Jo Zebedee on losing a world

by stephenpalmersf

Today I’d like to present a new guest blog from Jo Zebedee.

By an extraordinary coincidence – and I promise you this was not designed – Jo’s piece describes something that I am this very day wrestling with, since yesterday I completed the copy edit on the Factory Girl trilogy. So I greatly sympathise with Jo, and am feeling a bit melancholy myself…

Anyway; I hope you enjoy what she has to say.


Last night, I lost a world. Which sounds careless of me.

It went like this. In the morning, I looked over the final copy edit of the last book of my Inheritance Trilogy. I changed four sentences around and sent the document back. I can’t tell you what was the last word I typed. I can tell you it wasn’t The End.

That evening, around 10, I got a message back to say the document was good. It was gone to the publisher for formatting.

Gone. I wouldn’t be working on Abendau again. No more deciding if Kare was over-thinking things (probably) or Sonly too waspish (she had her moments). No more musing over whether it’s data pad or datapad, and where commas should go. It is done. I have no more input into the book.

Now, this is my fourth book release, so I am used to that sense of completion. But this is the first time I’ve finished something with the expectation of never returning to the world. In book one and two, I always had the next one to keep me busy. Inish Carraig, although a standalone, is crying out for a companion book (as are many of the readers). But, at this stage – and, of course, time might change this – I have no plans for another Abendau book.

Which means the world I’ve been developing since I was 16, the characters I’ve spent so many hours musing on, are gone. And I’m feeling….

I’m proud, first and foremost. Novels are hard to write – hell, short stories are hard to write – but a trilogy? From the off? That’s harder than I ever anticipated (or I’d never have started the process. I’m determined, but I’m not a masochist.) It’s not just the words, it’s learning to tell a story, to stay close to the characters. It’s learning to find my voice, if I have. (I think I have. Except that in each story it goes for a wander in the woods and comes back with pine needles hanging off it, looking a little older and more thoughtful.)

I’ve had – mostly – good reviews. Some better than others, but overall, I can’t complain at all.

So, yes – proud. I wrote a quarter of a million words that people mostly enjoy.

I’m also a little sad. I won’t be the writer of Abendau anymore, but the author of it. That change of status, moving from being active to passive, feels bigger than it should. Abendau is now my back story. I will be releasing new stuff and, whilst I will of course continue to talk about Abendau, it will be in the past tense. In Abendau I tried to create a very human hero. I tried to. I did. I’m not trying to anymore.

All writers have to do this. Release, promote, let go. Like sending a child out to the world, at some point stories must stop being a writer’s obsessional focus and find their own place.

There is a plus side to this process. I like discovering new writers. I will give most writers a go. But – whisper it – a writer’s first book is rarely their best. Already there are things I would change about Abendau’s Heir and no doubt a year or so down the line, I’ll feel the same about the sequels. But that first book often has an honesty* about it that gets lost as we learn the craft more. I’d like to think that people who read the Abendau books will see the freshness of a first idea and climb aboard for the ride of where my mind might go. (I can’t say for sure but spooky fairylands, deep lakes holding secrets, and a frontier fantasy world are good bets).

What I really like is finding a writer that I enjoy the book by AND who has a backlist. I can happily spend months trawling the goldmine that is a writer’s backlist.

In a year’s time, Abendau will be my back list. By then, the books will be out, and the audiobooks. It will be a project that is complete and contained. But it will not be a dead project, because in it is much of what shapes my current writing: great characters, fallible and likeable; some imagery that I love and will always keep with me; a storyline that grew enough to sustain three books; a world and planet that came from whatever part of my mind creates such things.

Which brings me back to my feelings, and I’ll end where I started. I’m very, very proud to be the author of the Inheritance Trilogy. I’m proud of my Abendau world. I hope it continues to entertain people for many years to come.


*Some early books that come to mind, for me, as defining an author in a fresh way are:

Shards of Honour, Lois McMaster Bujold. It’s not one of my favourite books of the series, but there is something in the portrayal of Aral that he loses later when he becomes more statesmanlike. Aral shrinks as the books go down, just as much as Cordelia grows.

Salem’s Lot, Stephen King. Not his first book (which was Carrie, which has a feel to it unique to that book), but his second, Salem’s Lot remains, for me, a masterclass in horror. In fact, I vastly prefer King’s early work. He had a fun side to freaking the hell out of me, and a certain ’70s/’80s cheesiness that I enjoyed.

The Time Traveler’s Wife, Audrey Niffeneggrer. If there was ever a book and a character it feels like someone was born to write, this – and Henry de Tamble – is it.

The final Abendau book can be found here. I hope you enjoy it.