War Master’s Gate (out now!) is the penultimate volume of my epic fantasy series Shadows of the Apt, with the final book, Seal of the Worm, already written and set to come out in the summer of 2014. I started off with Empire in Black and Gold, published in 2008, hit the ground running and I've basically been running ever since. Despite various short stories here and there, my full length fiction has been exclusively set in the world of the insect-kinden.
Fortunately I’m very fond of the kinden, enough that they have their own plethora of short stories, and I’m sure I’ll continue to visit as time goes on. In fact, given the “march of progress” theme of the series, the thought has occurred to run them forwards fifty years and go join them for the Collegium/Wasp space race, if I could possibly get away with it. However, with the series’ end looming, there is a window of opportunity to shoot for other targets.
I think fantasy is always going to be my mainstay. There are, in fact, two novels already lined up to succeed Seal of the Worm, and both are in different areas of the genre. I have a standalone, Guns of the Dawn, which is set in a sort of alternate 1800, focusing on a Jane Austen-style protagonist getting drafted into a Napoleonic/War of Independence kind of conflict. While it’s definitely fantasy, the magical side of things is subordinate to the political, the ‘band of brothers’ style military, and even to the romantic elements of the story.
Beyond that, I’m planning a new series, which I've started to describe as “Bronze Age Hunger Games with Shapechangers”, possibly because I’m fishing for a film deal. Again it’s fantasy, but I’m aiming for a very different feel, scale and setting to Shadows of the Apt – lower tech, more personal, and where the characters have a very different relationship with the intangible elements of their world.
Both of these stay within relatively familiar genre territory, but it’s true I've begun casting just a little further afield. I’m unlikely to rush off and write a Lit Fic about the vicissitudes of being a wealthy socialite dying of ennui in 80s Camden, but I have got rather humbler ambitions vis a vis some good solid science-fiction (for those outside looking in, the difference may be small, but from someone standing very solidly in the fantasy camp this is a terribly adventurous proposal). The book is written, in this case, and I’m just waiting to see if my science-fu is sufficiently strong that I can sell it. There may be spiders involved because, well, stick with what you know, right? It is absolutely not a cross between Aliens and Arachnophobia. That would be a rotten lie. Unless it would help sell the book, in which case sure.
I wouldn't mind trying for a little comedy, too, probably still in the fantasy vein, although as ambitions go this may be hampered by my almost total lack of a sense of humour in any way comprehensible by other people. Again, there is something written, but it may never get past the eagle eyes of my agent. And also, in all honesty, genre comedy is a tough sell from the start. Aside from the obvious names there really are very few people who've made a serious go of it. Or a frivolous go of it.
It is, in all honesty, a turbulent and unsettled time, coming to the end of a ten-book odyssey that has been the only thing I've ever known (and the only thing I’m known for), and I’ll be doing a lot of crossing my fingers in a couple of years time. But hell, if it all goes wrong, there’s always that Lit Fic... I’d better go brush off my ennui. Or else start designing space suits for the insect-kinden...