Trudie Skies has been living inside fantasy worlds ever since she discovered that reality doesn’t quite live up to the hype. Through the magic of books, she wishes to share these worlds of hope and heroes with other weary souls. Living in North East England, Trudie spends most of her free time daydreaming about clouds, devouring whatever fantasy books or video games she can get her hands on, and chasing after her troublesome dogs, who would like to reassure you they are very good boys.
Her debut YA fantasy series, Sand Dancer, was published through Uproar Books. Trudie is now writing adult gaslamp fantasy with her new series, The Cruel Gods.
First of all, tell me a little about your series and introduce us to the sequel(s).
Hi all! I’m Trudie Skies, author of The Cruel Gods trilogy; an adult gaslamp fantasy featuring magical portals, gothic cosmic deities, quaint Britishisms, and steampunk vibes. The first two books – The Thirteenth Hour and The Children of Chaos - are available now with the third and final book, The End of Time, hopefully releasing in 2023.
The Thirteenth Hour begins in the steam-powered city of Chime, a melting pot of twelve unique races and domains belonging to twelve all-powerful gods. These gods dictate the lives of their mortals, but not all are happy with this arrangement. The story is centered around Kayl, a member of the Godless, a group of heathens who wish to be free of the gods, and Quen, a Warden who helps police mortals in the gods’ name.
Together, Kayl and Quen investigate a series of murders which leads to a mystery that will change the gods and Chime forever. While the first book is mostly based in Chime, the sequel, The Children of Chaos, continues the story by visiting the domains of the gods.
Do you find that most of your readers continue to read the whole series? Why do you think that is?
I’d hope so! So far most readers have enjoyed the world opening up from Chime in the first book to exploring more of the domains within the sequel. I also have some eager readers waiting not so patiently for the third book! Many readers and reviewers have commented on how unique the worldbuilding is, so if you’re looking for fantasy that’s a bit different from sword-swinging, then The Cruel Gods series could be for you!
How difficult is it to add new characters in a sequel into already established relationships?
I wouldn’t say it has been difficult, though I think for me the struggle is not adding too many new characters that overshadow the characters from book one! Book two introduces a few new characters that have since become reader favorites, so I’m glad they were able to come along for the journey. Book three will also spend some time with a much neglected race, the Fauna!
Is it difficult to continue with worldbuilding for a world you have already built in book 1? Do you find it easier to switch locations for the sequel and start again with worldbuilding?
If anything, the sequel made it much easier for me! When I wrote The Thirteenth Hour, I created twelve domains but knew we’d get no chance to properly explore them within the scope of the story, so the reader only experienced one of the domains. However, the sequel threw open the doors and gave me an opportunity to truly explore these domains except for one that I’m planning on visiting in the third book - the jungles of Juniper.
Entering the domains in the sequel meant a lot more world-building for these specific locations, which are all quite different from each other. The domains are based around the gods, so while one of them is a clockwork city full of brass contraptions, another is located underwater, another is inside a volcano with flowing lava, and so on. The story brings the characters here with a purpose beyond indulging my worldbuilding fix, however!
I’m lucky that I have so many locations that my characters can visit throughout the trilogy. But the third and final book will shake things up!
Have you ever been stymied by a worldbuilding or plot detail from book 1 that is very inconvenient to deal with or write your way around in subsequent books?
I think every author has had a moment when they’ve banged their head against a wall and wondered if they could change a certain detail from book one months after its release! I like to outline my overall series, so I knew exactly how book three was going to end before I’d even written the first book, and this planning has saved me a few headaches. So far so good, anyway!
Would you say your craft has improved with the subsequent books?
Yes, definitely! I’ve struggled with getting the pace right in older books, but feel like I did a much better job of structuring and pacing out the sequel. The sequel does come with a lot more action and revelations!
Though the sequel is also far ruder and cruder than book one. I really leaned into the ‘fantasy of bad manners’ vibe there.
The first book in the series, The Thirteenth Hour, got to SPFBO8 finals, and BBNYA 2022 finals. How did you feel about it? Does it put pressure on your shoulders?
I’m absolutely delighted that The Thirteenth Hour has been so well received! I never expected my chaotic book to reach as many people as it has, and that certainly did add extra pressure when it came to writing the sequel. Sequels are hard at the best of times as there’s the fear of middle book syndrome, and trying to replicate the essence of what made the first book appealing to readers. My goal was to expand the world while also raising the stakes. There’s a lot of darkness in the first book with humor to balance it out, and I believe I’ve successfully captured that in the sequel.
As I’m working on the third book now, the stakes are even higher as I aim to deliver the promise I set out in the first few chapters of book one – dethroning the gods! Of course, writing the end to a trilogy comes with its own set of pressures in terms of wrapping everything up and landing a satisfying ending. Come back to me next year to see if I managed it!
You recently participated in an anthology called the Anatomy of Fear, could you tell us a little bit more about it?
The Anatomy of Fear is an upcoming anthology of horror and dark fantasy by some of the best names in indie publishing! Each story is based on a part of the body. I chose to write about blood, thus my story is a gaslamp fantasy based around vampirism. Our Kickstarter for the anthology was recently successful thanks to the efforts of HL Tinsley (Author of gaslamp fantasy We Men of Ash and Shadow), and I can’t wait to share more of this anthology in the coming months.
Do you have all the timeline planned for the full series?
The first two books are available now in ebook, paperback, and hardback, with audiobook for the first but not yet for the sequel, though I’m hoping there will be an audiobook for that in the future! I’m currently working on the third and final book that I aim to release in the later half of 2023.
After that, I plan to return to Chime in 2024 with a new prequel series that will explore the social issues of Chime’s citizens and the personal relationships with their gods in more detail.
Do you have any marketing tips for sequels?
When I asked other amazing authors for advice on this, their advice was to focus on marketing the first book! And then hopefully readers will love it enough to continue with the series.