In the eight months since Three Parts Dead hit stores, I’ve seen a lot of people wonder if the book was part of a series. I’ve answered this question in readings and in person, but as I was reading through some material about Two Serpents Rise, and contemplating the Three Parts Dead paperback launch this next month, I realized I’d never discussed the issue on the blog before. So! Here we are.
Three Parts Dead and Two Serpents Rise (and Five Eyes Break for that matter, plus the other book of which I just finished a first draft) all take place in the same universe, on the same planet, in the same timeline. Characters, organizations, and universal properties (like the way the Craft works, or the soulstuff economy) in one book exist in every book. Sometimes books will have a lot to do with one another, or have a direct causal connection. Sometimes books will share very few characters, or be connected only by more-or-less continuous spacetime.
If I do my job right, a new reader should be able to read each book on its own, but readers who have read more books will understand more about the world and the context for the actions they describe.
Three Parts Dead and Two Serpents Rise, for example, take place in different cities at different points in time. Two Serpents Rise (which Publishers Weekly really likes by the way, starred review, “Gladstone has outdone himself,” so that’s cool!) is set a short time before Three Parts Dead, in a city called Dresediel Lex, across the continent from Alt Coulumb. There aren’t any characters obviously in common between the two books (though the King in Red, who killed Seril in the God Wars, is a central character in this story), but their plots are relevant to one another for reasons that will become clear in the third book and beyond.
Terry Pratchett’s Discworld is an obvious inspiration here. I love the scope of the Disc, and the freedom Pratchett has within it to tell stories that mean something to him and his readers without having to squeeze characters into plots that don’t fit. There can be more than one interesting event happening on a planet at any given moment, and these events don’t necessarily have anything to do with one another or with the same band of plucky heroes who always happen to be in the right/wrong place at the right/wrong time. I also love the feeling of writing in a shared universe, like Khazan in the old Fantasy Powers League where I used to write fic: stories sparking off in all directions, and occasionally reconnecting. I guess you might say that I’m sharing the Craft Sequence with myself. (Nobody ever accused writers of not being solipsists I guess. I can only hope I’m as cool a solipsist as, Baccano! spoiler warning, Clare Stanfield.)
Currently, I’m using numbers in the titles to indicate where the books fall on the timeline relative to one another. Two Serpents Rise is a bit before Three Parts Dead, but only a bit; Five Eyes Break (again, tentative title) is a few years after. I’m planning to write a direct sequel to Three Parts Dead continuing the specific story of Tara and Abelard from the first book; some characters from both the first two books show up in the third.
As for overplot, arch-villains, and so forth, all I have to say is RAFO.
So that’s the major thing. I still owe you folks detailed information about Two Serpents Rise—it’s coming, don’t worry. I do have one question: I’ve been thinking about hosting this information, bio details on characters, and some other frequently asked questions, in its own section on the website. What do you want to know more about?