So, last week I finished the draft of THE VELOCITY OF REVOLUTION, cleaned it up and delivered it to my wonderful editor. Now we’ll wait for her thoughts, and in the meantime, I want to unpack a bit about this process. This was one of the hardest experiences writing a book I’ve had, and that was for a number of reasons. First off, let’s talk about on a Worldbuilding level.
THE VELOCITY OF REVOLUTION is set in a completely different world from the Maradaine novels. Not just “this is a different world”, but a radically different setting on many levels, worldbuilt from scratch. I had been playing with worldbuilding new settings, less for “This is for a new book” and more for the exercise in and of itself, teaching myself HOW to worldbuild better. A mindset that also led to the Worldbuilding for Masochists podcast. (More on that in a bit.)
This book was a random idea that just HIT me, and even though I was finishing SHIELD OF THE PEOPLE, still had FENMERE JOB and PEOPLE OF THE CITY to write, the idea just clawed its way in and didn’t let go. So I wrote some notes, and then those notes became an outline and a proposal, which I sent to my agent, and all of a sudden I had a contract and a due date. All without yet doing the level of worldbuild that I “usually” do.
By which I mean, the world of Maradaine had been fermenting and mellowing for YEARS before I started writing THORN, including two trunk novels in that setting. Here I had less than a year between selling the idea and needing to start drafting. If you’ve listened to me on WFM, you know I like having a good sense of the whole sandbox as a way to find the story. Here, I had to take a completely different approach. And thankfully I had the podcast to help.
There’s a thing we talk about on WFM, about Choosing Vs. Presuming. Which is roughly: choose what you want for your world, but make it a choice. Don’t just presume “this is how things are” without interrogating it. So much of the worldbuilding in this book is putting that philosophy into practice. Why does the culture do this? How do I show that? How do I make it clear to the readers what I’m doing without it feeling like an infodump?
And that Choice vs. Presumption came right from the very concept. Why not a secondary world fantasy with motorcycles and raw denim and radios and tacos? Why not a fantasy culture that draws inspiration from Mexico and Latin America?
And you may ask yourself, should a white boy from upstate New York be writing a secondary world fantasy that draws inspiration from Mexico and Latin America? And, yeah, maybe not. Maybe I have deeply screwed up in trying this. I’d rather try and fail and learn. Writing this book has been a learning process, and working with Alex Rowland and Rowenna Miller on the podcast has been a critical aspect in furthering my learning process.
Though, also: as a food in fantasy person? I wanted to do something I hadn’t seen. Namely: tacos. Maybe that was a little thing, but it felt huge to me.
(Also, for the record, I’ve had insight and advise from latinx alpha/beta readers from the beginning, and if you have specific concerns or thoughts: my email is open and I welcome the conversation.)
Also this was a hard book to write because my outline really failed me this time. I’ve always said that A. I love my outlines (and outline process), but B. No outline fully survives contact with the writing process. This book? The outline REALLY did not survive the writing process. The writing was a constant cycle of stopping, reassessing and finding new directions. I regularly felt like the plot was slipping out of my hands. That meant it was always a process of challenging my presumptions. Questioning why I was doing things a certain way. Trying to find my own blindspots. Writing this was putting myself through a crucible.
There’s been a lot of talk of late of “everything is on fire, so write whatever you want”. And: hell yes. I certainly didn’t write a secondary-world dieselpunk latinx pansexual fantasy filled with tacos, motorcycles and psychic mushrooms because I thought it would be a bestseller. But I did write it, and the wonderful folks at DAW Books had enough faith in me to say, “Yeah, do that”. So I did. Maybe you all will love it. Maybe I’ll faceplant horribly. Either way, I’ll get back on my feet, wipe the blood from my nose, and get back to work. Try something else new. Challenge my presumptions. Learn to fail again tomorrow.
But the proof is in the pudding, and said pudding comes out February 9th, 2021, and you can pre-order today. If this sounds like it could be your jam the way it was mine, go check it out.
From the author of the Maradaine saga comes a new steampunk fantasy novel that explores a chaotic city on the verge of revolution.
Ziaparr: a city being rebuilt after years of mechanized and magical warfare, the capital of a ravaged nation on the verge of renewal and self-rule. But unrest foments as undercaste cycle gangs raid supply trucks, agitate the populace and vandalize the city. A revolution is brewing in the slums and shantytowns against the occupying government, led by a voice on the radio, connected through forbidden magic.
Wenthi Tungét, a talented cycle rider and a loyal officer in the city patrol, is assigned to infiltrate the cycle gangs. For his mission against the insurgents, Wenthi must use their magic, connecting his mind to Nália, a recently captured rebel, using her knowledge to find his way into the heart of the rebellion.
Wenthi’s skill on a cycle makes him valuable to the resistance cell he joins, but he discovers that the magic enhances with speed. Every ride intensifies his connection, drawing him closer to the gang he must betray, and strengthens Nália’s presence as she haunts his mind.
Wenthi is torn between justice and duty, and the wrong choice will light a spark in a city on the verge of combustion.