I emailed Miss Snark with a plea for help earlier today, and while it might seem like an odd thing to be asking about I'd still like to know what she thinks.
Background: Books one and two of the Hal Spacejock series have done quite well. The first has just about sold out and is likely to be reprinted RSN, and the second appears to have sold more copies than the first did after a similar amount of time. Distributors are actively pushing the books into schools as something reluctant boys might choose to read. (They're adult books, but fine for ages 14+. In fact, being adult books with the odd smutty double-entendre makes them perfect for reluctant boys. Girls too, I hasten to add, but boys do seem to prefer the zap-pow-crash-bang of SF space opera. As a side note, more than half the email I get about Hal comes from females.)
Anyway, I've handed in book three pending editorial wrangles (in a nice sense - my editor does a great job of highlighting the flaws which I may be blind to) and that's the end of my current contract.
Onto the question: I believe the books have done well enough for my publisher (or another, if FACP aren't interested) to seek more in the series, but I'm not sure about committing to three more. Logically, you want a contract for as many books as possible, e.g. twenty-five, which would keep you writing from here until doomsday. But from a creative point of view you just have to dread any series which loses the sparkle as each book plods onto the market. That's something I won't be party to, whatever the incentives.
When FACP approached me I'd already written 300,000 words across three Hal books. Each was quite different, and while they underwent a heap of editing before they were published, I had those rough drafts I could point to as a kind of comfort blanket. There they were, and they only needed shaping and polishing. (How much shaping and polishing I'll leave for another post. Suffice it to say I have 3 large boxes full of annotated drafts.)
So, facing more Hal books, where do I turn? I wrote about 60% of Hal 4 during NanoWrimo last year, and I'm planning to return to that novel once final edits of Hal 3 are in. I want to write 50,000 words of Hal 5 during NanoWrimo this year (November), so by the time Hal 3 comes out in January 2007 I should have an almost complete Hal 4 and just over half of Hal 5.
By then I'll know whether Hal 6 is a possibility, or whether I'm just treading water. For now, I think if the subject comes up I'll just stall for time.
(Another side note: If you're reading this as a writer trying as hard as possible to get published, all of the above probably sounds like the most ridiculous thing to worry about. I'm not making any apologies - the challenges you'll face are different when you're published, but they're still challenges and they're still worth talking about.)
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Simon Haynes is the author of the Hal Spacejock and Hal Junior series (Amazon / Smashwords / other formats)