I’ve been thinking about this series for years, all the way back to the Molly Fyde books. The idea of a lighthouse operator in outer space appealed to me. The desolation, the solitude, plus all the wild events that might break up the monotony of staring at the stars the way lighthouse operators must’ve stared at the sea.
The original idea was to write a short story for one particular beacon, and then move on to another beacon. I would invite other authors to come up with their own beacon stories. The potential here is endless. Anything that might happen in outer space could be told from the perspective of a beacon operator. And these operators could come from all walks of life.
This last point is the most important, in my opinion. The stark setting of the beacons brings the characters into sharp relief. This series was always going to be heavily character-driven, which are my favorite works to write. When I sat down and wrote the first story, I realized before I was even done that this nameless character was going to be the subject of a full novel. By the time I had a rough draft of part one, I had outlines for all five parts.
Why release this series in parts? For several reasons. The most important to me is the ability to slow down the reading process and have each work linger with the reader for a while. When you order a five-course meal, the chef doesn’t bring it all out at once. He or she controls the timing of each dish, making sure you digest and savor as you go. Even though I’m going to release a print omnibus (and eventually an ebook omnibus), I hope readers take a while to pause between each section. The first four parts tell their own stories, but all weave together and culminate in the fifth.
I’ve seen several reviews that claim this is the best serialized work they’ve ever read, and that makes my heart sing. I don’t serialize lightly. I draw from my love of comic books and TV shows, which use small arcs that contribute to a larger arc. This isn’t a novel chopped up into pieces; it is deliberately written to be read in this fashion. It’s also affordable. At 99 cents apiece, the entire series costs slightly less than I would charge if I released it as a full novel. I also lose readers along the way, which isn’t good from a financial perspective. But writing the works that I love, and releasing them in the way that I think adds the most to the reading experience, has never been bad for my writing career. By not caring about maximizing my income, my income has never been a problem.
So how do you outline a work like this? The crazy thing is that I published part one before I’d written a word of part two, much less parts three, four, or five. As I was writing the first part, the entire story began to form in my head, or at least the major plot beats that would tell the overall arc. Part of the thrill of writing a serialized work is publishing as you go, getting positive feedback, which makes you want to work hard at the rest of the series. My best works have been serialized, and I credit much of this to the feedback loop of writing before a live audience. If I wrote the series in full and then just staggered the uploads, I wouldn’t have this feedback loop. It’s crucial for me. WOOL, SAND, and now BEACON 23 have all been written in this manner, and these are not only my best selling works but possibly my best written.
What inspired the story? Why is it so dark at times? Why is it so emotionally driven? I credit this to changes in my life, living on the road and out of a suitcase for the past few months, and a move back to the sea. All of my works are autobiographical to some degree, but this one very much so. That’s not why the protagonist is nameless, however. The reason for that is related to the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. There’s an idea behind this series that I spell out in a note to the reader in part five. I’ve always wondered why we don’t have a Tomb to the Unknown Dissenter. That’s who this series is dedicated to, all the people out there saddened by violence, even if they understand it is sometimes, tragically, necessary.
So that’s it. A look at the series that has somehow taken off similar to WOOL, something that I never thought I’d see again. I hope you enjoy the works. Here are links to all five, in case you want to get started: