The Word Nerds are happy to welcome David B. Coe to the blog today as a return guest (though when he’s been here before, it’s been in his alter-ego, D.B. Jackson). He’s done an “author’s edit” of his first trilogy of fantasy books, re-releasing soon and is here to tell us about that project.
WN: What did creating an “author’s edit” of the books entail?
COE: Children of Amarid and the other volumes of the LonTobyn Chronicle were my first published novels, and actually the first novels — published or not — that I wrote. I have always loved them. More, they set up my entire career, establishing me commercially and critically, winning me the Crawford Award, and teaching me, through the writing and editorial processes, what it meant to be a professional writer.
But I’ve always been aware of their flaws, in particular with respect to the actual writing (as opposed to the plotting or character work or world building). A couple of years ago, finally, we got the rights back to the books. Tor had allowed them to go out of print in 2005 or so, but rights reversion can be a messy, long process. Anyway, upon getting the rights back, I knew I wanted to re-release them, but only after correcting some of the “rookie mistakes” I saw in the books. So creating the Author’s Edit was really a matter of revising my own work, making these stories, which I still love, read the way they might if I had written them once I’d developed my craft a bit. No one made me do it — my publisher, Lore Seekers Press, would have put them out in their original form. This was something I did for me.
I didn’t touch the character work, or the plot, or the magic system and world building. All I did was tighten the prose, remove adverbs, unnecessary dialog tags, and superfluous exposition that explained things that didn’t need explaining. I cut a total of 20,000 words from this first volume (and 14,000 from the second book, The Outlanders. I’m about to begin my edits of Eagle-Sage, book 3) and the book is far better for that concision.
WN: What surprised you about going back to these books?
COE: I think what has surprised me most in reading through them is how much I’ve learned from the younger version of me who wrote the novels in the first place. I came to this revision process with just a touch of arrogance. I’ve learned so much over the years, and I looked back at the old work with a strong sense of wanting to improve upon what I’d done at the beginning of my career. And certainly I was able to do that. The prose in the new version is a vast improvement over that of the original.
But I came to realize that there were elements of my early writing — the passion, the ambition, the sense of wonder — that have mellowed as I’ve grown older and more experienced. And I think that my future projects will benefit from that recognition. I’d like to make myself stretch more as a creator. When I was starting out, every book was a stretch, because I was learning so much as I went along. That’s less true now, and so maybe it’s time for me to take more chances in my storytelling. I think that’s probably the biggest lesson I’ve gleaned from this process.
WN: When you started writing, what drew you to high fantasy?
COE: My interest in speculative fiction began with epic fantasy. That’s what I read as a teenager and into early adulthood, beginning with Tolkien, and moving to LeGuin, Donaldson, Brooks, Kurtz, and, perhaps my favorite, Guy Gavriel Kay. This was back in the ‘80s and ’90s. There wasn’t yet any urban fantasy as we know it now. Most of the fantasy subgenres we take for granted now hadn’t yet come into their own. There was science fiction — and I read the Dune books and Ender’s Game and a few others — and there was epic fantasy. I preferred the later. That’s what I read, and when the time came, that’s also what I wrote.
I love stories about magic, and I have since my first encounter with The Hobbit (which came when I was eleven years old and at sleep away camp. I tried out for a camp play and was cast as Bilbo Baggins — first I’d ever heard of Tolkien). And I’ve loved birds, especially birds of prey — hawks, owls, eagles — since I was a little kid. The magic system I dreamed up for this series allowed mages to draw power from the psychic bonds they forged with avian familiars. That was the other thing I loved (and still love) about high fantasy. If you can imagine it, and make it logical and consistant, you can use any sort of magic system you want. That freedom really appeals to me.
WN: What kind of reader is really going to like “Children of Amarid?”
COE: Children of Amarid, and the LonTobyn books in general, have a lot to offer readers: magic, intrigue, mystery, a bit of romance, a coming of age story, a science fiction element, lots of action, some political theater. There is a bit of sex, but nothing explicit or X-rated, or even R-rated. There is violence, but not gratuitous or overly graphic. So I would think that readers who enjoy any sort of fantasy will like these books. The originals had devoted readers ranging in age from 12 to late-80s, and the romance that develops will speak to teen readers. There is, as I say, plenty of action in the books, but the pacing isn’t frenetic. Readers who enjoy what might be called literary fantasy will be especially fond of them. And, as I mentioned, there’s a science fiction element as well, so readers who don’t necessarily want their stories strictly limited by genre boundaries will like them as well. This is genre-crossing series. I hope that helps!
WN: What’s next for you as a writer?
COE: Well, my next task is to finish the edits of Eagle-Sage, the third book in the LonTobyn Chronicle. Children of Amarid came out in early July; The Outlanders should be out in late September or early October, and I’d like to bring out Eagle-Sage in December.
After that I have a few projects I want to pursue. One is a futuristic/fantasy YA thriller set in New York City that I mapped out a few years back but never got around to writing. I have an epic fantasy that is mostly written but needs editing, and an urban fantasy that is well under way, but needs some rethinking as well.
And then I have the rights back to my Winds of the Forelands and Blood of the Southlands series, so at some point I’ll edit and re-release those books as well. And I want to go back and write a Thieftaker novella (I write the Thieftaker Chronicles as D.B. Jackson — http://www.dbjackson-author.com) that I can incorporate into a collection of Thieftaker short stories. So I have a lot on my plate right now. Which is a good thing.
As a bonus, there’s a US-only giveaway going on with the blog tour! David is giving away a $25 Amazon or Barnes & Noble gift card (winner’s choice), or one of two copies of CHILDREN OF THE AMERID. Open to US residents only.