On Middle Books and Broken Cities

Tansy's new book!!!

My first ever guest blogger is the supremely talented Tansy Rayner Roberts, a writer I am proud to share a state, genre and friendship with. Her new book, The Shattered City is available in all discerning book shops early April (i.e. NOW) and is eagerly anticipated by all who adored (and rightly so), the first book in her Creature Court series. Do yourself a favour …

She could hear that laughter again, and for a moment Velody was confused, not sure which dead man was mocking her.

Middle books of trilogies get such a bad rap. To hear people tell of it, the middle book is basically the interval, the one that the readers might as well not turn up to. The dread word ‘padding’ is uttered, and every trilogy writer starts wondering uneasily if, after all, they might not have been better off with a duology.

And yet… The Empire Strikes Back is the most critically acclaimed of the Star Wars trilogy. It’s dark, it’s crunchy, it has established characters getting a touch more development, it digs deeper into the worldbuilding and overall plot, and it has a double whammy of a cliffhanger that leaves the audience going ‘whoa!’ (well, except our six-year-old, who recently watched it for the first time and went ‘meh,’ but that’s another story)

I think it’s time we got over this panic and cynicism about the middle book. Personally, I love the middle! As an author, it’s the one part of the story that isn’t locked in. It’s your chance to go a little crazy, to experiment, and to really challenge your characters. You can make it worse, raise the stakes, poke a sharp finger at the backstory until it goes ‘ouch!’ All without having to bring the story to a ruthless and brutal close (those are problems for the author of Book Three to worry about).

Book Two is about taking the carefully constructed world and characters of Book One, and smashing it into pieces.

Which rather nicely brings me around to The Shattered City, Book Two of the Creature Court, which will be released in early April. It feels impossible to tell anyone anything remotely tantalising, because I’m very aware that there are plenty of people who haven’t read Book One yet, and I don’t want to be spoilerific. But rest assured, those of you who have grown attached to my screwed up bunch of shapechangers with their smutty ways, and the ordinary craftswomen who have been pulled into their bloodthirsty world… in Book Two, Things Get Worse, Horrible Destinies Are Fulfilled, and A City Will Fall.

Oh, and it’s not just a city that gets shattered. At least one character will lose their entire grip on reality…

Meanwhile, if you’ve never heard of me, or my books, but your ears just pricked up at the mention of smutty shapechangers, may I recommend Book One? There’s not quite as much blood and broken glass as Book Two, but I can promise that naked boys fall out of the sky in the first chapter.

Tansy Rayner Roberts is the author of Power and Majesty (Creature Court Book One) and The Shattered City (Creature Court Book Two, April 2011) with Reign of Beasts (Creature Court Book Three, coming in November 2011) hot on its tail.

“Is there a skybattle?” Velody asked. “I’ve never seen the rain bleed like this.”

“Something’s coming, not sure what,” Ashiol said. “Best to be prepared.”

“How can we be prepared if we don’t know what’s coming?”

A third figure swooped past them and descended, Poet in one of those fluttering white burnoose garments of his. “Easy enough, lady Majesty,” he said with a florid bow. “Just prepare for the worst. That’s what we usually get.”

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