Not content with your standard trilogies and tetralogies, I’m currently engaged in writing an ennealogy – a series of nine books.
Now, before you get visions of something as complex and drawn out as The Wheel of Time, I should make it clear that, though the books are all loosely linked together, each has a beginning and end, and should be readable in any order. They simply form a bigger story taken as a whole.
More generally, the nine books fall into three trilogies – the Traveller trilogy, The Winter Legend, and the Cath-Korza trilogy. The Traveller trilogy has already started with At An Uncertain Hour, published in 2009, telling in flashbacks (and the occasional flashforward and flashsideways) the first three thousand years of the Traveller’s extended life. On the eve of the final battle of a thousand-year war, he recalls his lost love Anniol and how he came to have spent the last millennium fighting the evil Demon Queen, servant of the Great One. The Great One is an all-encompassing spirit of evil, that maybe creates evil acts, or maybe is created by them.
I’m currently working on The Winter Legend, a trilogy comprising The Tryst Flame, Children of Ice and Dreams of Fire and Snow. The state of play is that the first book is at present doing its best to attract the attention of Angry Robot, under their Open Door submission; the second is complete, but will require at least another revision and a polish; the third is about three quarters written in a very rough draft, including a blind-alley subplot that’s got to have something done about it.
The Winter Legend centres on the struggle against Kargor, the Winter Lord. An on-off servant of the Great One, he’s attempting to carve out an empire, opposed by a variety of characters – including the Traveller. Under the name Tollanis – simply a local word for traveller – he’s a significant secondary character here.
Unlike At An Uncertain Hour, which is told in a non-sequential first-person style more common in mainstream fiction than epic fantasy, The Winter Legend follows a relatively straightforward narrative style, though it divides between a number of third-person POVs.
I’ve been working on The Winter Legend, on and off, most of my life, which is why I set myself to finish it before writing the book that actually precedes it. The Empire of Nandesh (strictly a working title) will be a sequel to At An Uncertain Hour and a prequel to The Winter Legend, set about thirty years before the latter starts, though it too will range back and forth in time. It’ll have two separate first persons – the Traveller and Nandesh, the Demon Queen’s son – and will pre-introduce a couple of characters from The Winter Legend. And it’ll reveal the answer to a mystery about the Traveller.
This will be followed by the Cath-Korza trilogy, focusing on a new character. Actually, she’s an old character – I wrote about her in the 70s and 80s, and these stories will be radical reworkings of that material. They take place about two hundred years after The Winter Legend – but I don’t want to reveal too much about Cath-Korza, as it’ll be some time before I get to these. Let’s say that this trilogy is, in a way, about the problems of celebrity.
The Traveller won’t figure in these stories – at least, he shouldn’t, but I may succumb and give him a cameo appearance – but the final novel of the ennealogy, which might be called The Last Direction, will have the Traveller and Cath-Korza joining forces in a final showdown with the Great One. This is loosely based (very, very, very loosely) on a poem I wrote many years ago called “The Song of the Cursed Tower”, but it’ll have little really in common with the poem – just a very basic idea. It’ll also explain why the Traveller never turns up in the “modern” stories I’ve written in the same world.
So that’s the ennealogy; but it’s not quite that simple. The couple of dozen stories I’ve written about the Traveller or about Eltava (who refused point blank to let me restrict her to a cameo in At An Uncertain Hour) feed into various of these novels, and my series of stories about Kari and Fai are intimately entwined with The Winter Legend. Even some of the non-series stories illustrate or are illustrated by episodes in the novels. And there’s more to come of all of these.
So “ennealogy” might be oversimplifying matters. Don’t worry, though – there’s no test-paper after reading any of the stories. Which is just as well – I’d be likely to fail miserably.