WRITING AN SF TRILOGY: GOYER AND CASSUTT ON HOW THEY DID IT

27 August 2013

By Bella Pagan

david-and-michael

As the near-future Heaven trilogy ends this month with the fabulous Heaven's Fall, I've been talking to authors David S. Goyer and Michael Cassutt about their series as a whole. It's quite some business, managing a story across three books, making sure the tension is right, the story flows and that no continuity errors crop up. And a ton of other considerations too. They've done a great job, and have written a piece below that covers how they've wrangled this particular trilogy. So, over to the authors to have their say  . . . 

heaven-series_1

David S. Goyer and Michael Cassutt: 
'We’ve both read more than our share of SF and fantasy trilogies, from Clarke’s Rama to Varley’s Gaea and Kim Stanley Robinson’s Mars and Asimov’s Foundation. Many of these, of course, were either individual novels that grew a pair – Rama – or were actually a fix-up or assembly of shorter novelettes and novellas (Foundation). We were also familiar with any number of trilogies that had turned into whole series – Dune, A Song of Ice and Fire, 2001, for that matter.

So we launched into a trilogy with our eyes open, and our hearts relatively pure. We saw the benefits of a trilogy . . . the magic of connecting a reader to an SF universe over several years and through three major stories. And the pitfalls . . . the repetition, the vamping, the been-there, done-that.

Recall that Heaven's Shadow originated as a concept for a big SF movie. During the early development, we realized that, in success, a hit movie would beget an inevitable sequel, so we made notes for Heaven's Shadow #2 and #3 early on, even before we made the decision (forced upon us by the 2007 Writers Guild of America strike) to turn the movie 'scriptment' into the outline for an actual novel.

David and Michael at their US signing of Heaven's Fall, the Mysterious Galaxy bookshopWe were still holding to the idea of a single novel with possible sequels when we began negotiating with our publisher in the fall of 2009 – the publisher wanted three novels, not one. Our decision was an easy one...

Nevertheless, based on our experiences as readers, we made demands on ourselves. We wanted Book #2, soon known as Heaven's War, to take some radical turns . . . not just to be a replay of Heaven's Shadow. We think we succeeded there. And for Book #3 (Heaven's Fall) to go even further afield, to truly expand and change the storyline, perhaps to be a bit radical.

A reader of Heaven's Shadow and Heaven's War who approaches Heaven's Fall is in for surprises – some of them pleasant, we hope – and shocks. There will be many familiar characters, but all of them changed in a notable manner… and there will be new ones. (We’d like to be more specific, but we don’t want to spoil blog readers who have yet to embark on Heaven's Shadow!)

There ought to be surprises, because as we plotted the three novels (we are both outliners), we found that some characters insisted on going places we hadn’t originally planned, and doing things they wanted… up to, in some cases, dying on their own schedule.

Or winning an improbable victory.

Now, six years after our initial meeting, we look back on three longish novels, our very own trilogy, with a great deal of satisfaction (and exhaustion!), with the hope that readers who also sparked to Clarke, Varley, Niven, Asimov and others will look fondly on the Heaven trilogy.'

DSG & MC

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