Fantasy Book Club Series discussion

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The Riyria Revelations > Q&A with Michael Sullivan

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message 1: by Sandra (new)

Sandra  (Sleo) | 1059 comments Michael has volunteered to be present for the discussion, so please post your questions for him here.


message 2: by Elizabeth (new)

Elizabeth Risley (ElizabethRisley) | 228 comments Michael,
I've read the five books in the previous format (love your covers btw) is there a lot that is different in the new version? BTW. As I write this there is an ad for Theft of Swords to the right - very cool. Glad to see this series is getting some attention.


message 3: by Traci (new)

Traci How long did this series take to write? How long ago did you first come up with the idea? Did you "know" the characters before you even started?


message 4: by Phoebe (new)

Phoebe Decent (TheCrazyChick) Is the series funny?


message 5: by Alex (new)

Alex Ristea (alexristea) | 41 comments It's the zombie apocalypse. Where's the first place you go and why?


message 6: by Michael (last edited Dec 18, 2011 10:06PM) (new)

Michael (MichaelJSullivan) | 301 comments Elizabeth wrote: "Michael,
I've read the five books in the previous format (love your covers btw) is there a lot that is different in the new version? ..."


the biggest change of course is that there are two books per each volume. There is also the addition of a glossary of terms and names in the back, and a summary of the kingdoms, political systems and gods in the front.

As for the story. They are almost identical (a bit of detail added here and there, some fixes of commas and homophone errors.

The first book does have a new section added. There was some concern that the book as originally published did not start with Royce and Hadrian. For those that read the original books you don't have to purchase the new ones to read that section. You can read it either at the facebook page setup by orbit (www.facebook.com) or on my website (www.riyria.com).


message 7: by Michael (last edited Dec 19, 2011 04:56AM) (new)

Michael (MichaelJSullivan) | 301 comments Phoebe wrote: "Is the series funny?"

Well I think so ;-) But I suppose in some respects that would be a matter of opinion. But yes there is humor in the series. Particularly in the banter between the two main characters. Sometimes I think that in their pursuit of the drama some authors, forget that a mammoth part of life is humor. We make jokes when we are happy, when we are nervous, and when we are downright terrified as a means of coping. Sometimes it seems that some Medieval fantasies seem to take themselves too seriously, as if no one in the Middle Ages ever laughed. So yes I wrote in humor. But it's not a comedy like Good Omens or Dirty Jobs.


message 8: by Michael (new)

Michael (MichaelJSullivan) | 301 comments Alex wrote: "It's the zombie apocalypse. Where's the first place you go and why?"

Well I'm a firm believer in the wisdom of World War Z so I guess I'm going to head somewhere cold as zombies don't do well in that sort of climate.


message 9: by Michael (new)

Michael (MichaelJSullivan) | 301 comments Traci wrote: "How long did this series take to write? How long ago did you first come up with the idea? Did you "know" the characters before you even started?"

Yes I knew the characters first - they came to me in 1990 but at the time I had sworn off writing because I had spent over a decade and not gotten anywhere. The plot kept developing in my head over the next decade but I resisted writing it. I finally gave in in 2004 so it was 14 years in the conceptualization. I wrote all six books in four years (from 2004 - 2008) and then spent 2 1/2 years editing. From start to finish it was about 21 years.


message 10: by Phoebe (last edited Dec 19, 2011 12:41AM) (new)

Phoebe Decent (TheCrazyChick) Is coming up with characters hard?


message 11: by Michael (new)

Michael (MichaelJSullivan) | 301 comments Phoebe wrote: "Is coming up with characters hard?"

Actually no...it's one of those things that comes pretty naturally to me. What I do have to wtach is making sure my "vision" makes it onto the page. Sometimes I know the characters so well I take things for granted.

I know them so well that I actually "hear" how they speak in my head. It is difficult sometimes for the people who edit my work as I'm VERY particular about the "voice" of each character and whenever dialog is touched I noticed it immediately and usually "undo" whatever changes they've made.

Royce for instance is rarely wordy. His dialog should always be short and sometimes curt.

Nimbus (who shows up starting in the Book #3 Nyphron Rising) is always very formal so he always addresses people using a title, such as Your Eminence or My Lady. He never uses contractions when he speaks.

The characters are each so distinct that I never have problems keeping them straight in my head. I really think that the best books come from having characters that readers love so they are always at the center of my writing.


message 12: by Bryan (new)

Bryan Young | 14 comments Hey Michael,

I just wanted to say I love the "less is more" mentality with how you approach Hadrian's sword techniques. I honestly felt more impressed by what you didn't show in earlier books, such as his duels in book 1.

I have heard you say that you will not write any more books "after" the series, but will you write any more in this world? Or will your next series be something new entirely?


message 13: by Bryan (new)

Bryan Young | 14 comments On Hadrian's sword technique, can we expect him to finally use his spadone (sp?) to full effect in book 6?


message 14: by Elizabeth (new)

Elizabeth Risley (ElizabethRisley) | 228 comments Who is your favorite character?


message 15: by Elizabeth (new)

Elizabeth Risley (ElizabethRisley) | 228 comments Do you prefer the six-book format or the three-book format?


message 16: by Michael (new)

Michael (MichaelJSullivan) | 301 comments Bryan wrote: "On Hadrian's sword technique, can we expect him to finally use his spadone (sp?) to full effect in book 6?"

Funny you should mention that...Yes it does play a major role in the final book.


message 17: by Michael (new)

Michael (MichaelJSullivan) | 301 comments Elizabeth wrote: "Who is your favorite character?"

That's a tough one...each has their own thing to love. I think Myron was the funnest to write. He steals almost every scene he is in.

From a dialog perspective Royce ... and sometimes Esrahaddon get the best "lines".


message 18: by Michael (new)

Michael (MichaelJSullivan) | 301 comments Elizabeth wrote: "Do you prefer the six-book format or the three-book format?"

At first I was really opposed to the three book format, but Orbit made some really good points about trying to keep six books in stores and in stock at once. I really like that the whole series can come out in three short months instead of six if we had done them as individuals.

I also like the pairings...Crown is kind of a weak link by itself as it is very standalone. Now that it is paired with Avempartha (where the bigger story arc really begins) I like that aspect.

Also it is cheaper for readers to get the books in the three book format rather than the six. I would prefer more readers and less money than the other way around so that is a good thing.

So...I think I just talked myself into liking the three books over the six. The only problem is that there is some confusion because there are 9 books but they are all just one series.


message 19: by Traci (new)

Traci Favorite authors? Favorite books? Influences? Were you always attracted to fantasy?


message 20: by Phoebe (new)

Phoebe Decent (TheCrazyChick) Who inspires you to write?


message 21: by Michael (new)

Michael (MichaelJSullivan) | 301 comments Traci wrote: "Favorite authors? Favorite books? Influences? Were you always attracted to fantasy?"

Like many, fantasy is what got me hooked on reading. When I was young I really didn't enjoy books...I spent a whole summer trying to read one and just felt like it was torture. Then I stumbled on Lord of the Rings and the Hobbit and I thought...Heck this is what reading could be like? From that point on I enjoyed both reading ... and started writing (because I couldn't always find other fantasy books that I enjoyed.

Favorite authors: Tolkien, Rowlings, Stephen King, C.S. Lewis, John Steinbeck

Favorite books: Lord of the Ring, The Hobbit, The Stand, Watership Down, Atlas Shrugged (for the story/characters not necessarily the ideology), Potter Series

Influences...Potter, Babylon 5, and Buffy for series that have individual episodes but longer story arcs. Stephen King for coming up with great "what if" scenarios. Ayn Rand for characters. For showing me that writing can be just plain old fun: Rowlings Potter was a real eye opener for me.


message 22: by Michael (new)

Michael (MichaelJSullivan) | 301 comments Phoebe wrote: "Who inspires you to write?"

Anyone who has penned a review, written an email, or has comment on a forum that they enjoyed what I've created. I originally wrote the books for my daughter (she was struggling with reading because of dyslexia and I wanted to write something that she might find was "fun" and without her I wouldn't have returned to wrtiting (I had given up on it for over a decade. But sice she lit that spark it's hearing that what I do isn't a complete waste of my time that makes me want to write more.


message 23: by Elizabeth (new)

Elizabeth Risley (ElizabethRisley) | 228 comments Michael wrote: "Elizabeth wrote: "Who is your favorite character?"

That's a tough one...each has their own thing to love. I think Myron was the funnest to write. He steals almost every scene he is in.


I do love Myron - he is great!! But I'm a Royce and Hadrian gal. Too bad they are so different...it's hard to choose between them.


message 24: by Elizabeth (new)

Elizabeth Risley (ElizabethRisley) | 228 comments Michael wrote: "So...I think I just talked myself into liking the three books over the six. The only problem is that there is some confusion because there are 9 books but they are all just one series."

I'm a traditionalist and like the original versions. I was shocked when I saw how thick theft of Swords was. I know most fantasy readers like bricks of a book but I really liked the "smallish" nature of the original. Not sure if that will help or hurt. It would have kind of turned me off had I been "new to the series".


message 25: by Amber (last edited Dec 21, 2011 06:40AM) (new)

Amber Ivers (mohawkguy28) | 18 comments Well, I asked most of my questions that I was curious about already. I am up here at the hospital with my son and I got a chance to get on. I just wanted to know, if you had any idea that your books would sell this well, once printed.

I was in B&N and they only had one Rise of the Empire book left. It is still one of my favorite series and I will miss reading about Hadrian and Royce.

I even got my mom started on your series while she was up here with me.


message 26: by Michael (new)

Michael (MichaelJSullivan) | 301 comments Hey Amber...My thoughts and well wishes are with you and your son.

As for "did I know they would sell so well" - I think the jury is still out on that one. Yes sales are better than I had expected (I've mad quite a few of the Amazon lits for hotest new releases, and bestseller in various fantasy categories but to be honest beyond some vague notion of "well it's not a complete failure" I think its still too early to tell what the sales numbers are like.

For my self-published versions - yeah there is no question that I never thought I would sell 70,000 copies - I've heard all kinds of numbers like most self-published authors only sell a few hundred so yeah that shocked the heck out of me.

I do see quite often that the books are being passed along to others int he families - both children and parents - and that makes me very happy. I'm always pleased to hear when people thank me for not putting in graphic violence and sex so that they can feel comfortable giving it to others. It wasn't part of some "grand marketing scheme" just a matter of I didn't think it would "add" anything to the books so I didn't include such things.


message 27: by Joshua (new)

Joshua Simon (JoshuaPSimon) | 1 comments Michael,

In previous interviews and your blog, you mentioned that you've been trying to "catch up" on your fantasy reading. Any favorites so far? Any you're really looking forward to try?


message 28: by Michael (last edited Dec 22, 2011 07:37PM) (new)

Michael (MichaelJSullivan) | 301 comments Let's see...what I've read latelty:


Oryx and Crake
The Way of Shadows
Shadow's Son

All of them were definintely worth a read. I'm a terrible reviewer of other people's work...I don't gush praise but that doesn't mean that I don't appreciate the talent that went into creating the stories.

I just started:
Phoenix Rising
Among Thieves

Both of which are very good from what I've read so far.

Things I'm looking forward to...

The Name of the Wind
A Game of Thrones


message 29: by Elizabeth (new)

Elizabeth Risley (ElizabethRisley) | 228 comments Percepliquis was originally slated to come out in April of last year...but it was delayed because of the New Orbit deal. Did this make the decision hard? How has it been to "wait" for the last book.


message 30: by Elizabeth (new)

Elizabeth Risley (ElizabethRisley) | 228 comments I've read (forget where) that you wrote all the books before the first one came out. In re-reading I can see little mentions and hints that make more sense to me now (I'm up to the fifth book). Was this always your intention...or did you go back and apply this technique after the whole story was written.


message 31: by Michael (new)

Michael (MichaelJSullivan) | 301 comments Elizabeth wrote: "Percepliquis was originally slated to come out in April of last year...but it was delayed because of the New Orbit deal. Did this make the decision hard? How has it been to "wait" for the last book."

To be honest, I think it has been harder on my wife than it has been on me ;-) She loves the books and wants to talk to people about them but hasn't been able to.

The whole Orbit deal really kind of came out of the blue and we didn't expect it to effect Percepliquis. Usually the publishing business is slow and it takes many months or years for projects to materialize. In mid October we were seeing an uptick in sales (due to the release of Wintertide) and thought...hey, maybe someone in New York would be interested. We had our foreign rights agent "test the waters" and had several publishers express an immediate interest. Whih was a shock and agreed to a deal in 3 weeks. Had we known that it could have gone that fast we probably would have waited until after Percepliquis but once the barn door was open there was no putting the horse back in.

So yeah, it was unfortunate that people had to wait. Some were VERY upset about this. But it wasn't too long (just 8 1/2 months) and I had been really good about keeping to 6 month intervals in the past. But in any case it's just a few more weeks and both I and Robin are very excited.


message 32: by Michael (new)

Michael (MichaelJSullivan) | 301 comments Elizabeth wrote: "I've read (forget where) that you wrote all the books before the first one came out. In re-reading I can see little mentions and hints that make more sense to me now (I'm up to the fifth book). Was this always your intention...or did you go back and apply this technique after the whole story was written."

That aspect to the books was always there since day one and one of the resaons I was really drawn to the project. I really like interweaving plotlines - it's kind of like a game I play with myself. The "writing them all" wasn't really a huge conscious decision...I didn't plan on publishing...but as the time went on and I considered pubishing more seriously then yes I worked hard to get them all done as I didn't want some out there.

All that being said...Yes I sometimes would go back and make a change to an early book to provide a thread in a later one. That was a lot of fun to do.


message 33: by Elizabeth (new)

Elizabeth Risley (ElizabethRisley) | 228 comments Thanks for answering the questions. It's great to be part of a series discussion where the author is available.


message 34: by Michael (new)

Michael (MichaelJSullivan) | 301 comments You're welcome - talking to readers is the best thing that I get to do ;-)


message 35: by Sovotchka (new)

Sovotchka How dou you like the new covers? I liked the one for Avempartha, but other than that I love the ones from Orbit.

I read the five-book-version and loved the way that each book felt like it has its own theme. Was it intended that way? And do you think that will be lost on people if they only read the three-book-version?

Would you write a stand-alone fantasy novel in its own world or do you think worldbuilding is too complicated to do to write just one novel?

Sorry, lots of questions ;). I love your books; can't wait for Percepliquis to come out.


message 36: by Ena (new)

Ena (enantoiel) | 36 comments In The Viscount and the Witch, title says "A RIYRIA CHRONICLES SHORT: STORY #1" and seeing #1 there I thought of a possible #2 and maybe more. It's probably a wishful thinking but is there any probability, in near or far future, Riyria Short story will get some more numbers and become "stories"?


message 37: by Phoebe (new)

Phoebe Decent (TheCrazyChick) How much money would an average author get? O.o


message 38: by Ritesh (new)

Ritesh (rkala) @Phoebe: average indie author? average 'traditionally published' author? average 'best-seller' author? celebrity author?


message 39: by Michael (last edited Dec 29, 2011 04:40AM) (new)

Michael (MichaelJSullivan) | 301 comments SilverRaindrops wrote: "How dou you like the new covers? I liked the one for Avempartha, but other than that I love the ones from Orbit.

I'm very happy with the Orbit covers. To me they say "epic fantasy" much better than my self-published ones did. For those that don't know here are the covers:





I like that in both cases you can tell that all the books are from the same series, which is important to me.


message 40: by Michael (new)

Michael (MichaelJSullivan) | 301 comments SilverRaindrops wrote: "I read the five-book-version and loved the way that each book felt like it has its own theme. Was it intended that way? And do you think that will be lost on people if they only read the three-book-version?"

Yes it was intended that way. I wanted each book to focus on a different part of the overall story arc and I also wanted to have different themes and locals. I wanted to "mix things ups" so that people would not be bored.

I think most people reading the 'three book' version will realize that it was six books and will look at each on its own merits. The only thing I regret is that some of the "tidbits" might feel more heavy handed when you read them in quick succession. When the books were divided by the six-month release cycle I think some of the references would appear subtle and now that they are "stacked up" some might feel that I was beating certain things to death. I could have edited them out in the re-telling but then their omission might have shone a brighter light by their abscence so in the long run I kept it all in.


message 41: by Michael (new)

Michael (MichaelJSullivan) | 301 comments SilverRaindrops wrote: "Would you write a stand-alone fantasy novel in its own world or do you think worldbuilding is too complicated to do to write just one novel?

Good question...I never really thought of it that way. I do have a standalone novel that I've written that is technically fantasy but it is set in modern times and so there is no world building - just research for Washington DC, New York, and Las Vegas.

I don't have rumbling around in my head another fantasy that is stand alone in a setting that would require world building.

If you put my feet to the fire I would say that it could be a lot of work for a single book and for that reason I might shy away from doing so.


SilverRaindrops wrote: Sorry, lots of questions ;). I love your books; can't wait for Percepliquis to come out."

Lol - I LOVE questions!! The best thing I get to do - so keep them coming. I'm glad you are anxious for Percepliquis. It was moved up by 2 weeks so it will be availlabe mid-January.


message 42: by Michael (new)

Michael (MichaelJSullivan) | 301 comments Ena wrote: "In The Viscount and the Witch, title says "A RIYRIA CHRONICLES SHORT: STORY #1" In The Viscount and the Witch, title says "A RIYRIA CHRONICLES SHORT: STORY #1" and seeing #1 there I thought of a possible #2 and maybe more. It's probably a wishful thinking but is there any probability, in near or far future, Riyria Short story will get some more numbers and become "stories"?

Having a series of short stories was indeed the intention when I wrote The Viscount and the Witch. I have a number of other "back story" items that I could pull from to make more. But here's the thing...I'm not sure if I should do them as short stories or write some pre-quel full-length novels. I don't want Royce and Hadrian to "outstay their welcome" so I'm kind of in a watch and see state at the moment. I've got some links on my site for people to "weigh in" and if there is demand then yeah I'll do more. Whether they are short stories or full length I think there will be at least a few more Royce and Hadrian tales running about.


message 43: by Michael (last edited Dec 28, 2011 11:48AM) (new)

Michael (MichaelJSullivan) | 301 comments Phoebe wrote: "How much money would an average author get? O.o"

Sad to say this is not a business to do if you want to make money, and most authors, even those with multiple books out, still have their day jobs. The "average" contract for a debut author is $5,000 - $10,000 a book. Considering that many books take mulitple years to write - this is pretty poor pickings.

How much author's make has typically been a closely guarded secret, for reasons that I don't quite understand. Myself, and a number of other authors from the "indie world" have been pretty open about sharing their income numbers so that other authors have something to guage against. I'm happy to say that I'm doing better than most. I made six-figures with my self-publishing books, my contract with Orbit was in the six-figures and my overseas sales are about double my US advance. I went into this figuring that I'd make a few thousand dollars, and have been pleasanlty surprised with how well the books are doing...but also realize that just because I had a fantastic 2010, and a good 2011, I might have a terrible 2012. At this point unless my books "earn out" (royalties exceed the advance) I won't have any more income from The Riyria Revelations so I'll need other projects to keep the lights on. If you are an aspiring author...don't expect to achieve the same results - each project truly is different.


message 44: by Michael (last edited Dec 28, 2011 11:50AM) (new)

Michael (MichaelJSullivan) | 301 comments Ritesh wrote: "@Phoebe: average indie author? average 'traditionally published' author? average 'best-seller' author? celebrity author?"

In many respects breaking it down that way doesn't help either. I did very well as an indie author - but I know a lot who made (and are making) better than I did. I would say as far as "indie" success goes I'm in the upper end of that scale but no where near the "big players" there.

Traditional publishing....Is again all over the map. Someone who is "midlist" is probably making $15,000 - $35,000 a year. Really big authors make several million. Most...as I mentioned...make only enough to "help" toward the family income (like make a car payment or pay the utilitiy bills).

As to best-sellers...Most best-sellers lists are based on "concentrated sales" i.e. a lot of sales in a short period of time. So there are some "best-sellers" that are flashes in the pan - they showed up once and were gone. I've seen a few post their "royalty statements" and it wasn't pretty. IIRC they made a few thousand dollars per reporting period.

For those who are on and sustain best selling status - like say George R.R. Martin. There is no question they are in the Top 1% of US incomes. (i.e. making several hundred thousands a year). Bigger players like King and Patterson make multiple millions. But again for the most part these are "outliers" and the bulk of writers don't make very much.

Nowadays the income made by self-published and traditional published is bluring...and in many cases the self-published are making more because they keep 100% of the profits. An indie will make more on a $2.99 ebook then I will on my $9.99 ebook and in many cases the $0.99 and $2.99 books dominate some of the Amazon genre lists like Epic Fantasy or Historical Fantasy.


message 45: by Helen (new)

Helen | 766 comments It sounds like a lot of money for a book but as you say it doesn't reflect the years that went into it, squeezing time to write after work. If you are lucky to earn enough to take time off to write a sequel, you are then betting all on futre success. Bank managers must love emerging authors, not!


message 46: by Ritesh (new)

Ritesh (rkala) As the book is being discussed right now I thought that I'd let everyone know that I am giving away a copy of Michael J. Sullivan's Theft of Swords on my blog. The giveaway is open internationally. Please go here to enter:
http://riteshkala.wordpress.com/2012/...


message 47: by Michael (new)

Michael (MichaelJSullivan) | 301 comments Helen wrote: "It sounds like a lot of money for a book but as you say it doesn't reflect the years that went into it, squeezing time to write after work. If you are lucky to earn enough to take time off to write..."

Income for writers is very hard to predict. 2010 and 2011 were "good years" but it's possible to have no income at all in 2012. So yeah it's almost impossible to get a loan for anything. I have made good money on this series but it also took 20 years to produce - so in those terms - not so much. The real trick is what happens for any future writing, contract stipulations about release windows, and the publisher's interest and schedule with regards to all books coming out.


message 48: by Michael (new)

Michael (MichaelJSullivan) | 301 comments Ritesh wrote: "As the book is being discussed right now I thought that I'd let everyone know that I am giving away a copy of Michael J. Sullivan's Theft of Swords on my blog. The giveaway is open internationally...."

Ritesh is actually got a bunch of Riyria stuff going on this week. Giveaway...Interview...Guest Blog from me. Please stop by lots of good stuff will be there.


message 49: by Ritesh (new)

Ritesh (rkala) Here is the introductory post for the week's plan. Michael J. Sullivan as featured author for an entire week!: http://riteshkala.wordpress.com/2012/...

Teaser: Coming up tomorrow: A biographical account of Michael from when he started writing, right up to getting published. You don't want to miss it!


message 50: by Michael (last edited Jan 02, 2012 04:20AM) (new)

Michael (MichaelJSullivan) | 301 comments Bryan wrote: "I just wanted to say I love the "less is more" mentality with how you approach Hadrian's sword techniques. I honestly felt more impressed by what you didn't show in earlier books, such as his duels in book 1.

Hey Bryan...Thanks for noticing ;-) Hadrian is very good at what he does...but he doesn't feel a need to prove himself (well most of the time). He has more blood on his hands than he cares for and will only take a life when it is absolutely necessary. It was important to me from a plot perspective to have him underplay any abilities he may have in this area.

Bryan wrote:
I have heard you say that you will not write any more books "after" the series, but will you write any more in this world? Or will your next series be something new entirely?


Possibly...The not wanting to write 'after the series' is because it ends EXACTLY how I want it to and to tack on another book would cheapen what I think is pretty special. But I do have plenty of ideas that could be other stories in the series...some with Royce and Hadrian....some without.

Some ideas I have.

1 - Royce and Hadrian the early years (how they met, some early first jobs etc).

2 - Esrahaddon when he was a mage in training.

3 - Novron the Great and the War between Mankind and the Elves

4 - A book far in the future where some of the "younger" characters of the series have grown up.

If you want to "weigh in" on books you would like to see in the future you can at this link.


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Books mentioned in this topic

Among Thieves (other topics)
The Way of Shadows (other topics)
Shadow's Son (other topics)
Phoenix Rising (other topics)
Oryx and Crake (other topics)
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