Written by Ken Scholes
It’s hard to believe that June marked a dozen years in the Named Lands for me. I first met the characters in what is now The Psalms of Isaak through a short story I wrote in 2005 called “Of Metal Men and Scarlet Thread and Dancing with the Sunrise.” I intended it for the mechanical oddities issue of a small press market that closed to submissions before I finished the story. After winning Writers of the Future the story became my first professional level sale and when I saw the artwork Realms of Fantasy commissioned for it, I was instantly struck with how much bigger Isaak’s story was. I quickly started the second short story in what I tentatively called The Androfrancine Cycle.
When the next short story was rejected for not quite standing alone, the rejection had a personal note on it from the editor: Go write a novel in this world with these characters. Of course, that wasn’t enough for a stubborn author. It took a dare over tatertots from my best pal, Jay Lake, and my now ex-wife to get me on board with the idea of writing my first novel—at the time, I was scared of anything longer than 15,000 words. I’m not sure why, and I think that’s how it is with many of the things we fear—in hindsight, they were shadows and not tigers. So I sat down in Fall 2006 and cranked out Lamentation in a six week blur. I really thought it would be a practice novel. Instead, a year later, I had a five book offer from Tor and found my writing career suddenly taking off like a rocket. Awards, critical acclaim, a trip to France! It was quite an adventure.
And then you blink and a decade or more slips by. Parents and friends are buried, children are born, books are written, life is lived. Last August, after lots of starts and stops, I wrapped up the fifth and final volume of The Psalms of Isaak. In prepping to finish Hymn, I went back to the first four books and binge-read them.
When I did, I had a strange experience. Enough time had passed that it no longer felt like my own story and I found myself caught up in the saga. I’ve gotten lots of nice notes over the years and have read lots of great reviews of the series saying wonderful things but I’d never experienced it as Story before—not as a participant apart from the creator. I had figured it would be a necessary drudgery to go over four volumes—the curse of pantsing a big saga—and in the end, I was swept away. It made finishing easier and it reminded me just how much I enjoy all those imaginary friends in my imaginary world. Writers write to give readers vacations from themselves. Giving myself a four book vacation through the Named Lands ended up being just what I needed to close out the series.
Now, thanks to the fine folks at Tor, you can also binge read the first four volumes and pre-order the fifth if you’re so inclined. Hymn will be out in December and you have plenty of time to get the other books read by then. So what are you waiting for? Come meet me in the Named Lands and I’ll show you around. After a dozen years, you know all the good places to visit.
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