Wednesday, September 24, 2014

And What Have I Learned?

Well, my first book series is complete, and all four volumes are published. Mary of the Aether began my journey as a published author, so the series covers a period of time in which I learned a lot about the craft. I'd like to discuss the things I enjoyed about the experience and about the books, as well as the things I learned along the way.

Overall, I think the series taken as one whole story turned out really well, and I believe the conclusion brings readers to a satisfying place. As far as specific things that I like, I really came to care about some of these characters. In fact, when Mary of Cosmos came out a few days ago, I had this strange thought go through my head--Well, I did it, Mary. I told your story. It's done.--as if I were addressing and saying farewell to a real person.

I am satisfied with the character growth of the three main characters: Mary, Kristen, and Aiden. Despite the fact that some readers find her irritating (and some reviewers have referred to her as a "mean girl"), I have to admit, I like Kristen Grossman most of all. Her character arc is the most meaningful to me. That will make more sense once you've read the fourth volume, I suppose.

Another thing I enjoy about the series is how real Chesset feels to me. I think I managed to create a believable setting. Chesset doesn't really exist. It's a small town comprised of bits and pieces of real places, but it's a fictional town. Yes, there's a little bit of Mountainburg, a little bit of Chester, a dash of West Fork, but it doesn't really look and feel exactly like any of those places. Nevertheless, by the end of the series, I think readers get the sense that it is a real place.

Now, what did I not like about the series? One thing above all: the tone! The tone! The tone! I feel like the tone of the series is inconsistent, and this is mostly down to my inexperience. The first volume, Mary of the Aether, is a somewhat laid-back character-driven story that takes its time getting to know the small town setting. Books two and three are relentless with danger and growing threat and barely pause to breathe. Finally, the fourth volume manages a healthy equilibrium, alternating between moments of intensity and quiet character moments, and I wish that tone had been struck throughout the series.

It's interesting that there is a sharp divide between those who prefer book one to books two and three, and those who prefer books two and three to book one. However, I really think Mary of Cosmos will satisfy both camps. In fact, while the threat has never been greater, the story manages to capture some of the most meaningful character interactions in the entire series.

So there you go. That is what I learned. I am now 70,000 words into the first volume of a brand new fantasy series, and I am taking what I have learned and applying it to create what I think will be the most compelling story I've ever told. 

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