Twenty years ago, I wrote the following words: “I was seventeen, the year Casyn came home.” I had an image in my mind – a geography: it is always place, landscape, that I begin with – and a concept of a lone fishing village, and a young woman. Fifteen years later, two major rewrites and a failed publisher, Empire’s Daughter went out to meet the world. A standalone young-adult novel, I thought.
Then I learned two things, from the early reviews, from comments made to me by readers: my audience wasn’t young adult, and they wanted more of Lena’s story. Today, on my 62nd birthday, Empire’s Reckoning, the fourth full book (plus one novella) set in Lena’s world became available for Kindle pre-order. It’ll be published at the end of May.
The first trilogy takes place over about four years. The new book is a two-time line story, bringing the narrative forward fifteen years from the last chapter of Empire’s Exile, to the next generation of characters. The planned next two books will jump forward another four years for Empire’s Heir, and then yet another ten or so for Empire’s End.
My major characters from the first trilogy: Lena, the narrator; Cillian, Sorley, Druisius: all these figure into the next two books, watching their dreams and goals pass to the next generation; counselling, guiding, worrying, but also living their own complex and meaningful lives. Lena will have gone from a young woman of almost eighteen to a grandmother in her fifties; Druisius and Sorley a few years older, and Cillian will be…well, just a little older than I am now.
The plots of the next two books are outlined. But what will be the greater challenge, I think, is reflecting the changes life brings, the regrets and compromises, the wisdom and judgment, as I jump characters forward several years at a time. It took me a long time to truly find Sorley’s voice (he’s the narrator of Empire’s Reckoning) at 39: I had to work out a lot of backstory to understand who he is, this middle-aged musician, and how he got there from the trusting, naïve 24 year old in Empire’s Exile. The others, too – who were they, fifteen years later?
Gwenna, the main character and narrator of the planned next book, is fourteen in Empire’s Reckoning; she’ll be eighteen (fully adult, in my fictional world) and facing a very difficult choice in Empire’s Heir. I’ll spend time this summer learning who she is – and because of the way my mind works, that means writing a lot that will never make it into the book – before I truly begin the first draft. (My goal is to begin the book in September: years in academia programmed me to think this is when new work really starts, and that’s been true for the previous books.)
And sometimes I wonder what would have happened if the demands of life had been fewer, and I’d finished Empire’s Daughter while I was still in my 40s, and it had been published then. Would I have found the same audience? Would the stories have been the same? How many of my own life lessons, how much of my own personal growth, is reflected in my characters’ journeys, things that, knowing how my mind works, I couldn’t have articulated without writing them into fiction? Heraclitus wrote “No man ever steps in the same river twice, for it’s not the same river and he’s not the same man.” Nor can we step into the same flow of creativity at different times in our lives. I am curious to see who my characters are when they’re four years older, and to see, too, what that tells me about myself.
Empire’s Legacy trilogy:
Empire’s Daughter (2015)
Empire’s Hostage (2017)
Empires’s Exile (2018)
These take place over 3 ½ years, with a brief epilogue a further 4 years later.
A bridge novella between Empire’s Legacy and Empire’s Reprise, Oraiáphon takes place over a winter immediately following the last chapter of Exile.
Empire’s Reprise trilogy:
Empire’s Reckoning (May 2020): two timelines: immediately after Oraiáphon, and 14 years later
Empire’s Heir (planned) 4 years after the later timeline in Reckoning
Empire’s End (planned) about 10 years after Heir