The act of writing Drakenfeld (which is nearly completed, by the way) has enabled me to cast a more critical eye on my previous books. Recently I’ve been reflecting on the Red Sun series and – with the benefit of time – I think I can see that I got a few things wrong. Mostly with Nights of Villjamur, but one or two of these apply to the series as a whole. It feels healthy to air it all:
- I tried too hard with the prose in Nights of Villjamur. Tried too hard to show off. It didn’t always work, and pissed off some readers. I streamlined it throughout the series, but have decided to aim for something totally different these days.
- I didn’t try hard enough with female characters in the first novel, though I think I got better in City of Ruin. Previously they were too reliant upon the male characters, or simply weren’t strong enough in their own right. I believe a writer can try to justify why they do things, but ultimately – in a genre where one can do anything – the results speak for themselves. I hold up my hand on this. I’ll try to do better.
- It took me a while to genuinely understand that ‘gritty’ does not equal ‘mature’. This is a big thing for me: when did we become a genre obsessed with violence? Surely (said to myself), I can write an adult book without resorting to writing about so much bloodshed. I think I could also say that a book being macho is not necessarily adult either, even though I’m sure we blokes (apologies for gender binary) sometimes believe that. I’ll hold my hand up again here. There’s a whole other blog post to be made on what makes something adult, but I’ve not quite worked that one out yet.
- Trying to be clever can put readers off. There are more subtle means available to authors and I’ll try to use them in future.
- I didn’t spend enough time with each character. I flitted about from different points of view, not really giving enough consideration to allow the characters to really breathe. Jumping around so much was an easy escape for me, but I confronted this issue in the new series, since it’s a first person narrative.
Don’t get me wrong, I stand by the books and believe wholeheartedly that writing a novel is an incredibly difficult thing to do. But I’m always looking to improve (or at least fail better). Also I should say this is my own interpretation of matters, not necessarily what readers have taken from it.
Coming to the end of the new project and, having allowed the Red Sun series to settle in a little, gave some much-needed perspective. It’s encouraging to know that, no matter how wonderful I might have thought my books were at the time, given the benefit of a few years, I can be more honest about them.
That distance can be humbling and it feels okay to accept that.