The Book Eaters: FAQ
Below are common questions I get asked often at events or in online conversation. I hope I phrased everything okay and explained things as much as possible. Please let me know if you see anything glaring that needs addressing or editing!
- Will there be a sequel?
Someday, but not for a few years. I’ve promised Tor a couple of other standalone novels (which I am super excited about!) but after those are complete, and I’ve had a rest from the world of Book Eaters, I’d love to pitch a standalone follow-up that wraps up some of the plotlines from TBE. We will see!
- Is this your first book?
It’s the first book I have had published, but not the first one I have written. Learning craft takes time, as does finding an agent or editor, and very few people get picked up for their first attempt at a novel (kudos to those who do, though!). I wrote two books prior to this one, which did not find a publisher. You can find longer writeups of my slog towards publication HERE.
- Why is so much lore left unexplained in The Book Eaters?
That’s a multi-layered answer! Firstly: scope and focus. I wanted a highly emotional story that centered on Devon and her son, and that needed tight focus. The story was already cumbersome because of the dual timeline structure, and diving more into world-building would have fractured the narrative structure irreparably.
Secondly, planning issues on my end: I assumed TBE would be a series initially and thought there’d be more time to look at the lore in other books, but that’s unlikely to happen now, ergo much of the world-building will go unused.
Thirdly: readership choices. I wrote this book to be cross-genre, and put lots of thought into what cross genre fiction looks like. In short, the more you explore world-building, the more SFF-genre your book becomes, and the less mainstream accessible your book becomes.
Mainstream readers don’t like as much world-building as fantasy readers do. In fact, some mainstream readers already find the book “too fantasy” for their tastes. If I want them to read it, I need to limit what’s in there. But because I reduced the amount that world-building intrudes to accommodate mainstream fiction readers, many fantasy fans are now dissatisfied, for which I am sorry.
The truth is, if you want a broad readership—and I do, I want a story most people can access—then you have to make everybody a little bit unhappy. It’s the difference between throwing a buffet for a large group of people, or cooking a tailored dinner for intimate friends; buffets can feed more people, but everyone present will see food they don’t like, as a result.
I hope that sounds helpful and not cavalier! Most of this comes from the perspective of not being able to treat writing like a hobby; I don’t have the luxury of failure, or a fallback career.
- Is Devon/cai/the book eaters supposed to be autistic?
No, sorry! I don’t know what an autistic book eater would look like as opposed to a neurotypical one. She is not written to be autistic, as a result. If autistic people resonate with her then I am very happy, but it’s a bonus and not intended as such.
EDIT for disclosure: I edited part of this answer because people on Tiktok completely misconstrued my answer, which referenced a common phenomenon that autistic writers often experience. In short, openly autistic human MCs are a tough sell in publishing, because neurotypical readers find it “niche” and prefer to see us otherised (eg, written as vulcans or elves or aliens or robots). This is a very real issue that we battle with, and makes pitching books with autistic MCs very challenging. (But it doesn’t change the fact that Devon is not written as autistic rep.)
6. Is Cai an allegory for disability?
No. Cai isn’t disabled, and isn’t an allegory for disability. If anything, he’s superpowered compared to the rest of his species, and any bias he experiences is a result of being othered, not disabled. The knights and the patriarchs fear their ciswomen and their dragons precisely because they are powerful, moreso than the average book eater, and that makes them dangerous in a carefully controlled social order.
7. Who are the heroes and villains? It’s unclear!
Everyone is a monster, including Devon. I sometimes see folks say they don’t really like her and she makes them feel uncomfortable. This is totally legit, because she is guilty of really terrible actions. She is not evil by her choice or her birth, but she arguably becomes that way. Some people become awful by inches and degrees over time, even when starting with the best of motivations and the purest of hopes. This book could absolutely have been written with Devon as antagonist, and if I ever write a sequel, you may well see her in that light.
8. What’s with all the secret societies and stuff?
Book Eater society is partly a nod to Anne Rice’s vampires and urban fantasy as a whole (the genre loves secret societies), and partly a reference to religious extremism more broadly (eg Westboro Baptist Church). It also borrows from real-life horror/crime, specifically modern cults. The book has been beta-read by a few cult survivors, for whose input I am very grateful.
9. Why does the book end so abruptly?
Matter of taste, I suppose. My key focus was to show Devon doing a terrible thing, and then explain how she got to the point of being that sort of a person. There is an epilogue but it’s not widely available, unfortunately! Reader reaction is something I’ll bear in mind for future books.
10. What’s the deal with Japan?
The original storyline was huge for this book, in planning. It encompassed Devon rescuing more than one person, travelling across continents, and a sub-plot with the Japanese book eaters, who have found ways to manage their mind eaters and construct a truly functional society. For a whole slew of reasons, mostly the book not having the space to include those things, all of that was left out, or left for future books.
A lot of readers already find TBE slow as-is, and weighing the text down with extra explanation, world-building, or additional complex side plots, just did not feel like a realistic option in the end.
11. Why do Devon and (spoiler) like each other SO quickly?
Partly it’s a fairytale thing: people fall in love very quickly in fairytales, and this was written with those tropes in mind. Partly it’s a strategic thing: I did initially think there’d be more books to develop something between the characters, but in the end there wasn’t enough space, so it was crammed in faster than I would have preferred. See above re abrupt ending stuff! 🙂
12. Is this suitable for YA?
Parent/teacher discretion on this one. I don’t think I’d give it to my teens, but not so much about the content, as the themes. There is no explicit sex on the page but there is quite a lot of violence, and storywise it is all about adult misery.
13. When can we read the epilogue?
If you missed out on the Waterstones special edition, not for awhile yet. There are plans afoot for the epilogue; hopefully it will be more widely available sometime next year. (I’m very sorry, but this one is out of my hands!)