Just in case I haven’t pimped it enough, Malekith is due for imminent release. There are early reports that it is available in some stores right now! For those wishing to procure a copy might I suggest attending the celebrations this Saturday at Warhammer World, or the signings at Forbidden Planet and GW Plaza in January?
Rather than just hard-sell this fantastic, ground-breaking, life-changing, opposite-sex-attracting novel even more, I’d like to take a moment to reflect on the imminent release of a book and what it means to me as a writer (by the way, did I mention that purchasing Malekith also indicates an above-average IQ and copious skill at love-making?). Some readers will have been published before and will no doubt share some of these feelings, others aspire to publication and may like to know what is in store if you succeed. Some may just have a car crash mentality and what to find out what crazy things go on in my head sometimes. All are welcome at Mechanical Hamster.
‘Creation is an act of sheer will’, John Hammond, Jurassic Park.
As one might expect, the release of a book is the culmination (almost – see later*) of all the hopes, dreams, fears, pain, blood, sweat and tears that can make up the writing process. It can be a long, tense wait. The manuscript was finished many months ago, the editorial comments returned, the rewrites made, covers designed and everything else. Nothing more can be done to the work, it’s now ready to be unleashed upon the masses waiting with bated breath (if one is lucky).
One is confident that one has done a good job, the feedback was good and taken on board, and the product is in tip-top shape as much as it is ever going to be. One fundamental unknown remains – will people like it? Another question that could be asked, of a more mercenary nature, is whether people will buy it, but that’s a practical rather than spiritual limbo.
‘Like’ is an amorphous term and could be broken down into many smaller ones. Will readers associate with the characters? Will the plot engage them? Are they drawn into the setting? Is the story delivered with skill and a certain amount of style? Will people find the small inconsistencies and errors that, despite everybody’s best efforts, will have somehow managed to sneak beneath the editorial radar? Will it matter if they do? Will the book entertain and inspire? Will they laugh? Or cry?
In short, will they like it?
Or, and this is where the dark depths of the fragile creative mind can delve, will they hate it?
Is it full of clichés and predictable plotting? Are the characters faceless and lacking in pathos? Is the setting bland? Is it riddled with inconsistency that smacks the reader around the face every other paragraph? Is the dialogue stodgy? Is that gag about the smell of Dwarf cheese really that funny?
In short, will they hate it?
Fortunately I am not one to give in to such a nervous disposition, so for me these doubts are only ever subconscious and not as extreme as I have indicated (the ‘I’m a fraud and they’re all going to find out’ response). None of these are any more severe than the average dose of self-doubt every right-thinking, introspective sapient creature should have now and then. I don’t suffer these fears because of a combination of natural confidence, trust in my editors not to let me make a complete tit of myself, and the experience of reaction to previous work.
So, I’m not worried about hatred. It is complacency that is the real fear. The absence of ‘like’ is not ‘dislike’, it is ‘didn’t care one way or the other’. The ‘meh’ reaction is probably more damning that hatred for me. At least if readers hate something I’ve written, it’s provoked a reaction and more often or not they will have read the book in some detail and will proceed to outline in that same detail exactly what they didn’t like. At least they were paying attention.
Faint praise such as ‘it was alright’, ‘it was okay’ and ‘I got through it’ are like barbs to my writerly soul. It means I have failed to engage the reader, and that’s a cardinal sin. If you hate a character, you were engaged. If you loved a character, you were engaged. If you felt no feelings in either direction, the character has had no impact at all. That would make me sad. Dennis would be sad as well. You wouldn’t want to make Dennis sad and neither would I.
Early indications are reassuring, from editors, proofreaders, and those extremely fortunate few to have advanced copies. One particularly trustworthy spy tells me that someone fairly influential in such matters, yet anonymous, uttered the phrase “Possibly the best ever Warhammer story” or words to that effect, so I remain optimistic of a healthy reception.
The Time of Legends series, like the Horus Heresy, comes with its own particular strain on the writer-reader relationship. Writing tie-in fiction always exposes one to the criticism of “That’s not how I imagine it/ her/ them/ him”. When dealing with the characters featured in Time of Legends you are juggling some seriously hot coals. These events and personages are historic (legendary even!) and their lives and personalities, though perhaps never detailed before, have been the subject of debate, speculation and expansion amongst fans for many years. For those visitors not familiar with Warhammer (yes, both of you!) this is on a similar level to writing a novel entitled Aragorn – The Lost Years. You’re playing around with characters that fans already love (and hate) and those fans have definite views about them that will either chime with what you have written or your book will jar with their preconceptions.
There will inevitably be a minority who will disagree with my take on the Sundering. That is their right as fans. However, I hope that for the majority of readers, my portrayal of these momentous characters and events doesn’t contradict their expectations, but rather expands upon them in a way that feels entirely natural. After reading Malekith I hope that my portrayal will be synonymous in their thoughts with what has gone before. It’ll be, for want of a better or more exact term, ‘right’. And if it’s right, they’ll like it.
*Of course, the biggest job around a book release is promotion. There’s signings to attend, interviews to answers, blogs to write… Did I mention that Malekith is out in January at all good bookstores, online and everywhere else you might expect to find the highest quality fantasy fiction? No? Must’ve slipped my mind…