No one wanted me to write the Eye of Isis series.
Business associates said, “No, no, keep writing Kate Shugak novels, they are what sells.”
My agents didn’t want me to write them because they couldn’t sell them without a multi-book contract that included a, you guessed it, Kate Shugak novel or a Liam Campbell novel or some combination of the two.
My publishers didn’t want me to write them. One editor said “I’d be happy if you just wrote another five Kate Shugak novels.”
And you know the fans didn’t want me to write them.
I get it, I really do. Publishers don’t want to spend the time and money trying to sell a new brand when you have a tried-and-true product you already know will. Fans have so much time invested in the Kate Shugak series that the characters have become friends and they want to see how they’re doing.
So why did I?
First of all, I wanted to. I have always been fascinated by Cleopatra and I believe historians get her character all wrong: They tend either to villify her (from Horace on) or deify her (what feels like every biography written about her in the present day). Conflict! Of such stuff are series written. Factor in a hatchet man (or, as in the Eye of Isis series, woman) and we’re off to the races in a way that allows me to imagine what Alexandria and the classical world might have looked like back in the day. Doing so tests me, pushes me, and I believe makes me better at my craft.
Second, and even more important, I have always feared the possibility that the Kate Shugak series would go stale. That I would start to phone it in. We have all read series where the author should have stopped writing them long before they did. I didn’t and don’t want to be that guy. Dorothy L. Sayers said ‘When you write something and you know it’s good, you feel like God on the seventh day.’ Your chance of writing something that you know is good increases exponentially if you’re not writing the same thing over and over again.
A way to avoid that — or at least delay it — is to challenge myself to write something completely new! and different! Enter the storied city of Alexandria, the beating heart of commerce and the cutting edge of science and the arts of the Classical World and the home of the Great Library, the largest collection of books in the history of humankind. Enter Tetisheri, the Eye of Isis herself, and her friend Cleopatra, Seventh of Her Name, and Apollodorus, he who must not be named at all. Meet Uncle Neb, he with the pearl at the end of his beard, and Nike (until she decides to change her name again), and Aristander, the bearer of the Feather of Ma’at, and Sosigenes, philosopher, librarian, and royal counselor, and Vitruvius, an architect and writer, and Julius Caesar, the colossus of Rome himself.
I defy anyone to get bored with that large and varied a cast of characters, and with the entire Middle Sea as their playground. More to come!
Dana View All →
Author and founder of Storyknife.org.
I trust your writing no matter WHO you are writing about. It always entertains, intrigues and ends up making me research something along the way- even if it is a writer or singer you reference .. or perhaps an ancient custom, place or person! You do you – you do it so well! (Besides you like Shute and Sayers among others). I am so glad you listened to yourself instead of naysayers.
You are too kind, Robbin. Thank you so much.
I am very glad you wrote, and are writing, this series! I have read books about Cleopatra and collected ancient coins with her image on them. Now we all have this fantastic series of books that bring Cleopatra to life, and the world around her. Thank you, Dana