In The Copernicus Legacy, a middle-grade adventure series by Tony Abbott, four friends attempt to save the world by retrieving 12 magical relics that will unlock a 500-year-old mystery. The series, which HarperCollins’s Katherine Tegen Books launches January 7 with The Forbidden Stone, will include six hardcover novels and six paperback novellas, called Copernicus Archives. Abbott is the author of nearly 100 books for young readers, including Scholastic’s The Secret of Droon, The Haunting of Derek Stone, and Underworlds series, which collectively have sold more than 10 million copies.

The seed of The Copernicus Legacy was planted about two years ago, when Abbott’s agent, George Nicholson of Sterling Lord Literistics, arranged a meeting between the author and Claudia Gabel, executive editor of Katherine Tegen Books. The timing of that meeting was auspicious on several fronts. Gabel noted that the imprint wanted to expand its presence into the tween market, and, she recalled, “high on my wish list was an epic middle-grade adventure series that centered around a real-life historical figure. When I mentioned that to Tony at our meeting, his eyes lit up instantly. He had the perfect person in mind.”

As it turns out, Abbott has long been fascinated by Renaissance figures and by science. “As soon as Claudia told me her idea, the wheels in my head began turning, and Copernicus appeared,” he said. “Many people know him for his revolutionary theory of how the solar system works, but he was a true Renaissance personage who knew so much about everything, including literature, medicine, and the law. Little is known about some parts of his life, so I decided to fill in those gaps, and to add a cast of modern characters, a quest element, and an evil organization that dates back to the 16th century.”

Two Formats, Multiple Perspectives

Gabel and Abbott came up with the notion of having The Copernicus Legacy consist of what the editor called “longer, rollicking James Bond-type adventures written in the third person and interstitial novellas told from one character’s point of view, to get readers involved in the series through multiple perspectives.” After the The Forbidden Stone, which has an announced 150,000-copy first printing, the full-length hardcovers will be published at nine-month intervals. The Copernicus Archive paperback novellas will be released a month before each hardcover novel’s pub date, and paperback reprints of the novels will appear the same month as the novellas.

Abbott, who is putting the finishing touches on the first novella, Copernicus Archive #1, due in September, and writing The Serpent’s Curse, the second full-length novel, which will be released in October, said that the different formats allow for plenty of exploration. “The novellas read almost like diary entries, and let me get a lot deeper into the individual characters, and touch on various aspects of the series’ arc,” he said. “These shorter books offer me a refreshing change, and let me give the characters’ internal mechanisms more play and richness.”

According to Nicholson, Abbott is the ideal author to take on this ambitious writing project. “Tony has a deep interest in science and had done so much research about the Renaissance period, and was eager to do something on a larger scale,” he observed. “He certainly had gained a facility for writing the range of action and scenes that series involve. He works like a journalist in the sense that he knows that deadlines are sacrosanct and that with a series, if you miss a deadline, the whole thing falls apart.”

Extensive research – reading as well as traveling – informs The Copernicus Legacy storylines, which take place all over the world. “I am relying on some of my previous travels for some of the stories, but for future books I plan to visit England and the Mediterranean, where I haven’t been before,” Abbott said. “It’s exciting as a writer to discover things that your characters will also discover for the first time. It’s important to me to get all the details right. I’ve done a lot of fantasy in the past, but this series involves fairly realistic settings and lots of historical details.”

As part of HarperCollins’s six-figure marketing campaign, Abbott is hosting a series of six scavenger hunts called Relic Hunt Live Events, between September 2014 and June 2018. The first hunt, to be organized by Watson Adventures (a company that coordinates scavenger hunts), will take place at a yet-to-be-confirmed New York City museum. Four sweepstakes winners will receive a trip to New York to participate, and a public book-signing event will follow.

Other components of the marketing plan include trade and consumer advertising, a poster featuring a Common Core-aligned teacher’s guide, a national media campaign, trade and consumer advertising, a series Web site, a nine-copy retail floor display, and a 10-city author tour that launches January 18.

Abbott, understandably, is eager to see readers’ reaction to The Copernicus Legacy and its various components. ”Committed readers, he added, will be rewarded: “They’ll find that the stakes definitely get higher with each novel.”

The Copernicus Legacy: The Forbidden Stone by Tony Abbott. HarperCollins/Tegen, $16.99 Jan. ISBN 978-0-06-219447-3