A couple of weeks ago (before Book 5 was published) I was planning Book 6: Svalbard. I’ve been making notes on that since I started writing Book 4, last summer. In fact, the original idea for that book was a short story featuring Bill and Kim, set the day after Book 3 finishes. The plot, loosely, told of Kim’s journey to the Arctic island, the discovery of a small group of survivors based around the Millennial Seed Vault, how they’d survived, and then how they were rescued by Kim, Francois et al. That was the first half of the book. The second half featured Bill and how he, George, Mary and Sholto tried to forge a functioning democracy out of all the disparate survivors on Anglesey)
I’d been dipping in and out of this story, making notes here and there, thinking ‘ooh, trapped in an underground vault system - that’d be good’, and I’d write a few thousand words. Then I’d look at my photographs of Svalbard, jump back in time and write a scene about how the inhabitants reacted to the news of the outbreak, then skip forward to the rescue, then back to the scene with the polar bear, then forward and back and so on.
(Go on, tell me you don't want to find out what happens to the polar bears.)
When I came to juggling the notes in to order, I realised I’d made a couple of colossal errors. First, the whole point of the vault is to be a repository of last resort in case some natural disaster destroys the seed stock of entire country or region. Since these seeds are stored in sub-zero temperatures, no one could survive there from the outbreak until mid September.
That meant my whole society-in-an-underground-chamber plot was shelved.
The second problem came pretty quickly when I sat down to imagine how the small community on Svalbard might have survived. They get their electricity from a coal power plant, the fuel coming from mines actually on the island. If the power plant was destroyed, and if they’d kept the seed vault working by using the oil from the NATO supply dump (as described in Book 4), logically they would use a ship, moored offshore, as a mobile power plant. That means that the survivors are all on a boat, with power, and, therefore, safe from the undead.
Out went my rescue plot, and the 40,000 or so words I’d planned for this part of the story ended up being trimmed down to 5,000.
That story will be told, but not as Book 6: Svalbard. Which is a shame, because a photo like this would have been perfect as the cover for the book.
The idea will stay, but I think it will now form the prologue of Book ?: Wedding & War, but then again, I have just said that you shouldn’t listen to me when I say what’s coming next.
I am working on something. I hope it will be finished soon. Until it is (or at least until I’ve got a draft at least 60,000 words long with all the words on the correct pages, if not in the right sentences), I’m not going to say what.
(I will say that it’s going to be good, and I’ve got a slot with the cover designer booked for mid May.)