In addition to being a nerd and a gamer, Annie Bellet is the prolific author of half a dozen fantasy, science fiction, and paranormal mystery series. She has outlines for 113 stories. The ones available now include Twenty-Sided Sorceress, Gryphonpike, Pyrrh, Lorian Archive, Cymru, Remy Pigeon. Book #7 in the Twenty-Sided Sorceress series came out last month.
In this interview, Annie sorts out the who, what, when, where, how, why for us.
CARL SLAUGHTER: At one point in your career, you had multiple series and multiple sequels released the same year. Plus anthologies. How do you crank out that kind of volume? An army of clones? Thought-to-text neurotech?
ANNIE BELLET: I wish I had thought-to-text neurotech. That would be amazing. Alas, I just have butt-in-chair. Also insomnia and an incurable desire to never go back to work for anyone else ever. Also a fear of being broke again.
CS: I count at least 6 series — all of them with sequels, side stories, and debuts in the works — and at least 3 standalones. How do you keep track of all the characters and give them the development, interaction, plot importance, and screen time they warrant without an army of story editors?
AB: Are there that many? I think only two series have sequels since I went through a sequel-free phase (also known as building no readership and being broke phase). One of those series is novellas really (Gryphonpike is 15k-20k words each) and the other are short novels (novels by SFWA standards for the most part but not doorstoppers even remotely). I keep track of everything in notebooks, on note paper, in random files here and there, and mostly in my head. I have over 113 novels outlined, most in series, that I could write, spanning genres from cyberpunk to crime to regency romance. It’s all a matter of time and focus, but mainly time. Also that little thing called paying rent which means writing things that people want to read. Going forward I want to make sure each book is over 60k, so we’ll see how that plays out. I came from writing short fiction and I like cramming in as much as possible into as few words as possible (except apparently in interviews bwahaha) so I don’t know if I’ll ever commit giant novel book. 90k-100k has been the longest I’ve written and I did that six times and chucked all but one of those, so maybe I’m just not a lengthy writer at heart.
CS: Before we go any further, which stories just came out, which come out soon, and which are projected for next year?
AB: Just came out would be books 6 and 7 of The Twenty-Sided Sorceress, my urban fantasy series. Book 6 came out in November and book 7 came out in March. Next up is the fifth Gryphonpike Chronicles novella and after that I’m going to follow up Avarice, the first Pyrrh Considerable Crimes Division novel, with two sequels before I return to 20-Sided for book 7.5 and book 8 at the end of the year.
CS: Do you have any definite idea how long each series will continue?
AB: For most of them, yes, I have a rough idea. Some, like Pyrrh, are stand-alone stories more or less, so they could continue until I or my readers get bored or die (though I’m going to run out of titles after seven, because I’m using deadly sin titles). Twenty-Sided I know the final story bits, how it all ends, but I don’t know how many books away that is. I have at least five more I want to write between side-character novels and main novels for that series before I even think about beginning the endgame, and that’s going to take a couple years, so who knows what adventures might come into my head in the meantime. I’ll write stories about Jade and her friends as long as I have good ideas I think are worth writing about.
CS: The 7th story in the Twenty-Sided Sorceress series wraps up the storyline but not the series. What will Jade do next?
AB: Book 8 is titled Dungeon Crawl, which is kind of a plot giveaway I think, right? It’s going to be a fairly stand-alone adventure where they might (SPOILERS!) end up in a dungeon or something. There might be undead. You never know. Pretty sure Jade and friends are going to kick ass and take screenshots, as always. A teacher at Clarion told me I write competence porn, and I aim to live up to that high “praise” forever and always.
CS: What exactly has Jade always wanted for her life and has she ever gotten it or will she ever get it? If her desires have yet to be fulfilled, who is helping her and who is hinder her and how does she respond to them?
AB: Jade wants family, at her core, and she wants to be loved and safe and to feel like everyone around her is loved and safe. She’s found that at times and had it taken away from her a lot. At the moment, she might have it again, but the world is full of danger and I doubt she’ll ever rest easy.
CS: Does Jade evolve over the series?
AB: Definitely. At the start she’s hiding, not using her magic, and lying to everyone about what she is. She’s full of fear and used to running from her problems. She definitely isn’t the same person in many ways by the end of the seven books, but she’s still sarcastic and nerdy and deeply moral even if her life is more shades of grey than she’d like. (“Shades of grey” as a phrase is never going to be the same again, is it? Damnit.)
CS: BTW, what exactly is a 20-sided sorceress, as opposed to a 19-sided sorceress or 21-sided sorceress?
AB: Jade learned to cope with her powers by playing AD&D, Dungeons and Dragons second edition, basically. She’s a nerd and gamer to the core and so when I was coming up with series titles, I figured this one fit. It gets across the idea in a single phrase, which is about all you can ask of a good series title, no?
CS: Don’t stone me, but I’m not into video games. Do you have to be up on game terminology to understand the 20-sided series?
AB: Well, the good news is, it is never too late to start gaming. I had a non-gamer friend read the first book and she assured me that while the references went right over her head for the most part, the story still hung together. The book isn’t just nerdy, it’s got plot and character and all that story stuff in it, too. However, I’d say that for the maximum enjoyment of this series, being a gamer and/or into SFF television, comics, etc helps a lot. It seems more clever if you get the jokes, I would imagine.
AB : Police Procedural, buddy cop, fantasy? It’s a fairly low magic setting compared to my other fantasy works, but it definitely isn’t Earth.
CS: Do these cops have magical powers? Are they assigned only cases that involve magic?
AB: It’s sort of spoilers to say. However, no, they aren’t assigned cases with magic. Magic in the world is generally either clerical or considered demonic and evil. The Cordonates don’t handle cases involving magic (except when they accidentally have to), that is left to the inquisitors who are specially trained to handle those kinds of things.
CS: What kind of dynamic do the detective partners develop and does it help or hinder their assignment to track down the perp?
AB: Par and Zhivana, the two partners in the first novel, initially (of course!) don’t get along so well as they each are bringing their own personal issues to things. They don’t let that hinder the case too much, however, because at their core they are both good at their jobs. Their personal conflicts are part of the story and they both have a lot of secrets that both help and hinder their case and their relationship at various times. Other books in the series will have other partners as main characters, though Par and Zhivana will be back of course, but all those relationships are different depending on the characters and the cases.
CS: Gryphonpike has a host of fantasy creatures. What are the inspiration for these creatures and how do you decide which creatures fight and win/lose against which creatures with which powers and weapons?
AB: A lot of the creatures are *ahem* borrowed from other sources. Like D&D or mythology. Some are just made up by my weird brain. I let the story and the setting dictate what they are fighting for the most part. Each character in the party has their own fighting style, so how they fight and what they end up facing is a part of that. It’s just good party dynamics to have the archer shoot the things that need shooting and the mage polymorph the things that need to be turned into harmless pink rabbits. As with pretty much anything I write, everything is in service to and dictated by the characters themselves and their story. I will admit that every now and again while I’m writing GPC, I roll a d20 and let the dice dictate what happens in a fight. Just a little. It’s more fun that way!
AB: It’s pretty much pure adventure. I like fireballs and archery and apparently playing D&D alone in my office while pretending it’s work.
CS: Until now, your science fiction, space opera, and paranormal mystery stories have been consigned to short fiction. But with Lorian Archive, your science fiction is not only graduating to novels, but a trilogy, and hard science that. Why the leap?
AB : Lorian Archive isn’t hard science fiction. It’s sf thriller meets cyberpunk. So it won’t be that big a leap (fight scenes and fast pacing are sort of my thing). However, I have no idea when I’ll get back to it. I’ve re-drafted Casimir Hypogean four times from scratch now and I’m still figuring out exactly what I want to do with it. It’s a complex story with about eleven PoV characters in a genre I haven’t written long-form (well, I’ve written it four times now, so I guess I have, but not to my satisfaction). So I’m still thinking that one over. I don’t call a book done until I’m as happy with it as I can be. I was serializing draft #4, but I realized I wanted to change the ending and then I didn’t like the opening as much anymore, so once again it’s on the back-burner. That poor trilogy. The first book was the first novel I ever finished. Someone bet me 20 bucks I couldn’t do it in a month, so I did it in 19 days. It was awful in its first incarnation, but there were some great ideas and the bones were okay, I just had no writing chops at all to do what I wanted. The scope of that story is crazy. If I ever finish it, I bet it’ll rock socks. So many good ideas and characters in there. Someday, when I have the chops and have it in my head the way I want, I’ll tackle it again. Not this year or likely the next, though. Maybe 2018?
CS: There’s going to be a sequel to the first Cymru story. Will fans be able to forgive you for having the main character murder innocent creatures to save her lovers? Will her actions come back to haunt her in the next book?
AB: Some readers forgive me, some don’t, but most people who read the book seem to have a strong opinion. I believe the nice term for that is “polarizing” right? Book 2 actually takes place 20 years later and deals with the fallout of her decision, but it falls to her daughter to fix things. In the world of my fey, everything comes back to haunt people and there is always a price to pay one way or another. That’s another book that I’ve drafted already and didn’t like exactly how it came out, so I’m scrapping it and starting over. It probably needs another six months to a year of thinking about in the back of my mind before I take a (hopefully) final run at it. At the least it was an excuse to use some of my college degree finally, and I got to break Word’s spellcheck (and my copy editor’s brain) with all the Welsh names.
CS: What about Remy Pigeon? Will he be doing any more gumshoeing?
AB: Most likely. Remy’s stories are urban fantasy, and he’s the protag of the most popular short stories I think I’ve written. I have four novels outlined with him as the star, but again, he’s going to have to wait while I work on the series I’ve already started. I’m trying not to over-commit to projects since I suffer from chronic illness and stress/anxiety/depression stuffs. Which I realize sounds crazy given everything I just wrote here, but, uh, I promise, this isn’t over-committing. I haven’t even mentioned the other things I have in the works. It’s probably best I don’t or you’ll give me a Turing test and start talking about neurotech or clones again.