A number of people have inquired about the final form of the Riyria series. By now you know that the original six books will be released as a three book trilogy. When Orbit approached me with this concept I was apprehensive. The books were designed to be standalones and putting them together defeated the idea of a short, easy-to-read fantasy story that could appeal to fantasy readers as well as non-fantasy readers who might be put off by longer books.
Initially the idea had been to make true omnibuses--two books in the same binding. This idea bothered me. The concept struck me as very odd, and it is indeed a rare thing these days although once this was more common. Still I didn’t care for it. Orbit was remaining firm on this idea explaining the many advantages of this model, all of which had merit, such as the ease of readers finding all three books in a book store as opposed to six in a series which might be hard to keep in stock all at the same time. Most readers of fantasy have faced this problem.
I thought about this and realized that Tolkien had subdivided his Lord of the Rings into six books that were put into a trilogy. His were certainly not standalone, but I began thinking more favorably on the idea. What I didn’t want was for the books to be omnibuses in that they had two titles. As a kid my parents bought a set of books by famous authors like Jack London who had Call of the Wild on one side, and if you flipped it over, on the other side was White Fang. This always seemed hokey to me. On the other hand I did not want to lose my titles either.
After a phone meeting I went grocery shopping and I pondered this problem. While driving I realized I could live with the “Tolkien” format, but to do it correctly I needed to create a new title for each of the three books. I needed something that would encompass the common thread of each pair of books and also link all three double books into a team. As I parked the car and walked across the parking lot I asked myself what was the commonality in the first two books. Two ideas came to me. First was that Crown and Avempartha both deal with towers as central settings, but Two Towers just wasn’t going to cut it. The other commonality was swords. In both stories Royce and Hadrian are hired to steal swords. That was it! Perfect. I tossed around some ideas and one was Theft of Swords--simple, short and it reinforced the thief idea. The next two books in the series consists mainly of the rise of the new empire. As I was passing through the vegetable isle it struck me that “of” could be the consistency I wanted between all three titles. If the first was Theft of Swords, then the second could be Rise of Empire.
I was pretty happy with this concept while I was waiting in the checkout line. Now I just needed the last title. Clearly it had to be just two words with the word “of” in the middle. It also had to encapsulate the idea of the last two books. So what was the common theme there? I had trouble with this one as Wintertide and Percepliquis are very different.
I was walking back across the parking lot and getting back in my car before it hit me, and I felt pretty stupid. The answer was just too obvious. The three word mantra had been repeated by me throughout the series, in every book--Heir of Novron. It was perfect.
As I drove home I pictured the books being subdivided much as Tolkien’s were into “books.” Only where his did not have individual titles for each sub-book, mine would. Theft of Swords would begin with Book I: The Crown Conspiracy and be followed by the second part that starts with the face page, Book II: Avempartha. Rise of Empire would consist of Book III: Nyphron Rising and Book IV: The Emerald Storm. This I felt would work wonderfully, keeping the integrity of the original books and titles and yet repackaging them in a traditionally time-honored fashion.
(Just an FYI: I was fascinated to discover that Tolkien never liked the title his publisher gave to The Return of the King, as he felt it gave away the ending, which I tend to agree with.)
Combining the books has another benefit. I designed the series so that main characters backgrounds would be mysteries to the reader at the start, allowing them to be revealed over the length of the whole work as if it was one long story--which is really is. I felt this technique would keep the story fresh and exciting all the way through. However this causes many readers of Crown to assume that the characters have no depth. It is not surprising to see why. Hardly any background is given for either Royce or Hadrian, as I hold that back presenting it at times in the story where it fits the plot. This idea of purposely not fleshing in the protagonists in the first book of a series is an unusual approach and not one traditional readers can easily anticipate. As such many see it as a flaw they can’t accept, which makes them stop reading. Likewise the world does not feel as fleshed out as many fantasy readers would like, because I don’t want to bore the reader with excessive world building before they want to learn about it. My opinion has always been that if you tell a reader about a random place or system they will skim and forget, but if you gain their interest first then provide the same information, they will remember.
By combining the first two books into one volume, the reader of Theft of Swords should now have enough of the story to begin understanding how the characters are on a slow build, and the two books should provide the kind of world detail that will spark an interest and suggest the story isn’t what it might first have appeared. This could be a crucial advantage the books need to capture a larger market.
Having self published the series first, it is like screening a film. It has allowed me to look for mistakes and fix those before the books are opened for nationwide release, and putting the first two books together looks like it might solve one of the biggest problems the series has faced.
The Orbit trilogy, aside from the packaging, should not be significantly different than those already published, but there have been changes. Most are merely plot tightening issues and several mistakes that had been pointed out over the years to me, and a few I discovered on my own while reviewing the books. The most profound changes have to do with a whole new section added on to the beginning of the series and a reduction of much of the excessive phonetically spelled dialect that several readers found annoying. You might wonder at the delay in release then if there is not a lot of changes being made. I don’t believe it is due to rewrites, but rather factors having to do with catalogs, reviews, and other marketing concerns that must be done well in advance of a book’s release in order to help it be successful. In self, or even Indy publishing, the books are usually released and then marketed building an audience slowly with years of runway time. Bigger publishers need to do a lot of the promotion early to make a bigger splash right away to spur sales.
As far as how this will affect the Podiobooks, I actually can’t say. Too much is still undecided. Orbit is working very fast--putting three books out in less than a year in addition to all the other books they have scheduled. So things like audio versions are not a priority right now. Besides, Nathan has been busy with his own titles. Originally I told him to go ahead but now I'm second guessing as I don't want to spend his valuable time that he can use devoted to his own work. This doesn’t mean it won’t happen, it just means I don’t know yet.
Once more, thanks for being understanding about all this. I know how awful it is to have to wait for the last book when you had your head set on reading it in April. Robin and I are in a similar boat. We’ve been waiting desperately for the whole series to be out so we could, at long last, openly speak about it. There is so much we can’t say, so much we can’t share and it has been driving us crazy for years now. If the rest of you only knew what was coming in the final book, you’d understand how aggravating it is to read all your comments, posts, emails and reviews and not be able to say a word. We were so close, and now we have to wait too.
Well…I hear Patrick Rothfuss has a new book out this month, and his are way thicker than mine, perhaps he can keep you busy for a while. Just don’t forget to come back this fall. I’ll still be here and I’ll leave the door open for you.