When my sons were thirteen and sixteen, I began writing a fantasy novel for teens. We all loved reading fantasy fiction, and I thought it would be cool to write something they would enjoy reading. The story focused on Jack Swift, a midwestern high school student who discovers he’s among the last of a guild of magical warriors. Jack’s being hunted by wizards to play in a magical tournament known as the Game—a fight to the death. I called it The Warrior Heir.After four years of revision, and lots more writing practice, The Warrior Heir sold, and then the companion novel, The Wizard Heir, and finally The Dragon Heir, which brought the previous stories together and tied them off neatly.
We called the trio The Heir Chronicles. I then moved on to another teen series, the Seven Realms.
I have been so fortunate. Both of my series have been New York Times bestsellers. The Heir Chronicles have continued to find new readers, seven years after the first book was published. Readers (and my publisher) have been asking whether I might consider writing more stories about the warring magical guilds known as the Weir.
I was wary. I hate it when I suspect that an author is stretching the equivalent of five stories into ten books with ten advances. I would much rather leave readers wanting more than fading away when they realize they have totally been there and done that too many times.
Readers move on. Writers do, too. I’m not the same writer I was in 2008, when the last of the Heir novels was published. I’ve changed—improved, I hope, but I worried that the reader looking for the exact same reading experience may be disappointed.
Could I really go home again? And, yet, I knew there were more stories to tell in that world. And so, I agreed to write two more Heir novels.
How hard could it be? I thought. I have my magical system, I have my world, and all I have to do is get the old band of characters back together.
I think it’s the hardest thing I’ve ever done.
First of all, I had to find a way to pick apart the tidy ending I’d crafted and get my characters in trouble again.
Secondly, I found myself trying to write amid the din of a thousand voices in my head. Over the past seven years, I’ve received lots of feedback from editors, readers and reviewers. No writer can satisfy everyone, and readers often disagree. You know this, if you’ve ever read a series of reviews of a book on Goodreads or Amazon. One reader says a novel is slow-paced, another says it’s rushed. One says there’s too much info in the first chapters, another says there should have been more up-front world-building. One reader loves a character, another finds her annoying.
Plus, once the new books were announced, readers weighed in. I hope you’re planning to give Linda and Leander more stage time, one wrote. You neglected them in your last book. Or, I hope you’re planning to bring _____ back to life. He was the best character ever until you killed him off.
Meanwhile I was hearing from Seven Realms fans demanding to know why I wasn’t writing more fantasy in that world.
I had my own goals as well. I wanted to write a twinset of stories that a brand new reader could pick up and read without confusion. Stories that could stand alone, but would be a satisfying read for fans of the first three novels.
My readers know that I love to tell a story from different perspectives, because the truth often lies somewhere in between. I began asking the what-if questions.
What if some members of the “underguilds” decided to win the ongoing battle against the oppressive wizard guilds once and for all? Could there be a scenario in which wizards are actually the victims? Where genetic engineering and magic collide to create a whole new set of conflicts and unanticipated consequences?
Of course there could.
And so I did what I’ve done before: I brought new characters onstage, while giving familiar characters some stage time, too. In honor of the new novels, my publisher has refreshed the covers of the original three books and designed a fantastic cover for The Enchanter Heir.
Perhaps you can go home again.
The Enchanter Heir debuts October 1, 2013, with The Sorcerer Heir to follow. Read more about it at www.cindachima.com. For updates and other news, visit my Facebook page here: www.facebook.com/CindaWilliamsChima or follow me on Twitter @cindachima . Stay tuned for the release of a free short story linking the redux to the first three novels, and featuring one of my favorite characters, the wizard Leesha Middleton.