Recently I had a long talk with my literary agent about my writing career — past, present and future. It was a good talk, and while there were parts that I didn’t particularly want to hear, I knew it was only because he was speaking the truth.
Although the creative arts may seem exciting and mysterious to some people, a writing career is really not all that different from other careers. Some parts can be planned, others cannot.
I have always wanted to write books for a living. Ever since I was a little kid and stumbled upon my mother’s collection of Stephen King novels and my father’s collection of Louis L’Amours and National Geographics. It was all I ever wanted to do.
When I first came up with the idea for Felix Renn and the Black Lands, I felt I had struck upon something special. I didn’t know if other people would feel the same way, but I knew this was what I wanted to do as a writer.
Even though I was completely happy with the idea of spending the rest of my life writing Black Lands books, I also planned to write other, standalone novels. The first one I ever wrote was a science-fiction comedy called The Zane Conspiracy, a twisted tale about UFOs and family that I think of as The X-Files meets Arrested Development. I also had ideas for several horror novels.
In the past ten to fifteen years (maybe longer), the urban fantasy genre has kind of exploded. Laurell K. Hamilton and Jim Butcher may be two of the genre’s most successful authors, but they are certainly not alone. It’s a crowded pool, and even if the genre isn’t necessarily oversaturated, I think it’s fair to say that an author attempting to launch a series at this point in time certainly has his work cut out for him.
As such, my agent and I came to agree that this is not the right time to publish the first Felix Renn novel.
This was not an easy decision to make, especially since the book in question was already half written, with the next two in the series outlined and ready to go. But I decided it was better to wait until the time was right than to rush ahead and finish the book, publish it, and watch it vanish into the overcrowded urban fantasy market.
Some may say there is no right time to publish a book, and market trends be damned, and I would agree with that, to a certain degree. A trip to the bookstore will show you that I’ve got a lot of competition in the urban fantasy field, and frankly I don’t know that many of these authors will see their series continue past the second or third book. I believe in my series, I believe in my skill as a writer, but sometimes it is better to wait. Timing, as they say, is everything.
The current state of the urban fantasy genre was only part of the reason for this change in plans. The other was a bit more personal.
Although I released two books in 2012, back to back, it’s clear that the first one, Every House Is Haunted, received much more attention than the second, SuperNOIRtural Tales. There are reasons for this, which aren’t particularly relevant here, but the situation never really bothered me. I always figured that once I published the first Felix Renn novel, those readers who enjoyed it would end up seeking out SuperNOIRtural Tales.
It was my agent who emphasized the important of an author’s first novel. There was nothing wrong if said novel was the first in a series, especially if I was content to write those books for the rest of my career, but considering the attention I received for Every House Is Haunted — the ReLit win, the Shirley Jackson nomination, the Universal Pictures deal — he thought it would be in my best interests to follow it up with a standalone horror novel.
Even though I was disappointed to put away Felix and the Black Lands (at least for the time being), I had to admit he made some very good points. The more I thought about it, the more it made sense. Consider the progression of my writing career to date, this felt like the next natural step.
So for those of you waiting for a Felix Renn novel, I’m sorry to say you’ll have to wait a little bit longer. I don’t expect this will be a crushing blow for a great many people. Felix doesn’t have a huge fan base, but like all things in life, it’s not about the quantity, it’s about the quality, and the fans I do have are very important to me, and I know some of them will be disappointed.
All I can tell you is that the new book I’m working on, a woodsy supernatural thriller that I pitched to my agent as The Blair Witch Project meets Videodrome, is coming along well, and I think at the very least it will tide you over until I get back to the Black Lands.
I don’t know how long it will be until you finally see a Felix Renn novel, but I can promise you it will be worth the wait.