Discover more from The Worlds of Susan Dennard
The Witchlands as adult fantasy & the world of Something Strange & Deadly
Your questions answered!
Thank you all for sending in questions to my AMA! The comments are still open, so if you’ve got anything you’re dying to know, then head over there and ask!
Oh, and hey: don’t forget the upcoming UK tour! Get your tickets!
Now, let’s dive in!
I heard that the witchlands was originally meant to be an adult series, and while the books certainly read as upper YA, I was wondering if this is true? If you had the chance to release the series again, would you change the category or anything else?
Thanks for the excellent question, and YES! You’re right. I originally wrote Truthwitch as adult fantasy instead of YA. Adult fantasy is the genre I grew up reading, and after the failure of my first series (more on that below!), it seemed like a good genre jump to make. No more paranormal fantasy; now let’s try high fantasy.
In the first draft, Iseult and Safi were 19 years old + I had Mathew’s and Habim’s POVs in the book! It was also just so much longer and more slowly paced. (I will have to dig up the original prologue to share with you all in a future newsletter. It was very traditional fantasy! 😉)
My agent decided that, even though I’d written the book as adult fantasy, we should submit my book to both adult editors and YA editors—because at that time, YA fantasy was starting to take off in popularity. A good choice in the end, since Tor Teen was the first publisher to show interest! The editor (the amazing Whitney Ross!) asked me to revise the book and resubmit it before she could fully make an offer to buy it.
And the changes she wanted?
To make Safi and Iseult a year younger
To remove the adult POVs (and the prologue!)
And to simplify the magic.1
Based on the new version of the book after that, Tor Teen put in an offer to buy it and the rest is history!
I’ve discussed before that in some ways I regret releasing the book in the YA space. I didn’t make enough changes to the book to truly reach that market—particularly in the world building.
I relied on the more adult, traditional fantasy approach to world building in which you drop the reader into the narrative with a bunch of new terms and only context clues to figure out what the new terms mean. For me, this is just “how fantasy is written” so it never occurred to me to try something different!
Alas, it didn't work out so well in YA. The biggest criticism I saw of Truthwitch after it released was that people couldn't understand the world. They wanted me to simply define the new words. And that’s fine! They’re allowed to want that, and looking back I should have seen that was the standard approach in YA.
But…I didn’t, and here we are. All hose “context clues” + “lots of new terms” really worked against Truthwitch, and I think it’s the main reason that book did not (and will not) ever truly break out in a commercial way.
BUT THAT IS FINE! I also am proud of these books, and the people who like an intense degree of world building have stuck with me and the series—and been rewarded for their love of twisty twisty twistiness.
In the future, I plan to shift my epic and high fantasy books to adult. And then keep my more paranormal and contemporary fantasy books in the teen space. I think that’s a logical path forward!
Thanks for the question!! Feel free to ask more on the AMA post, if you’ve got ‘em! 💚
@Katie Steele asked:
Any chance you’ll ever visit the world of SS&D again?
I would love to! I am honestly dreaming of the day when my rights revert back to me so I can take that old series and do something with it!
For those of you who don’t know, Something Strange & Deadly (SS&D for short!) was my debut novel—and it was part of a trilogy, plus a spin-off novella. The first book is set in 1876 Philadelphia and follows Eleanor Fitt as she tries to find the necromancer who kidnapped her brother…all while corpses and ghosts are coming back to life across the city.
The only people who can help Eleanor? A ragtag team of ghost and zombie fighters called the Spirit-Hunters.
The series has some steampunk, some magic, some romance, and a lot of adventure. I’m also immensely proud of it all (even if I would want to update it today with a better handling of some of the authenticity and sensitivity elements!).
Unfortunately, the book and its sequels did not perform well in 2012. The original covers were very “paranormal romance” even though that is not what the book is. And although the paperback repackages are much more reflective of the story, they came (I fear) too late to rescue the series.
The readers of Truthwitch simply didn’t convert to SS&D. And now the readers of The Luminaries can’t convert even if they want because it’s so hard to find the books!
But maybe the universe will favor me and I will get my rights reverted back to me.2 Then I can give the SS&D series a modern refresh + a new chance to find readers. 🙏
I mean, how cool would it be to re-release those books with badass new covers and fancy specs? They are 100% a perfect followup for people who loved The Luminaries, so I would really love to be able to…ya know, actually sell them the books! 😂
Hope for me, dear readers!
Thank you again for the questions, and I’ll answer more in upcoming newsletters!! 🥰
Oh, and in case you’re curious, I’m still trucking away on Witchlight, and all signs point to it being…HUGE. Lol. 😅
I’ll share another teaser from it soon!
💚 - Sooz
Lol, I’m pretty sure I only made the magic more complicated…but that’s another story for another day!
For my rights to revert back, I must sell under a certain threshold of copies. Unfortunately, when I signed this contract 13 years ago, ebooks weren’t the sellers they are today. So the “threshold” includes ebook copies…and I keep selling just enough of those every year to miss the threshold! 😭