By Tony Riches
For most writers, completing one book would seem more than enough of an achievement, so why would anyone make a commitment to writing three? I’d just reviewed Pat Barker’s wartime Life Class Trilogy for my blog and was reading Conn Iggulden’s impressive Wars of the Roses trilogy, when the answer occurred to me.
There are real benefits of tackling any story as a trilogy, and now I’ve written one I’m convinced it’s something any novelist should consider. For me, the greatest benefit is synergy, defined in the Cambridge English Dictionary as ‘the combined power of a group of things when they are working together that is greater than the total power achieved by each working separately.’
Put simply, the scope of a trilogy offers writers a liberating sense of space and freedom, as ideas hinted at in the first book can be developed and explored over the rest. This means the complexity of relationships evolve over time, and the social, political and economic context can shift over years – or even generations, offering readers a much more ‘immersive’ experience.
There are also practical and commercial considerations. If you follow the fashion for longer books, you only have one opportunity to sell it and the promotion can only begin once it is available for pre-order. I was able to promote book one of my trilogy while writing book two (and it became a best-seller in the UK, US and Australia.) Readers began contacting me to ask when the next book in the trilogy would be available and I soon built an international reader base for the trilogy.
Similarly, although each book works as a ‘stand-alone’, I’ve seen evidence in my sales that people reading them in the wrong order tend to buy the others. I also hadn’t realised Amazon (and other retailers) are happy to promote and market a trilogy (or any series) as a discounted single purchase, which is good value for readers and means your books are more likely to be ‘discovered’.
Finally, a trilogy offers a framework for developing wok on an ‘epic’ scale. In my case, I realised there were countless novels about the court of King Henry VIII and his six wives, yet I could find almost nothing about the early Tudors who founded the dynasty. The idea for The Tudor Trilogy was that King Henry VIII’s father could be born in book one, ‘come of age’ in book two, and rule England in book three, so there would be plenty of scope to explore his life and times.
The first book of the trilogy was my fourth novel, so I had a good idea about the structure. In book one, OWEN, a Welsh servant of Queen Catherine of Valois, the lonely widow of King Henry V, falls in love with her and they marry in secret. Their eldest son Edmund Tudor marries the thirteen year-old heiress Lady Margaret Beaufort, and fathers a child with her to secure her inheritance. The birth of her son, Henry, nearly kills her, and when her husband dies mysteriously, his younger brother Jasper Tudor swears to protect them.
In book two, JASPER, they flee to exile in Brittany and plan to one day return and make Henry King of England. King Richard III has taken the throne and has a powerful army of thousands – while Jasper and Henry have nothing. Even the clothes they wear are paid for by the Duke of Brittany. So how can they possibly invade England and defeat King Richard at the Battle of Bosworth?
In the final book of the trilogy, HENRY, I explore how he brought peace to England by marrying Elizabeth of York, the beautiful daughter of his enemy, King Edward IV. The trilogy offers me the scope and depth to help readers understand how Henry’s second son became King Henry VIII, the tyrant who transformed the history of England forever.
Tony Riches is a full time author of best-selling fiction and non-fiction books. He lives by the sea in Pembrokeshire, West Wales with his wife and enjoys sea and river kayaking in his spare time. For more information about Tony’s other books please visit his popular blog, The Writing Desk and his WordPress website and find him on Facebook and Twitter @tonyriches. His latest book JASPER, Book Two of The Tudor Trilogy is available now.