut, instead of living happily ever after with Poe.

    Then again, I’m torn – Ann Brashares just released another Sisterhood book when the series was obviously done, and it was amazing. I think if the author is interested enough, and the publisher is willing, then why not? But I’m definitely not one of those people who asks for more when the perfect ending is already there. I’m grateful when there’s more…but it’s hard to ask for it, I guess.

  5. Braiden says:

    Thanks Diana for writing this. I didn’t mean to hassle you when I asked you about KU3 (meaning that last quote with wanting Astrid in my life is mine). I was just looking at my shelves and wondering what of my series/trilogies still need to come out.

    I totally understand.

  6. Amy says:

    Okay I am very curious, where did you get your word counters?? I’ve been looking for some for my wordpress and livejournal. (Also I find it very cool that one of your character’s name is Amy).

    Also I would like to say that I love your writing and am excited for your new short stories! (not trying to be pressuring but rather appreciative)

  7. Diana says:

    Braiden, you weren’t hassling me! I wasn’t annoyed at all. I LOVE hearing from readers who love the series!

    Amy, they are plain text. I’ll email you the code and you can make them whatever color/length you want.

  8. Colleen says:

    Thank you for writing this; I appreciate the insights. I’m looking forward to being able to read your series – I’m having quite a bit of difficulty finding it in bricks and mortar in Australia, and haven’t yet got my act together enough to source it on-line. I fell in love with Errant on reading the excerpt, and I love the concept of Darkness. I’m very much looking forward to reading that as well. I now have a list for the next time I visit the bookstore in town 🙂

  9. Stephanie says:

    Thanks for writing this Diana. I was just confused because it wasn’t obvious from the website’s original posting that you did potentially plan on writing the book. Seemed more like: no contract=no book. I totally didn’t mean to seem like I demanded that a book be “popped” out. And I thoroughly appreciate that you don’t do that. In fact, series like the Sookie Stackhouse series I feel fall apart when they are written back to back. They never seem like complete novels. I just wanted to know *if* you were writing the final book. Since the last one so clearly wasn’t the end of Astrid. Thanks for writing a thoroughly original series. I look forward to the rest of it.

  10. Levina says:

    So…we can be sure that the book will be out in less than 6 years? That’s comforting.

    …but really, I don’t mind ;). As you mentioned, Megan Whalen Turner usually has 5-6 year gaps between books, and I’m waiting for her next book too. So I can expect two wonderful sequels published close in time to each other…what could be better? 😉