Wednesday 15 July 2020

The Big Nine-Oh oh oh oh

I've been doing this for a while now with posts to celebrate my first book, Prince of Thorns, turning 3040506070, 80 and now 90 ... as in 90,000 ratings on Goodreads.

This time the milestone has fallen just after the release of Road Brothers in paperback.

Here we see the hardback cover from the late, great Kim Kincaid, the ebook cover from Pen Astridge, and the paperback cover from Jason Chan.

And since the 80,000 post I've also had two new releases. Dispel Illusion closed the Impossible Times trilogy, and The Girl And The Stars opened a new trilogy set on Abeth, the world of the Book of the Ancestor trilogy. You should buy those!

So, what exciting topic shall I broach for the 90K milestone?

Let's talk about the future since inevitably our gaze is drawn to the 100,000 horizon and the 10th anniversary of Prince of Thorns next year.

I never had any ambition to be a fantasy author - I've said that before and it's true. It's taken me a long time to think of myself as a writer, even after being published. I didn't intend to be defined by it or to define myself by it, but slowly it's crept up on me, accelerating in 2015 after the advanced research department I worked in closed down.

I've always had a slight fascination with what happens to people "after". All those pop stars I watched in the 70s & 80s ... for every Rolling Stones and David Bowie there were hundreds of flash-in-the-pans, hundreds of 1 to 5 year careers. And then you're an ex pop star at 25 or 31 and ... what next?

When I wrote The Broken Empire I expected that I wouldn't be published again. That's the career path for most authors. A book deal, disappointing sales, goodbye. And I chose to end Jorg's story after 3 books - yes I had a 3-book deal but those books sold very well. My publishers would have snatched a sequel from my hands. But I've always been keen not to outstay my welcome.

At the end of Emperor of Thorns it says:

"I wanted you to part company with Jorg on a high. I would rather readers finish book 3 wanting more than wander away after book 6 feeling they have had more than enough."

I've written 16+ books in 9 years and I'm starting to feel, as Bilbo so eloquently put it, like butter scraped over too much bread. It's been a tumultuous year for all of us with blows coming from many directions. And it's set me wondering - when to quit - what to do instead - what would I be without writing? I don't like how writing has pushed my other interests and hobbies off the table. Nine years have been dominated by the singular thought that this won't last and that I should make the most of it while the spotlight lingers. But the spotlight has continued to linger and frankly I could use some shade.

So, the remaining instalments of the Book of the Ice, which are already written, will come out in 2021 and 2022 to complete the trilogy. But I'm thinking of slowing down, broadening my interests, trying new things. 

I've never been a planner. I don't plan my books. I don't plan my life. But this is how I'm feeling now. Maybe it's all nonsense and I'll keep hitting you with a book a year until I'm old(er) and grey(er). Or maybe I'll spend the next ten years doing other stuff while writing a literary fiction novel at night that will get turned down by every publisher in the land and ultimately be self-published to an audience of crickets.

That's the joy of life. You never can tell what's round the next corner.

Stay safe, everyone, and happy reading!

Mark out.

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  1. Mark, this is starting to sound like I need to implement my basement trap plan... :(

  2. Makes sense Mark and I wish you and your family well in all that you do going forward. The books have been an absolute joy over the years.
    You are putting yourself and your family first and foremost and I cannot fault that at all.
    Best of luck sir 🥃

  3. I hope you do whatever feels right for you and yours Mark, you'll always have the support of your fans. Although a lot of us will find this surprising as, in my opinion, The Girl and the Stars is your best book yet!
    However thinly the proverbial butter is spread, in terms of writing, its still top quality butter.

  4. Beverly Collie15 July 2020 at 10:19

    This came to me as I read your message. It's the sign off on the old Roy Rogers television show.

    "Some trails are happy ones,
    Others are blue."

    "It's the way you ride the trail that counts."
    "Here's a happy one for you."

    ��Happy trails to you,
    Until we meet again.��

    ��Happy trails to you,
    Keep smiling until then.��

    ��Who cares about the clouds when we're together?
    Just sing a song, and bring the sunny weather.��

    ��Happy trails to you,
    Until we meet again.��

  5. I've immensely enjoyed everything you've written so far. But I can understand needing a break or space from a thing even if it is a permanent break. As a fan of your writing I of course hope you'll have some idea that will become a story that you can't help but write down and share with us all. But whatever the future holds may it treat you well.

    -John Zerne

  6. "We have to get off the road,"
    "Because it might end,"

    If anyone deserves 'a rest in the shade it's you.
    And if you ever self publish... well, consider me one of those crickets in the audience, throwing money at you.

    You changed reading fantasy for me and I'll never forget that.
    Thank you

  7. Mark, I just want to say that i love your books! Your first two trilogies were translated in Bulgarian and I read and loved them.
    When I had the wonderful opportunity to attend a science conference in Canterbury last year, the first thing I did after arriving was going to the bookstore and grabbing the next trilogy! It was recommended to me by Robin Hobb, who gave an interview for the small fantasy web-magazine I write for in my free time. It was more than wonderful.

    I will miss your voice! But I know how everyone needs to rest for a time and explore new spaces. Good luck with everything!

  8. I love your writing style, and Jorg is one of my favourite creations, so if you decide to say thanks for all the fish and scale it back, I'd be sad but it would be well deserved. But if you do decide to move on from writing...can you emails me all your plot bunnies pleease? ^__^

  9. Whatever you end up doing next -- be it hang gliding lessons or writing furniture instruction manuals -- I have a feeling that you'll end up being pretty good at it. I hope you'll find enjoyment in whatever it is.

  10. You take a rest, you have created a crowd of fantastic characters that I’ve loved going adventureing with. I’ll just have to read them all again!!

  11. Mark,

    As an absolute fan I am devastated, however through my own experiences I can completely understand. If the job you love loses its glamour and becomes a chore then step back and re evaluate if continuing or changing direction is the right choice for you and your loved ones. Life is too short and although your books will always have a place in my heart you must follow your own heart.
    Stay safe and live life.

  12. Thank you for spending 9 years of your life producing so many books that make so many people happy!

    I'm sad to hear that you're thinking of moving on, but pleased that you're looking after yourself and doing what you need to do.

    As said above, if you ever decide to self publish, count me in your swarm of crickets.