Reflections On Finishing a Trilogy
There it is. The Fallen Kingdom was released into the world this week, and Aileana’s story has come to a close. I’m both elated and sad, but also relieved. I started The Falconer‘s first draft in 2009, so this series has grown up with me, and it’s a bit like moving away from home now. It’s been my touchstone for years, and now it’s not mine anymore — it belongs to readers.
Trilogies are time intensive; I spent years devoted to these characters. Sometimes, I questioned whether or not I had the energy to do this again, to write another trilogy where each book follows the same characters. I still don’t really have an answer (I waffle between yes! again! and no, perhaps a duology at most). I think often about publishing schedules, and how trilogies are the clearest example of how long it takes to go from manuscript to book. So by the time the third book comes out, an author’s writing looks very different from the first because of the number of years separating them.
I wrote The Falconer‘s original draft during my first year of a Masters; I wrote The Vanishing Throne in the hectic time of my dissertation; and I wrote The Fallen Kingdom after I earned my PhD. During the course of this series, I signed with my agent, got my publishing deal, moved house four times, earned a degree, dealt with the UK immigration system and the courts, lost friends and family members, married my husband, and I’m probably forgetting a bunch of other stuff. All of these things certainly had an effect on my books and my writing. It was 8 years of growing up.
Each book in a series is challenging. The first is the most luminous, because the world is new. It’s shiny. Readers don’t have any expectations about the series; they just want to love what you’re putting out there. The second book is clouded by expectation: will it be as good as the first? Every author hopes it will be better. And the third, of course, is arguably the most challenging. How do I wrap this up? How do I leave this series in a way that satisfies existing fans? Both of these questions while maintaining the quality of the other books, or (hoping, always hoping) to surpass them.
This is the task, and yet these are also impossible expectations. No matter how carefully plotted, planned, or written, no series will satisfy every reader. One person’s perfect trilogy is another person’s complete mess. And, of course, the vision of the author may clash with the expectation of the reader. In the case of a series, the effect is magnified because readers have invested their own time and emotional energy, too. They’ve followed the books to the end, after all. Some leave disappointed, others leave elated, and the world spins on.
These are all the things I think about when considering my next projects. My impulsive nature has a tendency of wanting to write a book, edit it, dust my hands off, and say, “That’s that!” Standalone books hold the appeal of more quickly moving on, and as An Author With Anxiety (TM), I’m less likely to fixate on things I can abandon once they’re finished.
But my Fantasy Author self finds slower worldbuilding and characterizations very appealing. One thing I enjoyed about writing The Falconer as a trilogy was being able to explore a long character arc, and (of course) a longer romantic arc. I am the first to acknowledge I prefer slower storytelling, which is why I enjoy television shows more than films.
So a part of me says Yes! to more trilogies and a part of me says, Deeply consider whether you have the energy for this, which I’m sure has all of my author friends who have written series nodding their heads in agreement.
In the case of The Falconer, it needed to be three books. It was always going to be three books. People have asked if I plan to do more in that world, and to this I say, nyet, nyet, nyet. That ending is pretty definite.
Until next time,