So... a new Skulduggery, eh?
I don't have a title for you yet, sorry. I'm close to being halfway through it, though, and so far it's working out to be exactly what I want it to be. Which is good. And I'll also be finished long before my deadline, so I'll be able to go over it a few times. And then a few times more! And possibly even more after that!
Ah, the luxury...
But what CAN I tell you about it? Well, like I said, it was probably around Last Stand of Dead Men that I realised the story could go longer than I'd planned. I knew vaguely what I wanted to do with certain plot threads, and I knew for CERTAIN what I wanted to do with others, and I made a few notes and jotted down some stuff, but back then I was focusing on making sure Phase 1, as I had taken to calling it, ended just how I wanted it to end.
And it did. Phase 1 came full circle, ending with the same line, pretty much, as the first book. Most of the plot lines were wrapped up, most of the character stories were paid off... it was good. I was happy with it. More than that, I was proud of it.
But I had bigger plans...
My agent already knew, and so did my editor, but when the rest of the Skulduggery team eventually found out, it was all treated with the utmost secrecy. We didn't mention the word "Skulduggery" when discussing it in public. We simply called it the "series after Demon Road". Apart from anything else, such as how much I love springing surprises on the readers, I didn't want anyone to know because I wanted some breathing room. And I wanted, quite honestly, the option to change my mind.
I loved writing Skulduggery. I loved writing the ninth book as much as I loved writing the first. But as I went on to work on Demon Road, I wondered if my love would fade, and take my enthusiasm with it. If this happened, I didn't want to have to turn round to the expectant readers and tell them, "Uh, actually, I've kind of changed my mind..."
Hence, the secrecy.
But time passed, and I was writing other things, and my love for Skulduggery Pleasant remained as strong as ever. And the fact was, the 10th anniversary of the first book was approaching, so if I was going to do this, I'd better make a decision, one way or the other. Either commit, or let it go. So the decision was made, and plans were set in motion.
Over the next few months I'll be able to answer some of the more popular questions, such as how many books will there be and who'll be returning. Right now, I can tell you that Skulduggery and Valkyrie are back, and they have a brand new co-star. Omen Darkly WAS going to be the star of his own trilogy, but Phase 1 worked because it was a combination of three or four separate story ideas all thrown into one, and I figured Phase 2 could use the same kind of mojo.
Deciding to include Omen in Phase 2 saved it, to be honest, because I had one pretty major problem with continuing the series: it's hard to have a "children's" book without any actual children in it.
Now, I've never had a problem with this idea. One of the most popular (new) fictional characters of the last 20 years has been Jack Sparrow, after all, and he's no kid. I've never believed that young people need to read about other young people... but the fact is, Valkyrie is now in her mid-20s, and if there isn't anyone younger in the cast list, then Phase 2 would pretty much become YA.
And while I do harbour dreams of someday writing a Skulduggery and Valkyrie book for adult readers, it's not a bridge I wanted to cross just yet.
So Omen is allowing me to keep the book for younger readers, while also dealing with the ramifications of what Valkyrie has been going through for the past 5 or 6 years. He's also letting me delve deeper into the culture of magic and the rules and traditions and whatnot — basically all the stuff that I glossed over in Phase 1. What I can say is that there'll be loads of new characters, and loads of new villains, and some of these villains will be connected to villains who've gone before, both in the books and the short stories.
Some of your favourite supporting characters will return. Some of them won't. Some will survive the onslaught to come. Some will die. Horribly.
I'll be releasing more information over the next year, both here and on Twitter, so keep an eye out. We've got Tom Percival back doing the artwork (right now he's hard at work on the Phase 1 books, which we're re-releasing with new covers in the first few months of 2017 for the 10th anniversary), so the whole gang is back together for this. It's gonna be fun. Well, it's gonna be fun for US.
For you, it's going to be torture.