Tuesday, November 22, 2011

GUEST POST: Beyond Percepliquis by Michael Sullivan

Beyond Percepliquis

Right now the majority of you are thinking…Per—what? But since you are reading Fantasy Book Critic, and the fine folks here have been so supportive over the years, you may have heard of me. I’m Michael J. Sullivan (the J. because there was already five authors sharing my name—and even by adding the initial, two of us still look identical) an indie-published author who rode last year’s digital tsunami and sold more books than I ever dreamed possible. Liviu Suciu was among the first to discover and pluck me from absolute obscurity, and now my books are being published by Orbit (the fantasy imprint of Hachette Book Group, one of the largest publishers in the world).

So now that you know who I am, you’re probably still wondering what that ridiculous perpendicular, Pentecostal, pterodactyl word is? First it is pronounced: Purr-sep-la-kwiss, and it’s the title of the last book of The Riyria Revelations, my epic fantasy series.

For those that don’t know, I wrote all six books (crazy as that sounds…but I wanted to ensure the stories would fit together) before the first one was released. My books are not a series of sequels; instead they are individual episodes with intertwining story arcs. Each book has its own conflict and resolution, but when read together, the whole is greater than the sum of the individual pieces.

Although I had written thirteen novels before starting The Riyria Revelations it was these books that finally made it to market, which is ironic since I had no intention of publishing then when I started. People in the business say that you need to make your first book the absolute best it can be, but I rarely do things the way others suggest, and I purposefully made my first book the weakest. Doing this was a huge risk. There will be people who quit early saying, “There’s no depth here,”—or—“the characters are shallow and ill-defined” and to this I’d reply, “You are absolutely correct.” But just like Inigo Montoya in The Prince Bride I know something they do not…I’m not left handed. In other words, I could have made them stronger but chose not to. Let me tell you why.

I hate series that start off fantastic, have a mediocre middle, and stay around long past their prime. So for me my eye was always on the prize of the last book. I carefully constructed the series by slowly building mysteries and exposing character backgrounds a little at a time. My world building is the proverbial iceberg and you are exposed to it organically through the eyes of the characters and in the context of the plots. My thought process was that if you start at the top you have nowhere to go but down, so I choose to start at the bottom and work my way up. My hope is that people will have enough fun along the way that they’ll give the next one a try.

It’s an interesting time for me right now because I’m having both my nationwide debut and my concluding volume hitting the street within just a few short weeks of one another…68 days to be exact. There are already many people who are expressing both excitement and impending disappointment because the series is ending, which brings me to the real point of this post…is there the possibility for more Riyria stories past Percepliquis?

The answer is…no…yes…maybe. No, because I won’t tack on another story. The series concludes exactly the way I want it to and I think (and hope) that upon reading most will agree with my decision. To try to add anything else would only cheapen and diminish Percepliquis and I won’t be a party to that.

Yes, because I never expected anyone to care, but it seems a few folks have taken a liking to Royce and Hadrian and will be sorry to see them go. My wife is one of those. Upon finishing Percepliquis, she fell into a two week depression because she missed her friends. To her they live in some netherworld in a state of suspended animation. “You can bring them back—make them live again—whenever you want to,” she said to me one day, with eyes that added, and if you really loved me you would. I’m pretty sure your average husband doesn’t get this sort of re-animation demands from their spouses—just me and Victor Frankenstein.

I can write other books and still keep my promise of leaving Percepliquis at its own apex. The two thieves were together for twelve years, before that cold autumn day when they set out to steal a sword and got themselves into so much trouble. I could go back in time, and write up some of their previous adventures—The Riyria Chronicles: Royce and Hadrian the Early Years.

I could also do spin-offs (but hopefully better than all those terrible sitcoms of the 70’s) The story of Novron (the God of Man) could explore how mythologies are created and reveal that everything did not occur the way the people of Elan thought it did. Also because I like buddy-stories I could tell the tale of Esrahaddon and Jerish who would be very different than Royce and Hadrian. The Novron books would be a trilogy, where the Esrahaddon story might be a long single novel.

Lastly, I have to admit that even seven years ago when I was alone in my room with no hope or any intention of publishing the stories about these two thieves, I did allow myself a moment of conceited optimism. I imagined a day when the books were read and loved and people wanted more. And because of this I planted a tiny plotline into the series. It is all but invisible to the reader, but it is there, a hidden thread that if I chose to, I could pull on to create a new series that is linked to the old. But that would be a huge undertaking, and I’m not sure I am up to trying that any time soon.

So maybe is the answer we are at right now. A lot will be determined in the next few months as Theft of Swords, Rise of Empire, and Heir of Novron hit the streets. If people like the books and want more I’d love to oblige. I know what my wife is hoping for, now I just need to know what everyone else thinks.

I want to thank the folks at Fantasy Book Critic for having me here today. This site has been one of the few selected to receive exclusive advanced copies of Percepliquis in December, so keep an eye out in January for first impressions of the final book.



Official Michael Sullivan Website
Order Theft of Swords HERE
Read FBC Review of Theft of Swords
Read FBC Review of The Crown Conspiracy
Read FBC Review of Avempartha
Read FBC Review of Nyphron Rising
Read FBC Review of The Emerald Storm
Read FBC Review of Wintertide
Read FBC Review of The Viscount and the Witch

In the space of two years, Michael Sullivan has moved from a small press debut author who was featured in one of our first "Indie Spotlight Reviews" to a "name" in the fantasy field whose wonderful Ryria Revelations is being published by Orbit Books in three consecutive omnibuses starting with Theft of Swords, followed by Rise of Empire and concluded in Heir of Novron.

Goodreads Choice Awards: Final Round with comments on the choices and what they mean (by Liviu Suciu)

Goodreads is running their third annual Goodreads Choice Awards in three rounds. I talked about eligibility and process in the post about the first round HERE, while the semifinal choices have been covered HERE.

Now that the field has been winnowed down to ten per category, you have the last chance to participate until November 30.

Remember that there are 22 categories so lots of things to vote for - in addition to the 4 main categories for me below for which I will add more comments including my predictions, I also voted again in Historical Fiction (Madame Tussaud by Michelle Moran), History & Biography (In the Garden of Beasts by Erik Larson) and Middle Grade & Children's (based on my son's reading and what I glimpsed from the books myself, Wonderstruck by Brian Selznick) as all these previously chosen semifinalists made it to the final.

1: Favorite Book of 2011 (click for titles)

Voted: A Dance with Dragons by George RR Martin

Second Choice: none

Prediction: I have no idea how the non-adult_sff titles stack up but I would say that the extraordinary mainstream success of the awesome HBO adaption of Game of Thrones that raised GRRM's profile from a fantasy superstar to an all American one, will propel A Dance with Dragons to victory.

Comments: With nine out of ten titles being speculative fiction of a kind or another (epic, YA sff, paranormal), the heavy book readers that make their home on Goodreads show once again what dominates today in popularity among the habitual book reading public not the casual "only NYT bestseller library-show/work small talk buying" reader.

This is just the best kind of news sff can get, though the one downside for me is the lack of serious sf in those ten as opposed to say the GRRM and Rothfuss (whatever its faults) fantasies, but at least the YA are reading sf!

2: Best Fiction of 2011 (click for titles)

Voted: 1Q84 by Haruki Murakami

Second Choice: The Lover's Dictionary by David Levithan

Prediction: I have no idea how most of the titles stack up in popularity and the Goodreads number crunching indicates the Ann Patchett book is the most read one, though of course early vs late release dates make this a little unreliable as true popularity goes.

I would say that either 1Q84 wins based on the author's huge world following and reputation or State of Wonder wins for the reasons above.

Comments: Here I limit myself to say that today's world strongly favors the popular literary novelist not only in sales but in recognition and endurance and ten years or more from now on the only book from the list I see still living is 1Q84, especially if its perennial Nobel candidate author wins the prize which is due to an Asian author soon anyway as the Nobel politics go...

3: Best Fantasy of 2011 (click for list of titles)

Voted: A Dance with Dragons by George RR Martin

Second Choice: Naamah's Blessing by Jacqueline Carey

Prediction: Goodreads numbers and all I said above strongly favor Martin, but I think that Rothfuss will give him a tough battle; still the HBO series puts GRRM well deservedly on top.

Comments: Thinking about the comments we got here on FBC to the reviews of both books and my very different reaction to very long and relatively slow moving but generally well written as style novels, I realized that essentially for me it boils down to "I generally dislike college novels and showy protagonists, while I love dark, multi-character intrigue and tortured characters" so if The Name of the Wind blew me away as original and beautifully written with an only partly prima donna protagonist, The Wise Man's Fear disappointed me as repetitive and with a now whining and quite annoying protagonist, while GRMM can write the daily diary of Tyrion, Danni and the rest and I would still love it...

4: Best SF of 2011 (click for list of titles)

Voted: Leviathan Wakes by James Corey

Second Choice: Embassytown by China Mieville

Prediction: Goodreads numbers and what I glimpsed from sff sites I read, strongly favor Ready Player One, while the close competition seems to be Robocalypse; I would say also that Stephen King must always be considered a favorite too based on his huge popularity and release dates skew numbers here like in the Murakami case above. Going with numbers and the favorable reviews here, so I predict Ready Player One will win.

Comments: I would love Leviathan Wakes or Embassytown to win especially that from the list they are the only serious sf, so the only books that have a shot of being still living ten or more years from now, but as mentioned in the comments above, such sf is not as popular as the more popcorn one that the three books above represent.

Not that I do not like the occasional popcorn sf, but growing up in a completely different culture left me utterly indifferent at the "US/UK geek nostalgia" of the Cline novel, Robocalypse is mediocre at best by all accounts and what I browsed myself only reinforced that, while I never found Stephen King particularly entertaining either.