Answering the How Many Books question

Posted in Cast, Elantra, writing.

Sarah Brewer
 Aug 10, 2010 @ 15:56:24 asked: Do you know how many books will be in this series?

I get asked this ques­tion a lot – or at least I’ve been asked it a lot with the recent publi­ca­tion of Cast in Chaos, so I’m going to try to answer it here:

I don’t know.

Okay, that’s too glib, although it is true.

I started this series in the hopes that it would be like a mystery series or a contin­uing tele­vi­sion show in terms of struc­ture. I’m not always good at that, but that’s what I’ve been trying to do. Do I have a defin­i­tive end in mind? Yes. Is it possible that will change as I approach it? Yes. Some of the things that have happened so far cough Cast in Silence cough weren’t things I mapped out when I first started Cast in Shadow.

I like the causality of the unex­pected, and the way it changes the world; for me it’s what gives the events weight and substance.  I didn’t expect for Tiamaris to do what he did, and what he did do changes the shape of the fiefs in ways that suggest future changes, in a ripple-down, across the fiefs.

One of the things that occurs at the end of Cast in Ruin has rami­fi­ca­tions for the future that I’m still assessing. I started writing a book that would deal with two things: the refugees in Tiamaris, and the Etiquette lessons. And while these two things are addressed, it’s not actu­ally what the book is about, in the end. This is me trying very, very hard not to drop spoilers. I will only say that I didn’t expect there to be so much about Dragons when I first set these two simple goals.

Which is a digres­sion, I know.

While there are still books I want to write in this universe – and there are several (The Dragon Court book, the Shadow Wolf book, the Aerian book – you can sort of see where this is going) – and while there are still people inter­ested in reading them, I’m going to keep writing. When there are no more stories that I desper­ately want to tell, I’ll wind things up.

I know that some readers have been disap­pointed because things aren’t now clearer, and I apol­o­gize for that; I’m not trying to drag things out just for the sake of extending them. I honestly didn’t intend for the series to be struc­tured as an ‑ology, with begin­ning, middle and end; I wanted it to be a world in which multiple stories and arcs could occur. The fact that some people are disap­pointed at the lack of answers prob­ably means I failed to do that clearly enough.

I will try harder, I promise.

14 Responses to Answering the How Many Books question

  1. Magpie says:

    I wouldn’t say you’ve failed. The hall­marks of many of the really excel­lent TV serials is that while each episode stands alone as a story (which your books do), the char­ac­ters have pasts and futures that are unknown and evolving. It keeps the story inter­esting and adds a layer to the story­telling that makes it last instead of being brief enter­tain­ment. Not to say that I’m not keen to know the answers, just that I enjoy the antic­i­pa­tion as much as the final result.

  2. Tyronne says:

    Hi Michelle: I found your comments as to the upcoming story­line for Cast in Ruin inter­esting. While I kinda figured that you would be dealing with the refugees and Kaylin’s etiquette lessons (which I real­l­l­llly am looking forward to), it suddenly dawned on me as to what else this partic­ular install­ment in your series might deal with. I don’t expect you to answer as I’m sure that would be a spoiler but I see some­thing rather small, whitish in colour, wrapped in a blanket, sitting in Kaylin’s home in the sunlight, hatching.

    As for how long you continue to write these stories. Your series will be as long as it ends up being. Good solid enter­taining writing takes time. I can and will wait. Take care

  3. Estara says:

    But there is a clear devel­op­ment of the char­ac­ters and a change in the world you have created… you don’t simply start the next as a retcon and at the end the status quo is set back to one so you can start from the same point (as I have the feeling US super­hero comics have been doing more and more since the late 80s).
    Maybe it’s more a ques­tion of marketing that people thought this was a so-and-so-many series (although previous readers of yours ought to know you can always find inter­esting new facets of stories to explore — and we’re thankful for that).
    As long as it’s inter­esting to you to write and for us to read, where’s the harm? You always have a climax, you don’t have a cliffhanger ending in the books.
    I do think the more the story develops the less likely the later books will be a good place to start the series, but what do I know — I thought the same with the most recent Meljean Brook Guardian novel and there was a new reader who wrote a review about it on Goodreads​.com and said they really enjoyed it.

    Long expla­na­tion for a short meaning behind it: Person­ally I enjoy what you are doing the way you are doing it.

  4. Lacey says:

    Person­ally, I like the lack of finality. Yes, I love this series and it always sucks to have to wait for the next one to come out, but in my opinion it just means that there is at least one book that I can count on being an excel­lent read coming out. Plus, the antic­i­pa­tion is one of the thrills, right?

    I’ll be sad when it’s all finished, so I’m glad to know that you still have a lot of stories to tell. :)

  5. Genna Warner says:

    I agree with Lacey, antic­i­pa­tion is one of the thrills. But I wouldn’t mind a bit of spoilers now and again. It just helps with the antic­i­pa­tion. :)

  6. MaryW says:

    It seems that your writing is a reflec­tion of life. Things change from our care­fully planned agenda and we adapt. I think as the story evolves your writing also adapts. It is nice to see the process influ­ence the product and not be bound to a rigid frame.

    Tyronne, I agree with you about the impor­tance of that small whitish item. I have some suspi­cions but am avoiding outright spec­u­la­tion.

  7. w-b says:

    I have to agree with everyone else. You enjoy the writ­ting of it and we enjoy the reading so it’s all good… spoilers are ok tho LOL

  8. ElizabethN says:

    More books — yes!

    I enjoy Kaylin’s world so far and am quite happy that ALL hasn’t been wrapped up. The more books before Kaylin meets the Emperor should hope­fully improve her chances of emerging alive from that encounter.

    Equally impor­tant is that the author still enjoys writing the stories and that the world still has stories to reveal.

  9. Lyssabits says:

    Well, I know from the mailing list at least the ques­tion of, “How many books?” was less about wanting things wrapped up and was more concerned with the logis­tics of knowing there was a contract for X books, and how does one write towards that contracted end if you have more story to tell than that. I would hope your agent could get the contract extended in a time­frame where you’d know you have some room to expand, or let you know so you had time to wrap up. That is my only concern for the length of the series. ;) That all the ques­tions I have get answered. As a fan who got burned by the abrupt cancel­la­tion of Farscape I may be unduly concerned about this issue.

    But I’d read the disap­point­ment that more hasn’t been revealed less about not meeting expec­ta­tions and more about our fervor to know. ;) We care desper­ately about the answers and MUST KNOW. Some expec­ta­tions are meant to be unmet, I think the series would suffer if answers are parceled out too quickly and as much as we hunger to know I suspect we would find being answered unsat­is­fying if it was just a matter of someone sitting down and answering all our ques­tions.

    I know it’s prob­ably asking too much about the road untrav­eled and I’m sure most writers would rather not reveal those paths.. but I’m curious about what parts of Cast in Silence were unplanned. Just Tiamaris taking the fief? Because that part seemed completely right to me at the end, so job well done! For me the only part that made me nervous was their little side trip to the past and the people they met there. If that also was unplanned.. I wonder if there’s anything about the orig­inal moti­va­tions of certain char­ac­ters you’d be willing to share with us? I totally under­stand if you would rather not though. ;)

  10. Elizabeth says:

    Ooooh, now I’m excited about the future Dragon Court, Shadow Wolf, Aerian books…Always nice to have some­thing new to look forward too. Your books are great just the way they are.

  11. Devon says:

    Where, in your eyes, does Cast in Moon­light fit in to the grand scheme of things? Also, given that you have either mentioned or written a book for each of the races besides the humans, do you see the need/opportunity for a ‘human’ book? Or an Arcanum book? I mean, we get the sense that humans in Elantra are pretty much like humans in reality, but we haven’t had any expe­ri­ence with them on the same level as we have (or will, presum­ably) the other races in their respec­tive books. The same goes for the Arcanum. They come up, at least periph­er­ally in most of the books, but Kaylin hasn’t really had a direct expe­ri­ence with them yet — Evarrim was a Barrani, Idis was a former member. To me at least, Kaylin’s current feel­ings regarding the Arcanum leave open the possi­bility for a lot of explo­ration. Are either of these direc­tions you are plan­ning on pursuing in the future?

    *** Note: I have not read Cast in Chaos yet, so if that makes any of this obvious, ignore what I said.

  12. To me at least, Kaylin’s current feel­ings regarding the Arcanum leave open the possi­bility for a lot of explo­ration. Are either of these direc­tions you are plan­ning on pursuing in the future?

    I honestly haven’t ever thought of a ‘human’ book, in part because Kaylin is human. It’s an inter­esting ques­tion, though.

    Cast in Chaos doesn’t make any of your ques­tions obvious.

    The problem with doing an Arcanum book, as I see it, is this: the Arcanum is an entity, not a culture. An inves­ti­ga­tion into any possible crimes in the Arcanum would imply that crimes are committed there that are then made public enough that an inves­ti­ga­tion is warranted. To be honest, it also hadn’t occurred to me to try to set a novel in or around the Arcanum, and I’ll have to think about it now.

  13. CW says:

    I like the lack of a defi­nite number of books. It tells me that you let the story tell itself and don’t let preset ideas ruin the series. Thank you for that! It defi­nitely makes a better story.

  14. Rosalind says:

    I was wondering (and I’m sorry if it has been answered already but I kept falling over spoilers when I was checking the comments on previous entries so I had to stop!) if you had any infor­ma­tion about the UK release of Cast in Chaos?I’ve been waiting for the release on the Kindle, and there doesn’t appear to be any move­ment on Amazon​.co​.uk, they simply don’t know when or if it’s going to be released in any format.

    I’m a huge fan of the series, and really looking forward to reading it, if you have an infor­ma­tion that would be great. Really excited to see where the series is going! :)

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