The Hardest Part: Gail Z. Martin on writing multiple series

Charlotte author Gail Z. Martin is now really no stranger to Bull Spec’s ongoing guest column series The Hardest Part, as she wrote about launching a new epic fantasy universe with Ice Forged in January 2013, and then a year ago about making the jump to urban fantasy with Deadly Curiosities. Now she’s back in this column as part of her annual #DaysOfTheDead blog tour and I couldn’t be happier to be sending along her thoughts on maintaining muliple series in multiple genres as she picks up a new Steampunk series next year. Head on over to her website to check out the cool interviews, extras, and giveaways happening all week long, which included the cover reveal for War of Shadows, the third book in her Ascendant Kingdoms series which began with Ice Forged.

the-sworn1 Book One in The Ascendant Kingdoms Saga urban fantasy Gail Z Martin

The Hardest Part of Writing Multiple Series

By Gail Z. Martin

Epic fantasy, urban fantasy and steampunk. What do they all have in common?

I’m sure the genres share many common traits but here’s the one that matters to me: I’m writing series in each genre, at the same time.

In my Ascendant Kingdoms epic fantasy series, War of Shadows is the new title for 2015, the third book in Blaine McFadden’s rise from disgraced convict to warlord. The series has a post-apocalyptic medieval setting, ranging across the devastated kingdom of Donderath as warring factions fight for control of scarce resources and brittle magic, and follows a sizeable cast of characters. War of Shadows is my ninth epic fantasy, and the large scale and complex world building is something I really enjoy.

Deadly Curiosities debuted in 2014, a new urban fantasy series set in modern-day Charleston, SC about an antique and curio shop that exists to get dangerous magical items off the market and out of the wrong hands. Deadly Curiosities is first-person point of view, set in a real city in modern times. And it’s a couple hundred pages shorter than my ‘big fat fantasy’ epics. There’s more humor, and the modern setting enables me to make cultural references that just aren’t possible in an invented medieval world.

New in 2015 is Iron and Blood, the first book in a new steampunk series that I’m co-writing with my husband, Larry N. Martin. This series is set in an alternative history Victorian-era Pittsburgh, complete with airships, magic, and turns of fate that didn’t happen in the real world, but could have. Iron and Blood is third-person perspective, still shorter than the epic fantasy books, but in a setting that is based on a historic time and place but with significant alterations.

All in all, that’s a lot to keep straight!

So what’s the hardest part? Finding the time to write three books a year plus short stories. Actually, getting to move among such different settings keeps the writing fresh. The characters have very different voices (my head is a crowded place). All the series require research, although of differing kinds. Writing-wise, there are probably more commonalities than differences when it comes to world-building, character development and creation of magical systems. Where the biggest difference comes, in my opinion, is in how the time period affects how things are done and what it possible.

For example, in a medieval world, communication between one place and another has physical restrictions, minus a magical work-around or speedy vampires. That’s not so much of a concern in a modern setting, although technology can go awry for many reasons. In a steampunk-Victorian world, those technologies are in their infancy, or there may be some marvelous new inventions that fit the bill. So something as potentially simple—and essential—as getting a message from one place to another becomes an issue related to world-building.

Both the Deadly Curiosities urban fantasy world and the Iron and Blood steampunk world use real-life cities as their setting. And in both cases, some editorial liberties have been taken with reality. For the urban fantasy, I’ve added a hidden history where Charleston (and the world) has been protected from supernatural threats by owners of Trifles and Folly and their supernatural allies. I’ve also created a number of fictional businesses and locations that factor into the plot as well as using real landmarks and people from the city’s history. Why make up places when there’s a real city? For one thing, it assures that I have complete editorial control of what happens to that place/business/person as the series evolves. And secondly, it removes the potential legal problems of using a business as the site for a crime or something else that might damage the company’s branding.

In Iron and Blood, we’ve created New Pittsburgh, a city with many things in common with real Pittsburgh, but which has had several cataclysmic events in its past that changed its future. We’ve also played what-if with reality, as in the firm Tesla-Westinghouse, built out of a partnership between Nikola Tesla and George Westinghouse, two historical figures who did know each other and who discussed possible collaboration. On the other hand, we’ve drawn quite a bit on historic maps, old photos and local legends.

So what’s REALLY the hardest part? Honestly, it’s leaving one set of characters for a while when I need to go write about the others. Because characters are always doing something interesting when you’re not looking…

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More from Gail Z. Martin:

My Days of the Dead blog tour runs through October 31 with never-before-seen cover art, brand new excerpts from upcoming books and recent short stories, interviews, guest blog posts, giveaways and more! Plus, I’ll be including extra excerpt links for stories and books by author friends of mine. And, a special 50% off discount from Double-Dragon ebooks! You’ve got to visit the participating sites to get the goodies, just like Trick or Treat! Details here.

Trick or Treat: Enjoy an excerpt from Reign of Ash, my second book in the Ascendant Kingdoms Saga, here: http://www.ascendantkingdoms.com/books/the-ascendant-kingdoms-saga/reign-of-ash/an-excerpt-from-reign-of-ash-book-two-in-the-ascendant-kingdoms-saga/

And a bonus link to The Raven, The Elf and Rachel by my friend L. Jagi Lamplighter Wright here: http://www.ljagilamplighter.com/chapter-one-the-treacherous-art-of-making-friends/

Plus a second bonus excerpt from Yesterday’s Dreams by Danielle Ackley-McPhail here: http://www.sidhenadaire.com/books/YesterdaysDreams-EX.pdf

And a THIRD bonus excerpt from Suspected by Rori Shay here: http://www.wattpad.com/story/25292066-suspected-by-rori-shay-book-2-of-the-elected

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2 Responses to The Hardest Part: Gail Z. Martin on writing multiple series

  1. Pingback: Don’t Miss Your Days of The Dead Trick or Treats! | Gail Z. Martin

  2. Pingback: November newsletter: Garth Stein and NC Specualtive Fiction Night, and (in December) Julia Elliott and Fred Chappell | Bull Spec

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