Wednesday, January 25, 2017
So I'm very slowly making progress on Masks, which may end up not being called Masks because it's looking like it's going to be upwards of 200K words and therefore will have to be split into two. If that's how it works out (I'm not sure because I devised a way to shortcut the story and I haven't decided whether I want to go that route or not) then probably the fourth and last book will get the Masks title and book three will have to go by something else.
This series is definitely shaking out to be weird in a lot of ways. First just going with the dystopian decopunk angle, which you don't run into very much. And certainly not often with the Fritz Lang inspiration so central. So there's that, to begin with. I mean from the start I've run into people who just scratch their heads at the whole concept of robots in an art deco city.
I chose from the beginning to challenge myself to write scenes that make me uncomfortable. I address one of my greatest fears in the book--the loss of a child--which probably doesn't weird anyone out. But I also pushed myself to write sex scenes, which is not something I'm generally comfortable with. And I wanted them to be real, with heat and in some cases disturbing elements. So yeah, that has certainly colored both The City Darkens and After the Fall and based on the few reviews I've gotten, people either appreciate what I was trying to do or are really put off by all the sex.
Then, in After the Fall, I switch narrators. I knew that was unconventional and would probably put people off. It's not like it's never been done before or anything, but it's a risky thing to do. I did it because I couldn't figure out what to do with Myadar. I wanted to keep talking about this city that's going through a revolution and there was no good reason for Myadar to get in the middle of that. At least, not right away. So I thought about what I wanted to talk about--I wanted to have the books progress a bit like the decades that comprise dieselpunk--City was the 1920s, Fall was the 1930s (sort of--certainly with a look towards what was happening in China at the time), and Masks would be the 40s. In no way am I trying to tell a history of America or even Earth, though. I just want parts of the setting, the events, the things people do, to resonate, like, "Oh, I see what she's doing there!" Anyway, so Fall was going to be about survival, first and foremost. How does an ordinary person survive a cataclysm in her city? What would that survival look like? Who threatens it? I thought of my graduate professor of African history talking about the role of young men, packs of violent young men, in unstable environments. And since I was also reading about grimdark at the time, and the ways people were (perhaps) mishandling violence in fiction, particularly sexual violence, I wanted to try my hand at that, and see if I could pull it off in a way I could live with. And I allowed Ginna to embody my own struggle with the necessity of violence. To top it off, I believe that the second installment in a trilogy (which is what I intended this series to be) should end badly. So the result was a novel that's really not very satisfying to some readers.
And now, Masks will be different yet again. For one thing, it has four POVs. For another, so far, no sex. And in it I'm trying to resolve both my conflicted feelings about using violence in fiction and Ginna's conflicted feelings about using violence to win the war. I am also really focused on characters that are not inherently good (Ginna is, though). Plus my original idea was to go very dark and flirt with atompunk, and though I may still have an element of that (inspired, perhaps, by Akira), the aesthetics of light decopunk like Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow are still really appealing to me. So I've revisited what one of the big threats will be and I've reimagined it, and it's probably going to strike people as even weirder than robots in a deco city. I guess we'll see.
Masks is already 100K words and even if I do the shortcut I mentioned, I'm probably looking at at least another 40K. So I'm leaning towards writing the long version, seeing how many words it is, and deciding based on that whether to split it.
If you were reading a series, would you rather that the last book be very long, or that what you thought would be the last book ends in a cliff hanger and you have to read yet another book to finally get the resolution?
Does it bother you when books in a series have different POVs?
Would you be frustrated if the first books had several sex scenes and the last had few to none?
What do you think of violence in fiction?