Books, news, & views from Karen Traviss

Whodunnits, whydunnits, and howdunnits

I hope you've still got some book tokens left from Christmas.
HALO: MORTAL DICTATA is out next week, or, if you're in Canada, now. (No, don't ask why. I have no idea.) Just buy the book or the puppy gets it.

Seriously, this is the final book of the trilogy and this really has been a trilogy – three books telling one story that actually has a conclusion and a proper payoff (or four) at the very end.

A clear conclusion to a series can be very hard to achieve with tie-ins because you're a hostage to fortune. Novels are like supertankers, in that they take a long distance to turn around, and in tie-ins they're handcuffed to a more rapidly changing product like a movie or a game. Getting anywhere near the ending you thought you were aiming at four or five years ago is relatively rare in my personal experience.

I never plan any novel completely because if you write as I do, and surrender direction to the characters, then the best you can do is imagine where they might go, given their personalities and how they interact with each other, and then adjust your itinerary accordingly as they veer off to do more interesting things that they gave you no warning of. But if you've built the characters right, then they remain consistent and live by their own internal logic, so it's not an entirely directionless journey. My Kilo-Five characters have been true to themselves, and they've brought me to the end of a stage in their lives.

I set out to write a spy thriller that happened to be set in the Haloverse, and looking back on it, I think I've achieved that. When you get to the end, you'll probably see the entire story arc in a new light, because things you might have read and thought you knew before will now take on fresh meaning. Yes, it was a risk to gamble years of effort on something that could be so easily derailed by external factors, which is why – I freely admit – I've been a nitpicking bastard with colleagues about keeping the underpinning detail unchanged so as not to blow the characterisation and motivation within the books. But you'll see why if you understand the structure of thrillers. The devil is in the detail. You can't pull out certain bricks without bringing down the entire wall.

I'll be coming back to thrillers and their various treatments later in the year on this blog. For now, though, I'm going to have a few quieter admin days to catch up on paperwork and other projects, because I've just finished a massive manuscript that's pretty well kept me offline for months. I also have a pile of unwatched films to devour – I think I've earned my overdose of Aaron Eckhart movies. (If an overdose is possible. I'm pretty sure it isn't. ) Enjoy Mortal Dictata, and I'll see you when I'm refreshed, revived, and a *normal human being again.

(*For a given value of normal.)