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March 16, 2006

Victoria Strauss -- I'm Ba-ack

Having touched on the downside of self-promotion in my last post, maybe it's ironic that this post should be all about...self-promotion.

You may have noticed that the book cover over my name has changed. That's because my newest novel, The Awakened City (sequel to The Burning Land), is out! Official release date was March 14th.

I have one on my desk right now, and it's a lovely object. Eos does a really nice job with design and production. And I am thrilled with the cover, by UK artist Mark Harrison. I was ambivalent about the cover of The Burning Land--it certainly is striking artwork, but I'm not crazy about the female figure. This one, though, is fab.

The Awakened City has its very own page on my website, with several sample chapters, review quotes (pretty good so far), the inevitable author blurbs (I was especially thrilled to get a wonderful blurb from Robin Hobb, whose latest book, Shaman's Crossing, you should all run right out and read--after you read mine, of course), and info on my research and world building. And there's a contest to win free books.

There's also a short article about the book at SciFi Wire.

So have I promoted enough? Maybe I could manage to squeeze in a few more links?

Seriously, though...this book was not easy to write. I'm not naturally a series writer; I tend to think in terms of single novels, and even if I know I'm going to do a followup, I don't usually know what the story will be until I'm finished with Book One. With The Awakened City, I had the additional problem of having the plot fall apart about a third of the way in. I knew what the ending had to be, but as I made my way through the initial chapters it became horribly apparent that my original plan for getting there just wasn't going to work. For a while I was writing into a blank--very stressful, as I'm not a seat-of-the-pantser, and usually work from a detailed synopsis. But the story did eventually knit itself up again, and I think the book has a rawer and more immediate feel than The Burning Land, which unfolded pretty much according to my original intent.

Another major challenge of series writing for me (as noted in the article linked in above) is revisiting viewpoint characters. Spending one book inside a character's or a group of characters’ heads is usually enough for me. One of the thrills of a new project is the chance to launch myself into something unknown, as opposed to returning to something familiar.

I had no choice but to keep the viewpoint of Gyalo, the Shaper ex-priest who may be the true Next Messenger. His story is the backbone of the duology. But it was a real challenge to come back to a character whom I’d left at a point of transition at the end of the previous book, and move him on from there. I wanted him to continue to grow and change; I was very conscious of the danger of relying on my familiarity with him, and letting him become static and boring as a result. So even though the books are two halves of a single story, Gyalo has a separate character arc in each.

Axane, the second viewpoint character in The Burning Land, remains a major player in the sequel, but I don't go inside her head at all. Instead, I use the viewpoints of two characters who were seen only from the outside in the previous book: Râvar, the False Messenger who creates the cult of the Awakened City, and Sundit, a leader of the Âratist church, who’s caught between the church’s fear of change and the possibility of true revelation. Writing Râvar was the third big challenge of this project--portraying from the inside a character who has a lot of unpleasant characteristics, who does some really awful things, yet must remain not just understandable, but to some degree sympathetic. Readers may condemn Râvar, but I also would like them to pity him.

The second book of my Stone duology was a standalone novel that could be read without reference to the previous book, but I'll be honest and admit that The Awakened City is not. As noted above, the two books are halves of a single story, and while I think you could read the second without having read the first and not find yourself totally lost (I've tried to weave enough backstory into the action to clue new readers in and jog returning readers’ memories), you'll appreciate the characters and the themes a lot more if you read both.

And if you do, please let me know what you think.


Bernita said...

Frankly, I think they are both beautiful covers.

James Goodman said...

excellent. Congrats on the release. I love the cover.

A. C. Crispin said...

Vic, Michael and I put in our order for a copy of The Awakened City two weeks ago. We're anxiously awaiting our copy!

-Ann C. Crispin

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