A fitting enough title: the last line from The Sovereign Hand. What does happen next?
Just the asking begs a dozen more questions, a deeply personal interrogation that has kept the authorly part of my brain occupied with reflection, conjecture, and outright battle with a few heaving chunks of reality for several months. Even now I’m not sure of the full answer, but I’m more sure of what I want to say. What to make explicit, implicit, ambiguous. Or totally leave out.
The easy part is, yes, I know what is next in the story. I wrote The Sovereign Hand to be coherent and complete in itself as a stand-alone novel… for myriad reasons. But any reader can see there is clearly a larger story, the transformations of Alexa and Tanner having passed through only one, naive, revolution, there having been much foreshadowing, and other characters still to be fully revealed. As such there are two, and only two, more books in this wider arc, much like Raymond E. Feist’s first novels (Magician/Silverthorn/Darkness at Sethanon) or even the original Star Wars Trilogy: the original, and then a duology.
So will I write them?
The trickier part. I really want to. My love of the story drove me through the writing and publishing of The Sovereign Hand, and would do so again. The difference being, I was younger, unmarried, childless, and cheerily sans career back then, not to mention full of “optimism” about how quality writing – plus a more mainstream enthusiasm for “fantasy” (LotR/GoT style) – could overcome the typical prejudice towards a story featuring the occasional goblin or scales and horns.
And so things are no longer so simple, and I know a few things better. Significantly that I can not expect an interested reception from the NZ “book scene” if it looks like fantasy. And to be fair, the only reason I thought that might happen is that Steam Press had already established itself as a quality publisher: we thought that bridge had been crossed. By 2014, though, the “scene” wasn’t so welcoming to Steam Press publications, whether for review or on shelves. Large volume of a tight selection of works is now the prevailing business model, and it flows from publishers, to booksellers and into which texts are selected for review. All informed by data on who can actually afford to buy books from booksellers in our depressed political economy. The tastes of a older, conservative, wealthy demographic reins supreme.
So, no immediate hopes of springing from NZ to Australia to other international publishers and thereby funding my next novel – although Steam Press may well be front-and-centre at Frankfurt this year, where genre sell well.
To the internet, then, where the conventional theory it seems is your first novel is the peanuts-grade marketing for your second novel in a whole series of novels you can pump out featuring your world and characters which your readership has hooked into. Which I can appreciate, but ain’t what I’m doing (this time, at least) and it stings me like a fissure in my arse (H/T: Maury Ballstein, Zoolander) cos its kinda the inverse of how I was hoping it would work. I know. Boo hoo.
So with that dubious fucking incentive, will I write a follow-up to The Sovereign Hand?
Yes. You can never be read enough, but besides its inability to help me fund a second novel, I’m really happy with how the first one turned out.
Do I know when? No. It is even possible I will write other things first, maybe some short stories set in the same world. Family and work will keep time at a premium this year, and we have a nation-state falling to bits around us. Time to start putting the P back into participatory democracy.
And this site? I’ll always have something to say, including on The Sovereign Hand. Next time I’ll write a bit about the novel’s successes, and may indulge in what it’s “about”.
Mostly though, I think I’ll veer towards reviewing for a bit. Works of note, hidden gems. NZ books, yes, but not only, and especially those with something to say. Starting with an appraisal of the NZ Book Awards longlist for 2016. I was, of course, eligible (and not nominated) so reading the chosen works this year has been interesting… to say the least.