If there’s one characteristic that fans of Sarah Maas’s Throne of Glass series, Victoria Aveyard’s Red Queen series, and Laini Taylor’s Daughter of Smoke & Bone series share, it’s this: they can’t read each installment fast enough. And if there’s one characteristic these three authors share, it’s this: they can’t write the next installment fast enough. They’re going to share all the secrets of hooking up books and readers in room W470, 4:15–5:15.
Maas began writing what was to become the debut in her Throne of Glass series when she was only 16 years old. Throne of Glass was published in 2012, and there’s been a new installment every year since. The fifth novel in the series, Empire of Storms, will be published in September, and the sixth and final novel in the series is scheduled for release in 2017. Even though it’s a “constant juggling act,” Maas says, she always wanted to write a “sweeping fantasy saga” with multiple story lines that overlap and diverge, like braiding stories instead of hair. While she won’t say what happens in Empire of Storms, she did disclose that readers will meet new characters as well as reunite with older ones, and that “all hell breaks loose.”
As she looks back on the series, Maas notes, “There’s so much that I’ve plotted from the first books that winds up coming back in big ways,” and woven into newer story lines. But, she says, she also allows her characters to “guide the series where they want or need to take it.” Writing what she’s mapped out, while allowing characters to be true to themselves, she explains, requires a blend of organizational skills and flexibility. “But one of the best parts is when the things I’ve been plotting for years finally come together—even after letting the characters have free rein,” she says. For instance, she’s daydreamed for about 15 years about creating a certain scene that finally happens in Empire of Storms. “Getting to finally write it—and the fact that it still fits—was a bit of an out-of-body experience,” Maas says.
Aveyard, who recently released the second volume in the Red Queen series, The Glass Sword, is just as circumspect when asked what’s going to happen in the next installment of the series. She’ll say only that the third volume picks up directly after the last scene in The Glass Sword, and that, because of that, she had to “get a little creative to keep all the characters in play.” But, she promises, readers will see “a lot more of Maven this time around.”
The Red Queen began, Aveyard says, with a single image: that of a girl killing her executioner with lightning. “I built a world to try and make that picture real, then developed a character who could embody this storm in human form,” Aveyard says, explaining that the fundamental premise of the series is the examination of a society in which superhumans rule humans without such powers, “because that’s a fascinating dynamic.”
Other than that powerful image and the idea of a two-tiered society of superhumans lording it over everyone else guiding her thought processes, Aveyard seems to be quite freewheeling in how she’s mapping out the series. It’s all about escalation, she says. “Every scene, chapter, act, or next book has to outdo the last. So there are definitely things I hold off on because I know I can’t top them yet.” Plus, she says, she is a “shameless cliffhanger and twist writer.”
Taylor is even more spontaneous than Aveyard: she doesn’t map out her novels. Describing herself as an “intuitive” writer, Taylor says that she lets story lines unfold as she writes. “To me, the unwritten book is like the outside of a house. I can see a little bit through the windows, but most of it is hidden from me. When I write the book I actually open the door and go inside. How could I plot the story without knowing what I would discover in that back bedroom, or in the attic?” she says. “In almost every book I’ve written, I’ve discovered the most important pieces of the story only once I was in deep. There really is nothing as awesome as that feeling that your unconscious is guiding you, laying story threads with an intention you weren’t aware of until they played out in some cunning, ingenious way that seemed like it was planned all along.”
Taylor is working on a duology now that Smoke & Bone has wound up; the first novel is Strange the Dreamer, a September release. While she won’t reveal much about its inspiration, saying rather cryptically that it has to do with “very peculiar moths,” she does explain that it is the story of a young librarian and his lifelong fascination with a mysterious vanished city. It’s also the story of that vanished city, and of five children tangled up in its tragic history. “They’re the only survivors of a conflict between gods and men, and have grown up in hiding, afraid for their lives,” she says. “But the two story lines are about to crash into each other, with devastating consequences for everyone—unless our underdog dreamer can figure out a solution to a perfectly impossible situation."
This article appeared in the May 14, 2016 edition of PW BEA Show Daily.