(Yes, there is a talking marmot in the series; image by Yves Tourigny)
By now, many of you may have seen the news that I’ve sold a YA trilogy to FSG Books for Young Readers, per the Publishers Lunch announcement. (There is also other brilliant news about this trilogy I can’t share quite yet, but perhaps you can guess given the trend re what’s happened with my other recent novels.)
Jeff VanderMeer’s JONATHAN LAMBSHEAD AND THE GOLDEN SPHERE, and the next two books in the planned Adventures of Jonathan Lambshead trilogy, about a boy who inherits his grandfather’s mansion on the condition he catalogue the contents, only to uncover not just a basement of collectibles, but three strange doors, evidence his grandfather did not die of natural causes but spectacularly unnatural ones, and clues to the family’s ties to an alternate Europe immersed in a war fought with WW1 technology and dark magic; to Wesley Adams at Farrar, Straus & Giroux Children’s, at auction, in a significant deal by Sally Harding at The Cooke Agency. (World English)
I’m excited about these books for a variety of reasons, one of them being that it continues the Lambshead story that I’ve been developing for the last fifteen or sixteen years. Long-time fans will recognize the Lambshead name from two anthologies I co-edited, Dr. Thackery T. Lambshead’s Pocket Guide to Eccentric & Discredited Diseases and the Dr. Thackery T. Lambshead Cabinet of Curiosities. For both books I had to create an extensive life for Dr. Lambshead and there was a lot of history and information in notebooks that never got onto the printed page. (It’s also an improbable ascension–Dr. Lambshead started out as a chapbook idea, and then grew and grew, published by an indie and then the majors, and now this…)
About five years ago, the character of Jonathan Lambshead leapt into my head, the idea of a grandson to whom his grandfather, Dr. Lambshead, was mysterious. A youth who had an affinity for the wilderness and for animals, which manifested in an empathy almost at times like magic. A youth who had grown up in England and the wilds of North Florida, much as I grew up in the British Commonwealth and then Gainesville and Tallahassee, Florida. Someone who was in some ways advanced for his age and in some ways much younger than his age.
So I let that percolate, in a space where I recall with affection the childhood and teenage favorites I loved growing up (I was always a soft touch for talking animals, so it should come as no surprise that there are talking animals in my series.) And in the same space rose up an parallel Earth called Aurora and a ruthless dictator (all too like, without my meaning it, a certain personage today) of a Franco-Germanic Empire whose sidekicks include the disembodied resurrected head of Napoleon as a military adviser (who lives atop a pneumatic column so he can look down on all he surveys). In opposition, a rag-tag opposition of Bavarian and Czech magicians (yes, there’s magic in the series) and a democratic Muslim Republic. Oh yes–there’s also a land bridge between England and the continent.
What is Jonathan Lambshead’s place in all of this? Well, he and his friends will have to find out–including the meaning of the three doors in Dr. Lambshead’s basement, the strange woman lurking in the shrubbery, and the marmot he encounters that seems preternatural in many ways. Not to mention the Golden Sphere of the title, which is perhaps more consciously elusive than one might expect. Along the way, expect an animated Eiffel Tower, a widening context in which we learn European expansion in Aurora’s timeline has been held in check for a variety of reasons, and some rather peculiar details about Jonathan’s childhood on the coast, near Yorkshire.
Of course, some things remain constants in most of my fiction and that won’t change here. The magic of a Prague character is steeped in the world of plants and fungus. The talking animals have their own agency and allow me to explore, through Jonathan’s connection to the natural world, many of the themes near and dear to my heart. There are also a host of secondary characters I’m having a lot of fun with and other elements that I think readers will enjoy. The fact that it’s all steeped in the world of Dr. Lambshead, which I know like the back of my hand, is a huge plus as well.