Remember topsecretprojects3.1-3.3?  They’re finished!  I think I’m allowed to talk about them too… I don’t see any reason why I can’t talk about them, save for the fact we haven’t quite nailed a title yet… watch this space…

I’ve been writing some novellas.

Some eleven months ago, my editor, who I think I might love unconditionally, grabbed me at the end of a panel I’d been on, and, with a cry of ‘Psst!  Kate!’ pulled me into an oversized stationary cupboard.

“This is all very secret,” she whispered, “but I’ve been talking with your agent,” she explained, (another woman who I quite possibly love beyond all reason) “and because there’s a bit of a gap between Harry August being published, and Touch being published, we’ve been talking about getting you to write something in between… have you ever written novellas?”

No.  I had never written novellas.  I wasn’t even sure what a novella is.  Bigger than a short story, right, but smaller than a novel?

“Exactly that!  We’re thinking three of them, to be published as e-books, as Claire North, but you can’t tell anyone yet!”

Okay… anything else I should know?

“We’d like the stories to be inter-linked but separate.  They need to be sorta like the stuff you write as Claire North, but kinda different, and we want it to be sorta epic, but it also has to be narratively tight because novellas are short, and each novella needs to stand on its own feet, but share thematic or universal trends with the rest of the series.”

“I’m not sure I know what that means…”

“No!  It’s going to be exciting, isn’t it?”

There it was then: the briefest brief I think I’ve ever had.  For a few months we batted ideas around, and as I waited for my US and UK publishers to pick from the list of ideas I sent them, something that seemed most apt, I kept myself occupied with topsecretproject4 which remains, I’m afraid, the very last of the topsecretprojects that must for now remain classified.  I finished topsecretproject4 in January, and within 45 minutes was a little bit restless.

Within two days, my editor was being bombarded with demands for a final discussion on which of the many potential novella ideas on the table would be most awesome, and a few weeks after that, we settled on one.

The novellas tell the story of the Gameshouse.

It’s a house with no fixed address, but doors all across the world lead to it.  In the public areas of the house, it’s just like a member’s club, where you can go to play chess, backgammon, go, checkers, cards etc..  Some people bet money, possessions; others just play for the love of the game.  However, go a little bit deeper into the house, and you find the higher league, where Risk is played with real cannon across the map of the world, Battleships involves actual submarines, and the stakes can be years of your life, pieces of your soul, or the fealty of governments and kings.  To the players of the higher games, the Cold War is no more than a larger game of chess on a bigger board; the stock exchange is simply an oversized Monopoly set, and people are pieces to be moved in a game too big for most people to perceive.

It’s been a very different one to write – the format of three novellas across a shared world allows the overall story of the Gameshouse to be huge (spanning, in the case of these books, from 1610 to the present day) but the stories within each novella have to be, by word count alone, very tight.  Thus, big scales become human again, and the giant stakes are both built up, and pulled back down, all in the same breath.  Does it work?  Hope so!  I enjoyed writing them, and so far those very few people who’ve read them haven’t tried to eat their own eyeballs so, touch wood, they’ll be a new and interesting thing that I can do again, and people will enjoy reading too!


  1. As Bill and Ted would say….Most Excellent!

  2. I was kind of skimming this article until you started talking about the novellas, and suddenly you had my full attention. Very excited!

  3. I’m very excited about this, the novella seems to have fallen out of favour of late, yet it used to be a highly regarded form in SF/Fantasy writing. Even novels tended to be very much shorter thirty-forty years ago; compare one of Niven or Zelazney’s novels from the early 70’s to the sort of common novel on the shelves today.
    The subject looks like a whole load of fun, too!
    Kate, this looks like the sort of thing that could be expanded further over time, into a much larger collected work…?
    Anyway, I can’t wait to get reading.

  4. Wow, Kate! I’m super excited about this novella business. And the subject matter sounds nifty, too! Sigh. There you go… working two jobs and ‘still’ managing to somehow have time to scribble so much within a year. So cool. You’re definitely one of my idols, and your work ethic is one to be admired – for sure.

    Me, I’m still trudging along on that first work. I fear that by the time it’s ready for an agent, you’ll have had all three novella’s published, plus another of your top secret projects in addition to them, lol. I think my problem is that I’ve wasted too much time in the last three months just listening to too much advice, mostly from folks who’ve never published anything before. It’s been frustrating, to say the least. That, and I’ve spend a pretty penny on many books on the craft of writing, but I find them confusing as well, since many of them contradict each other. I think, maybe, I’ll just stick to polishing the ‘grammar thing’ and look for an agent to help me (as you suggested, and I should’ve listened to, as it would have save me a couple months of frustration) revise it into something saleable to a publisher. Yup. That’s what I’ll do. Ah, well, it’s a work in progress. 🙂

    Anyway, can’t wait to read those new novellas!

  5. So, there I was, looking down the latest postings in the Chat section of a mountain biking forum I spend far to much time on, and there was a ‘recommend me a new book’ thread. Never missing an opportunity to tout your extensive series of works, I had a look.
    Well, the OP was actually looking for scary stories, but someone had already recommended Harry August, then someone else posted that they’d already read it, but no, it wasn’t scary.
    So there you go, Kate, an opportunity for your alter-ego to write something *really* scary!
    I had already suggested Harry August in a similar thread when the book first came out, and a number of people bought it and enjoyed it.

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