I’m home after a terrific weekend at ConCarolinas. It was wonderful as always to see Faith, Misty, Kalayna, and A.J., as well as our wonderful friends and former regular MW contributors, Edmund Schubert and Stuart Jaffe. It was also great to see so many of our devoted readers and commenters — the party Saturday night that was hosted by Mud and Laura was a highlight of the weekend. Many thanks!!
Today’s post kicks off what I expect will be two full months of Thieftaker promotion. We are now less than one month away from the July 3rd release date, and I am excited, nervous and everything in between.
Let me say right now that I know many of you are probably sick to death of hearing and reading about this book. I can hardly blame you. To be honest, I’m sick of it, too. I wish the book was out already. And I’m sorry to be that guy who is always talking about his book. Really I am. Because most of the time, I hate that guy. But at least with this post, I’m giving you a chance to win something. More on that later.
So what’s the big deal about this book? Why am I so obsessed with it? Well, I don’t think it’s overstating the case to say that this is the most important release of my career. I am trying to launch a new name — D. B. Jackson — and I am doing it with a genre-blending book that is potentially the most commercially viable thing I’ve ever written. What I’m saying, I suppose, is that this book has more upside potential than any of my previous books. If ever I am going to become a big-name author, this might be my best chance.
We often talk on this site about the dangers of writing to the market, and I want to be clear that this is not what I did. I never said, “I think Revolutionary War Era urban fantasy is going to be the next big thing. I should write one and hop on the bandwagon.” Far from it. In a way, I backed into this book.
When I first wrote Thieftaker, it was an alternate world fantasy, and in fact, you can go back in the archives to some of the posts in which I first mentioned the project and you’ll see that I was talking about worldbuilding and map-making, and all the other things one does when creating new fantasy worlds.
Let me back up. I had been inspired by a footnote that I found back in 2005, in a book on Australian history that I was reading in preparation for the year that my family and I spent living Down Under. (I know: Only a historian can use the words “inspired” and “footnote” in the same sentence.) The footnote came in the context of British law enforcement and the transportation of criminals to the Empire’s newly colonized territory in the South Pacific. And it mentioned England’s most famous thieftaker, Jonathan Wild.
Wild was a very cool guy — a thieftaker, he and his henchmen were responsible for most of the crimes they later solved. He stole goods, “recovered” them, and returned them for a fee, making himself out to be a hero. As soon as I read about Wild it occurred to me that a character modeled after the man would make a great foil for a series protagonist who was also a thieftaker. Wild eventually became the historical basis for Sephira Pryce, Ethan Kaille’s nemesis in the Thieftaker books. So I guess you could say that this series idea started not with my hero, but with his main antagonist.
I was writing the Southlands books as I first worked up the idea for Thieftaker, and it took several years for the initial series proposal to come together. But as I say, I envisioned Ethan and Sephira living in an alternate world. When I explained the series idea to my editor at Tor his immediate thought was that the set-up would work even better in a historical setting. At first I was unwilling to turn it into a historical because I LOVED the worldbuilding I had done. But my editor was persistent, and he also indicated that Tor was buying fewer alternate world fantasies than it had been a few years before. Historical stuff, on the other hand, was something Tom Doherty, Tor’s CEO, wanted to publish in greater numbers.
My editor suggested that I set the story in London, since that’s where Wild lived. But I’ve seen so many books set in London, that I resisted. And that was when it occurred to me that I had seen precious few books set in Colonial Era U.S. cities, and since I have a Ph.D. in U.S. History, it seemed to make sense to take advantage of my academic background. Boston struck me as the logical choice, since so many of the key events leading to the Revolution happened there, and as soon as I started my research, I realized that there were a number of historical events around which I could easily plot books. The rest, as they say, is history.
So it wasn’t that I wrote to the market, but rather that a combination of editorial input, business considerations, and my own professional background steered me to the books I ultimately wrote.
Now that book is merely a month away from publication. Finally! And because I am so eager to see the book succeed, I have a favor to ask of all of you. Pre-publication sales can be a huge factor in determining the success or failure of a book. So if you have not yet ordered a copy of Thieftaker from Amazon or Barnes and Noble or your local independent bookstore, I would ask that you do so right now. And as soon as you do, come back to this site and leave a comment in the comments section indicating that you’ve done so. When you do that, you will be entered in a contest to win a free Thieftaker t-shirt of any size from adult small to triple extra large. If you have already pre-ordered, leave a comment telling me so, and you’ll be entered too. We’re working on the honor system here, but I trust all y’all. I will announce a winner on Friday.