Recently, I featured a guest post by D. B. Jackson (author of Thieftaker) in preparation for the sequel’s release date. Now the long-awaited day has arrived, and I’ve asked David to speak to us again–not only about the sequel itself, but the process of writing a sequel. How has the world of the Thieftaker changed? What’s next for this cast of characters? And–of course–what can we expect in the future from this exciting series?
D. B. Jackson
D.B. Jackson is also David B. Coe, the award-winning author of a dozen fantasy novels. His first book as D.B. Jackson, the Revolutionary War era urban fantasy, Thieftaker, volume I of the Thieftaker Chronicles, came out in 2012 and will soon be available in paperback. The second volume, Thieves’ Quarry, was released on July 2, just in time for the July 4th holiday. D.B. lives on the Cumberland Plateau with his wife and two teenaged daughters. They’re all smarter and prettier than he is, but they keep him around because he makes a mean vegetarian fajita. When he’s not writing he likes to hike, play guitar, and stalk the perfect image with his camera.
Interview with the author…
1. Sequels: I’ve written them, and they always change the way I think about the first novel… Has writing the sequel changed your perspective on any of the characters? The setting? Has it sparked new ideas or led you in directions you weren’t intending originally?
Generally speaking, Thieves’ Quarry was an easier book to write than Thieftaker, the first book in my Thieftaker Chronicles. I felt more comfortable with my characters, with the setting, with the magic system, with my manipulations of the history, however slight they might be. On the other hand, a sequel always presents certain problems. How can I keep the storylines and characters fresh? How do I reintroduce characters and history and other situations without seeming to repeat myself? How do I avoid making the series feel in any way formulaic?
As it happens, and as your question implies, some of the changes that kept the writing experience fresh for me, and, I hope, the reading experience fresh for my audience, happened organically. Probably the most important development in this regard, was a deepening of the complexities in Ethan’s rivalry with Sephira Pryce, Boston’s most renowned and powerful thieftaker (in my version of Boston). I don’t want to give too much away, but I can say a couple of things. First of all, early on we learn that Sephira now has access to magick, through a new character she has added to her retinue of toughs. And so the one advantage Ethan has enjoyed in their rivalry is now gone. On the other hand, though, Ethan does something in the middle of the book that neither of them could possibly anticipate. He helps her. I won’t say how, but it is a difficult moment for him and it alters their relationship subtly, but fundamentally. I hadn’t really planned to do it, but this was the direction the story and characters took me, and I think it was a very good thing for the series. It is unexpected, and, as I say, it keeps things fresh.
I was also helped by the fact that history itself provided a rather significant change. In October 1768, as Thieves’ Quarry opens, British soldiers begin their occupation of the city. This provides not only a starting point for my new mystery, but also a basic change in Ethan’s relationship with the Crown. Up until now he has been a Tory — a political supporter of Parliament and a loyalist in the tension between those who would like to see the colonies separate from England and those who wouldn’t. The occupation forces Ethan to see things differently. He doesn’t approve of the billeting of soldiers in the city, and so he is put in the position of having to rethink a key tenet of his political creed.
2. Characters: The longer you know a character, the more they seem to have a life of their own independent from you. How has the further development of the story changed or deepened the characters? Who changes the most? Have any of the characters surprised you?
Well, I touch on this a bit in the previous answer. I would say that Ethan is still evolving as a character. As he moves further from the memories of his incarceration for mutiny and all that his years as a convict cost him, he continues to rebuild a life for himself. His love for Marielle Harper, who was once his betrothed, has faded in this second book, and he is more committed than ever to his current partner, Kannice Lester. He is older by three years than he was in Thieftaker, and so he is somewhat wiser and better at his job than he was in the first book. He is also a step slower; it takes him a day or two longer to recover from fights and beatings. Time, as they say, waits for no one.
His friend Diver Jervis, who is something of a wastrel, also grows up a bit in this book. He certainly plays a far greater role in this plot than he did in that of the first book. And he finally takes steps in his life to make himself more dependable, a more solid citizen.
But of all the characters, the one who changes the most, without changing at all, is Sephira. She remains cruel, arbitrary, utterly convinced of her own infallibility; in short, she remains the perfect foil for Ethan’s flawed heroism. But she is also calculating and the ultimate opportunist, and so by the very nature of events as they unfold, she is forced to adapt and to turn to Ethan in ways that readers might not expect. It makes for a wonderfully fluid dynamic, one that I enjoyed playing with throughout the writing of Thieves’ Quarry, and one that did surprise me time and again.
3. Story: Where are we headed next? Any clues for the reader? Any changes of setting coming our way?
Well, as you’d expect, I don’t want to say too much. I can tell you that the third book, A Plunder of Souls, takes place in the summer of 1769, during an actual outbreak of smallpox that deeply frightened the people of Boston. And I can reveal as well that in this book Ethan confronts a villain with whom some readers might be familiar. Last year, I published a short story at Tor.com called “A Spell of Vengeance.” In that story, Ethan battles a conjurer named Nathaniel Ramsey. They ultimately fight to a draw, and Ramsey escapes Boston.
Well, in A Plunder of Souls, Ramsey is back, and he is bent on exacting a measure of revenge from Ethan for their previous encounter. I’d rather not reveal much more than that. The book is written, but has not yet been edited or revised. It should be out sometime next summer.
And the fourth Thieftaker book, Dead Man’s Reach, will be set in March 1770, during the Boston Massacre. I haven’t started writing this one yet, but I have it outlined, and I’m looking forward to working on it.
After that, I’m not sure what will happen. On the one hand, I have considered sending Ethan elsewhere — perhaps to Charleston or Philadelphia. But I would hate to see him leave behind his rivalry with Sephira, and I don’t see any way to bring her with him that wouldn’t feel totally contrived. So I’m not certain right now.
4. What is your favorite scene? (I always have one or two that really stand out). If you could put yourself into the novel anywhere, like a cameo appearance, where would you be?
That’s a difficult question; it’s like asking me which of my children I like best. I suppose do have a few favorite scenes in this book. There are a couple of confrontations between Ethan and Sephira that really work quite well. Ethan also has a powerful confrontation with Thomas Hutchinson, the lieutenant governor of the province, who threatens to have every conjurer in Boston hanged if Ethan can’t resolve the mystery he is investigating. That’s one of my favorites. And there is a scene with a new character, a barkeep named Joseph Duncan — Ethan calls him “Dunc” — that I enjoyed writing. It has a bit of humor to it, as well as the requisite menace. And as the book winds toward its climax, I think I handled several of the key scenes pretty well. As I said, it’s hard for me to choose.
As to where I would like to be in Thieves’ Quarry, say as a bit actor, I think I would go back to the scenes between Ethan and Sephira. It would be loads of fun to be one of her toughs and to be a witness to, and a player in, their various encounters!
Thank you, David! If you would like to read more about David and this series, please visit the D. B. Jackson site. You can find a copy of the sequel at any local bookseller (always support the locals!) and of course on Amazon. Get yours today!
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