From the Winnowing post

This is the last bit of the Winnowing post over in the publishing forum—the part I think might be of general interest. You are, of course, invited to go over and read and comment on the whole thing.


And that brings me to where I am on pursuing the publisher vs. writer route, which right now is at a Decision Point, capital D, capital P, and with maybe a TM thrown in for good measure.

What I want to do if I can do anything I want—first choice, no quibbles, no equivocation—is write novels set in one rich world, to work against one broad, complex canvas to which I can keep adding over the years. I’ve been trying to do this since I sold my first book back in 1991. The world was Arhel. And it was followed by the Devil’s Point universe, and the Cadence Drake universe, and the Matrin universe, and the World Gates universe, and the Korre universe (oh, GOD, the Korre universe—talk about heartbreak) and a couple of universes that I pitched to romance editors, who don’t seem too excited by universes, and now here I am with the Moon and Sun universe.

For each of these, and for some fantasy universes that never even made it to the published stage, I have thrown myself wholeheartedly into the process of creation—worldbuilding, mapping, creating religions and nations and philosophies and peoples and characters, flora and fauna, cracks in the ocean floors and schedules for the rising and setting of the moons and suns. I have invested myself deeply and willingly, each time hoping that this world would be the one that stuck, that these characters would be the ones that won the hearts of readers and that this time I would get to put down roots and stay a while, create a home for my characters and let them stretch out and test the limits of their world and themselves.

And each time, I’ve had to roll up my maps, tuck away my notebooks, and say goodbye to my characters. I’ve had to adopt a stiff upper lip, and I’ve had to move on. Start over. Be fresh and upbeat, give my heart—my whole heart—to yet more characters, to fall in love all over again without reservation or wariness, never conceding the possibility that I could have my heart broken all over again, because if I tried to guard myself against heartbreak, my writing would be guarded, it would become cynical, and it would lose its soul.

I’m tired of starting over. I’m tired of having my heart broken again and again. I’m tired.

And yet…

Moon and Sun is the best shot I’ve ever had at getting to write for the rest of my career in a world I love passionately, to paint on a broad canvas, to spend years letting myself love a broad cast of characters and to take them everywhere and push their limits and test them and challenge them and set them free to become whole and real.

The first book in the series, The Ruby Key, is done. It will be on shelves in hardcover as a lead title from Scholastic’s Orchard Press next July (2008). It’ll have more of a chance of catching on than anything I’ve written before. There’s no guarantee, of course, and it, too, could fall prey to the ‘three books and gone’ series curse.

The odds are never in the individual author’s favor, and I know this. If it dies in three, I want to have something different to break my heart over for a while. Other people’s characters, stories, worlds. Something that I can fight for, but that I can watch from one remove. I won’t stop writing my own work, I won’t give up on fantasy, but I’ve built enough worlds already to keep a dozen writers in books for their lifetimes, and I can’t keep tucking them back in the corner. Back there in the shadows, some days I can hear them screaming.

Hence, publishing.

If Moon and Sun goes, though…

Well, it depends on how well it goes, doesn’t it? There might be money to fund the publishing house, at least if I keep it small and pretty simple. But there might be an opportunity to bring back Arhel, or The World Gates, or Cadence Drake, or Korre, and write more books in those worlds as well. I might have the chance to take my nonfiction to a pro-publishing house. If it goes, if I get to do the whole series, maybe I’d be happy working in just the Moon and Sun world. God knows its big enough, and the stories are there. Not just stories with Genna and Dan and the cat, either.

Am I, then, fully committed to becoming a publisher?

No.

I’m exploring possibilities, knowing that this is something that I could do and love, though it would be a different kind of love, believing that if I did it, I could bring wonderful books to people, could treat authors well, could do something good.

I’m operating on the assumption that I have some time, and I’m trying to figure out options for how best to use my time and my passion. And talking with you about this is tremendously helpful. It’s focusing me, letting me discover that in the long run, fiction is more important to me than nonfiction, which I have always written simply because it’s a lot of fun, and a good way to pay forward.

And it’s letting me see that there’s an unfilled niche in fantasy I could create, a niche I could love.

The rest, for now, hangs on Fate.

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About the author: Novelist, writing teacher, on a mission to reprint my out-of-print books and self-publish my new ones.

4 comments… add one
  • KeithStrohm Aug 17, 2007 @ 15:13

    Holly,

    I’ve posted a little bit in the One Word Forum. I know that you keep your email address offline, so I wanted to let you know that I have both publishing and marketing experience and would love to help you out in any way that I can. If you do decide to move forward with this publishing model, I’ll be happy to pitch in any way that I can.

    I think you ideas are energizing.

    If you would like to talk further about my experience, you can email me at keith_strohm@hotmail.com

    Good luck in your discernment.

    Keith

  • hollylisle Aug 17, 2007 @ 12:08

    Ann—To sell related books in the same universe, first the universe has to sell like gangbusters. I haven’t sold like gangbusters yet.

  • Ann Aug 17, 2007 @ 9:01

    Maybe you could borrow a page from Mercedes Lackey’s book and do a series of series all set in the same universe? And please let us know if things change with the publishing idea.

  • Annalisa Aug 17, 2007 @ 3:39

    In this kind of situation my boyfriend likes to advise me to remain cautiously optimistic. (I’m aware this is not a phrase unique to him, but he is not often inclined to give advice so when he does I listen.) I am thrilled to hear that you are not abandoning your fiction–after all, I read it greedily so I have a personal interest in your continuing it–but you are also following your dreams. And this is a big, wonderful dream.

    I meant to say this on your original publishing post but I was too shy: I have some experience as a copy-editor and I am also artistically inclined. Currently I have a freelance copy-editing gig but I am not yet being paid for my art. Still, I offer both of these services to you should they ever be helpful to your publishing endeavors. I am also an aspiring novelist but I feel that with regards to that skill I am still in the womb.

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