A couple weeks ago, I was home for Christmas. While I was helping my Dad get ready for dinner, we talked about his Christmas letter. You know, the sort of thing I'm talking about: the yearly cute picture and Cliff Notes version of your family news.
My dad and I had talked about the letter before because this year's was a lot harder to write. It's been an odd year....
Wow. Look at that. "It's been an odd year." That, my friends, is what we call a classic Midwestern understatement.
Let me try again. This post is meant to pass along some important news, so I might as well speak plainly....
In some ways, this has been the best year of my life. The book that I've worked on for over fourteen years finally hit the shelves. I have met countless fans who have stunned me with their cleverness and kindness. I got to meet Tad Williams and Neil Gaiman and a host of other incredible authors. The book has gotten stunning reviews, and won awards, and they're currently translating it into twenty foreign languages.
I would say that my dreams had come true, but honestly, I never had dreams this big.
But in other ways, this year has contained some of the worst things I've ever lived through. My mom died this February, about a month before the book came out. She was my biggest fan, and liked me back before anyone else had a reason too. She was so exited about the book....
Later, my dad discovered he had cancer too. Just in time for last year's Christmas. His was, by comparison, a good cancer, and they removed his lung in January.
Yeah, as we say here in the Midwest, it's been an odd year.
Anyway, because of these things, writing the Christmas letter was tricky. Still, my dad managed to get all the family news summed up in a page and a half. Included was the most recent news about Name of the Wind and information about the release date of book two....
So, as I was saying, my dad and I are making dinner, and he tells me that two days after he sent out the letter, friends started to stop by his office at work. "The publication date of book two, was that a typo?" They ask. "Or is that really when it's coming out?"
My dad tells them that it's not a typo. That is when book two is really coming out.
Telling the story in the kitchen, my dad mimics their posture when they hear the news: the disappointed slump to their shoulders. One person went beyond disappointment and seemed truly distressed when he heard the news "This is awful!" the guy said, standing in the doorway to my dad's office. "I can't tell my son about this, it'll ruin his whole Christmas."
The story was pretty funny the way my dad told it, but my stomach still twisted into a knot when I heard it. It confirmed what I already knew, that people were going to be really disappointed when they heard the news about book two. I've known for a while... but I've been putting off making the official post here. It's easy to tell jokes and post up good news about awards. It's hard to make an announcement that's will make people unhappy.
But here it is: As of now, book two is scheduled for April of 2009.
I'm sorry. We were sure we could have book two out in a year, but it just wasn't the case.
There are reasons. For those of you who are interested, I'll cover them in the second half of this post, but the heart of the announcement is simply that: Book two has been delayed. It was unavoidable, and I am sorry.
The Reasons Behind the Delay
Answers to Your Questions
Why Pat is a Total Dick
"I thought you said that books two and three were done?"
I did. It wasn't a lie.
In some ways all three books were done way back in 2000 when I managed to write the story all the way through to the end. But there's a HUGE difference between a story that's finished, and one that is polished, revised, and refined into something really, really good.
I tend to revise A LOT. Over the years these three books have been put through hundreds of revisions. That's not an exaggeration. Some of them are small, just me tweaking words here and there to make things sound better.
Other revisions are huge and involve me moving chapters, removing scenes, and adding characters. On more than one occasion I have gone through this first book cut out over 10% of the total text. Then sometimes, in later revisions, I put some of it back. There's a lot of trial and error. A good book doesn't happen by accident.
(Warning: Minor spoiler alert for those of you who haven't read Name of the Wind.)
For example. If you were to go back in time and read The Name of the Wind one major revision ago, you'd discover that there wasn't any trip to Trebon, no draccus at all.
If you were to go back two major revisions, you would lose Auri and Devi. Their characters didn't exist in that version of the book.
Three revisions? You wouldn't have the scene where Kvothe and Elodin go to the asylum. Or the scene where Kvothe saves Fela from the fire in the Fishery. Or the scene where Bast talks to Chronicler at the very end of the book. I hadn't written any of those them yet.
Think about that version of the book. Would you want to read that instead? I wouldn't.
Were those early drafts finished? In some ways, yes. They had a beginning, a middle, and an ending. They probably could have been published, and people would have liked them fairly well, but they would not have been the best book possible, and that's what I want to write for you.
Hell, just thinking about the book without Auri nearly breaks my heart.
So when I say that book two needs revisions, you have to trust me. What I have right now is good, but it's not the best book possible. I want to give you a great book. A book that is as perfect as I can possibly make it. I want you to read it and laugh, and cry, and be horrified.
But that takes time....
"Fine, book two needs revisions. Why aren't they already done, you dick?"
1) Mental Exhaustion.
As I've already mentioned, we found out my mom had terminal cancer in September of last year. That meant that I had to do my final revisions on The Name of the Wind while coming to grips with that, working my day job, and driving down to Madison to spend as much time with her as I possibly could.
Needless to say, it wasn't a lot of fun. Trying to re-write a scene so that it captures the delicate magic of budding young love when the main thing on your mind is your mom dying... it's kinda rough.
What's more, I didn't tell my publisher about my mom, because everyone at DAW and Penguin was really excited about the book, and I the last thing I wanted to do was take a big old shit on their enthusiasm. We were just getting to know each other professionally, and I didn't want our first interaction to be me backing out of a bunch of commitments, no matter how good my excuse.
Plus, sometimes when authors go through heavy emotional stuff, they stop writing. Sometimes for years. I didn't want the publisher to start worrying about that before my first book was even out.
But because I didn't tell them, I had to cowboy up and do all the pre-publication promotional stuff. I went to a lunch with bookbuyers on the same day my mom had to go in for emergency thorastic surgery. (This was made easier by the fact that my mom told me she'd kick my ass if I didn't go....)
Don't get me wrong, it wasn't all bad. In some ways it was nice to get away and be around people who didn't know. It gave me a much needed vacation from that traumatic part of my life.
A few months later, when my dad found out he had cancer too, I finally fessed up to my publisher. Betsy was very supportive and cut me every piece of slack possible. However, at that point we were looking at unmovable production deadlines. Because of that, the ten days I had to look over the final page proofs for The Name of the Wind, were the same ten days my dad spent in the hospital after getting his lung removed. I remember red-penning corrections into the manuscript while he slept in the ICU, the tubes everywhere and a machine helping him breathe.
In the end, I did it. I managed to meet my deadlines and get the Name of the Wind out on time. But I felt like I'd done the writing equivalent of running in the game-winning touchdown on a broken leg. We won the game, but afterwards, I really didn't feel that great...
I don't know. It was like I'd pushed things too far and pulled a muscle in my brain. Following my dad's surgery and my mom's death, I didn't even want to think about working on the next book. Not for months....
2) Unexpected busyness.
Just yesterday I read something that Charlie Stross wrote on a message board. He said, "The epiphenomena of a writing career can easily occupy about 30 hours a week, on average."
This, is some capitol-T fucking Truth.
Before my book was published, I had no idea how much extra work was involved in being a published author. I'm not talking about the writing itself. I'm talking about doing interviews, going to conventions and booksignings, answering fanmail, corresponding with the editor and agents, looking for promotional blurbs from other authors, answering questions for my foreign translators....
That means when my book came out, I suddenly discovered I had brand-new 30 hour-a-week job. That, plus teaching at the University, plus, teaching fencing, plus working with the College Feminists as their advisor.... Assuming that I still wanted to sleep, eat, and occasionally kiss my girlfriend, there just weren't enough hours in the day, and my writing time was slowly eaten away.
Also, the timeline for publishing a book is a lot tighter than I ever knew. It takes a lot of time to print, promote, and edit things. Because of that, for the book to come out in April of 2008, I actually would have had to have it pretty much finished this last August. Five months after my mom died. I tried, but I just couldn't make it happen.
"So what are you doing to make sure that you don't delay the book again, you dick?"
For starters, I've quit my day job. Starting this semester, I'm no longer teaching at the University. It was a hard decision to make. I'm giving up my health insurance, my office, and the ability to act as advisor to a lot of student groups that I really enjoy. Plus, I really love teaching. But it take a lot of time and mental energy, so I'm leaving it behind to focus on my writing.
I've also trimmed a lot of the extracurricular things out of my life. I've given up the fencing class that I taught at the YMCA, and the College Feminists don't hold their meetings at my house any more. I'll miss them, as they're some of the coolest people I know, but I need to buckle down and streamline my life.
Whew. Longest post ever.
In summary, I suck and I'm sorry.
That said, I'd rather disappoint you a little now by delaying things, than by crapping out some half-finished turd of a book and disappointing you a LOT in April.
Hope I didn't retroactively ruin your Christmas....