By John Gilstrap
From 2019 to 2022, I wrote two books per year–one Jonathan Grave thriller and one Victoria Emerson thriller. That’s six books in three years. Or, 200,000 words per year. During Covid. While building a house. And selling a house. And moving twice. It was exhausting.
Worse, it wasn’t fun. Don’t get me wrong–I’m proud of the stories and the characters and all the moving parts of the books, but as I age, sitting and writing for long periods of time has become uncomfortable. Thanks to a reckless youth and too many years of catching heavy burning stuff with my fire helmet have left my neck and back pretty creaky. When I stay active–say through gardening and yard work and playing with the dog–everything works fine. But after five or six hours at the keyboard, I feel like it takes an hour just to stand upright again.
And there was a mental strain to that writing schedule, as well. Taking all the unique life-stuff out of the equation, a two-a-year contract means that I was always writing one story while editing or proof reading another. It’s just more work than I wanted to do.
But I still want to explore new ideas.
If all goes as expected, I will soon sign a contract with Kensington Publishing that will advance my Jonathan Grave series to 18 volumes. I never dreamed that the momentum of those books would continue to build as it has, and while I’m very much in love with the characters and their mission to bring justice to bad guys, it’s fun to explore different characters and different plots.
Another new series.
I had just finished the page proof edits for White Smoke, the third book of the Victoria Emerson series, when my agent called to tell me that she and my editor had been talking about me over lunch. They think I should do another new series, this one a spin-off from Jonathan that would take a regular character from the series and spin her off in a new direction while at the same time knocking Jonathan’s world a few degrees off its axis.
The idea had occurred to me before, and I find the idea exciting, but see above. I don’t want to do two books a year anymore. I want to have a life outside of my office. It’s the nature of a popular series (and one that I hope will also become popular) that people want to see new books on a regular basis. I hear all the time from people who count on the new Grave book to entertain them at the beach every year.
So, we reached a compromise: One book every 9 months, each new volume in each series dropping every 18 months. That feels doable to me. I guess we’ll find out.
I’m being deliberately obtuse about the new series because no contracts have been signed. I’ll come clean when that happens, I promise.
So, TKZ family, do you find the act of writing to be physically tiring? Inquiring minds want to know . . .