>The author trail

>It’s like a nature trail, only better. You know how it works; you read a book by an author you never read before, get hooked and follow their trail forever after. It’s a kind of literary stalking. We’ve all done it. There’s no shame.

The author trail works in two distinct ways. First there’s the backlist trail. This is where you discover a book, only to find the author’s written a ton of stuff you never read before. Such trails can result in exhaustion, particularly when the list is long. I first experienced this when I discovered Isaac Asimov at some remote and tender age. Foundation led me to, well, the other Foundation books, and then to I, Robot and The Rest of the Robots and Earth is Room Enough and The End of Eternity and … well, you get the picture. The same with Larry Niven. Ringworld begat Protector and thence to World of Ptavvs … these lists can get biblical, can’t they?

The second kind of trail is when you discover an author with their very first book. This happened to me with Pratchett’s The Colour of Magic and Iain M Banks’s Consider Phlebas and a host of others. This kind of trail is a game of patience, as you wait for the next delivery from your new favourite author.

There is, of course, a hybrid third kind of author trail. It’s a combination of the first two. Here you discover someone with a backlist but who’s also still writing. You devour the oldies and set about waiting for the newies. For me this is probably the biggest list of all. A few years ago I discovered Neal Stephenson through Cryptonomicon, read his earlier works and am now eagerly awaiting the moment I get far enough down my to-read pile to immerse myself in Anathem.

And it never ends. Stephen King’s new novel Under the Dome is out today and I’m only just catching my breath from finishing Robert Holdstock’s Avilion. And then there’s a whole heap of talented new writers who simply have to be sampled. Check out the publishing schedule of outfits like Angry Robot Books if you don’t believe me.

Some of you may be wondering where my own trail’s headed. As I’ve mentioned here before, I’m currently tied up with a bunch of ghost-writing projects. They’ll take me through into next spring. All good work but it means my own output drops accordingly. Like most writers, I do have unpublished novels in manuscript form, plus other irons in the fire in the form of proposals for novels I haven’t yet written. And I’ll be working on a new project over the next few weeks – something I’m really excited about but don’t want to talk about just yet. But it’s tough out there. So right now I’m doing what I do best: concentrating on the words and letting the deals come when they will. Following the trail, if you like. Like they say, it’s all in the journey.

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