The short answer: a while.
I got a note yesterday from the publisher of the Druids trilogy asking where I wanted to have my author copies of Warriors shipped. This last volume of the trilogy will make its official debut in Mid-August, and I understand advance review copies have already been sent to the opinion makers of the book world.
When they receive them, they’ll have the last piece of a puzzle that took most of two decades to complete. Granted, much of that labor went into the first ten years when the story grew like the vine from Jack’s magic beans. What began as a novella evolved into an open-ended series of historical fantasies focused on relatively obscure chapters in European history. What could be easier?
My partner in this venture, Barbara Galler-Smith, and I began our odyssey in 1997 by writing a charming little tale called “The Finder of Gillea.” That little fable bubbled along on multiple layers of unanswered questions, much as Hans Christian Anderson’s princess piled one mattress after another between her royal self and a very annoying little pea. By the time we finished “Finder,” we realized that the larger story — the much larger story — was the one we hadn’t told. The pea had outgrown the mattresses.
So we dialed the tale back some 900 years to the beginning of the first century BC. Thus the original Druids was born: a compendium of bygone characters detailed by Plutarch and circumstances outlined by Julius Caesar along with a voluminous cast of made up folk whose Celtic roots fueled the whole shebang. It had everything an action/adventure novel needed: danger, romance, intrigue, war. And if that wasn’t enough, we added healthy dollops of fantasy and history. What a glorious first manuscript that was!
Fresh from “finishing” Book One, we dove into the sequel and discovered Rhonwen, a character who so completely captured our imaginations that we had to go back and re-write Druids so that her full story could be told. What an incredible gal. (Her likeness appears on the covers of the first two books.)
Ah, but that left the second book with some huge gaps, including all that marvelous backstory about Rhonwen that we’d shifted to the first. This calamity initiated another furious round of revision and expansion from which Book Two, Captives, emerged. Many new characters — both fictional and historical — appeared, and several died, some horribly. Yet one particularly loathsome player who had sincerely earned a horrible death, lived on. Fiction, right? Go figure.
There was one constant: we knew we had plenty of time and many more tales to tell. The series wouldn’t be ending soon. It couldn’t! The work went on, even though Barb lived in Edmonton, Alberta, and I lived on the outskirts of Atlanta, Georgia. That’s a 2,000-mile commute for a Southern boy who’s not partial to snow unless it’s in a cone doused with tequila and lime juice. Phone calls meant paying international rates back then, and if not for the internet, our little project might have taken forty years instead of just under twenty.
The original Book Three was to be titled Lovers and featured a new generation of protagonists. Their ancestors remained, but for the most part they had reduced roles. New plot seeds were planted, along with those previously poked into the fertile fictive soil of ancient Gaul, in preparation for still more books featuring an array of heroes and villains from Celtic lore. We talked at length about the books to come with titles like “Saints” and “Finders” and “Vikings.” We even outlined and plotted one of ’em.
But first, we finished Book Three, and celebrated. We hadn’t sold anything but a short story collaboration, yet we were confident. Eager, even. We traveled to writers conventions and fan conventions and even comic conventions in search of agents and editors to whom we could pitch our saga. We mailed out query letters and manuscripts by the score. Several editors asked to read it. We received a great deal of encouragement along the way, and some incredibly helpful feedback from many of our writer friends and even a couple historians. And, like many great writers we’ve known, and several we’ve worked with, we were rejected by some of the finest publishers in the world!
But we kept at it. When we weren’t traveling to promote our Celtic fantasy series, we worked on new material, including a contemporary romantic comedy set in north Wales. Our writing skill improved. Our body of work grew. Years crept by.
Finally, Edge Science Fiction and Fantasy Publishing of Calgary, Alberta, made us an offer, and we accepted. We made a <cough> “final” pass through the manuscript for Book One in September, 2006, and shipped it off.
Druids appeared in the fall of 2009, and Captives came out two years later. Based on that schedule, Warriors is right on time.
Somewhere along the way Edge decided the series needed to end after Book Three which necessitated another rewrite of a completed manuscript. This time, however, we needed to dig up many of the loose ends we’d planned to use in future books and wrap ’em up. Lovers was renamed Warriors, and the planned sequels suddenly became orphans.
Barb and I have since focused on writing independently, so it’s unlikely either of us will try to pick up the threads of those untold stories and produce them. But, who knows? Those ideas will still be fresh years from now and one or both of us might be desperate for a story to tell. The Druids trilogy provided a fascinating ride, and I believe I’ve learned much more from it than I ever would have working on my own.
But even if I had written the trilogy all by myself, that one truly despicable character who survived Book Two would still be breathing at the end. And I wouldn’t have changed a thing about his gruesome demise in Book Three. That’s not a spoiler, that’s a promise.
Warriors is almost here. You’re gonna love it!
PS: Please drop me a line if you’d be interested in reading it and posting an on-line review.