Sunday, 26 July 2020

Patrick Rothfuss's editor confirms she is yet to read a single word of THE DOORS OF STONE

In somewhat surprising news, Patrick Rothfuss's editor Betsy Wollheim has reported that she is yet to read any material from his next novel, The Doors of Stone, the third and concluding volume in The Kingkiller Chronicle, and notes a lack of communication on the book's progress.

A draft of The Doors of Stone, reportedly from 2013.

Rothfuss shot to fame with the first book in the trilogy, The Name of the Wind, in 2007. With over 10 million sales, The Name of the Wind became one of the biggest-selling debut fantasy novels of the century. The second book, The Wise Man's Fear, did as well on release in 2011. Nine years later, the third book remains unpublished.

The Doors of Stone is probably the second-most-eagerly-awaited fantasy novel of the moment, behind only George R.R. Martin's The Winds of Winter, which it actually exceeds in waiting time (though only by five months). Martin has provided updates on The Winds of Winter, albeit extremely infrequent ones, but has recently reported much more significant progress being made. Rothfuss, on the other hand, has maintained near constant zero radio silence on the status of book in recent years, despite posting a picture of an apparently semi-complete draft in 2013 that was circulating among his beta readers.

Reasons for the delay, as with Martin, have been speculated. Rothfuss has reported bouts of ill health, as well as trauma related to family bereavements. Rothfuss was also closely involved in an attempt to launch a multimedia adaptation of his books, which would have involved both a trilogy of films based directly on the novels and a prequel TV series revolving around the parents of his protagonist, Kvothe. However, the TV show was cancelled mid-development at Showtime, apparently due to massive cost overruns on their Halo television series, and a new network has not yet picked up the series. The movies also fell out of active development when director Sam Raimi, who had expressed interest, decided to move forward with a different project. Both projects now appear to be on the backburner at Lionsgate (unsurprisingly, the pandemic has not helped this situation).

Rothfuss has also been involved in charity work, blogging, video game commentary, spin-off material and contributing writing to other projects, causing comparisons to be drawn with Martin's similar engagement in secondary projects, which some commentators have speculated is the main cause of delays on the books. Without having access to an author's schedule, it is of course impossible to say if this is really the case, only that the perception of it being the case becomes unavoidable if the author in question is refusing to provide concrete updates on their book progress whilst discussing other, unrelated work in multiple public communications. Questions of ethics and obligations on the part of authors to their readers have circulated on this subject for decades, ever since the delays to Harlan Ellison's The Last Dangerous Visions (originally due to be published in 1974, Ellison was allegedly still occasionally promising to publish it at the time of his death in 2018) stretched into the decades, and have been debated ad nauseam online enough to avoid going over them again here, suffice to say that the tolerance for such activities will vary dramatically by reader.

"This article is right: authors don't owe their readership books, but what about the publishers who paid them? Book publishing is not as lucrative as many other professions, and publishers rely on their strongest sellers to keep their companies (especially small companies like DAW) afloat. When authors don't produce, it basically f***s their publishers...When I delayed the publication of book two, Pat was very open with his fans--they knew what was happening. I've never seen a word of book three."

Wollheim's statement is surprising, however. Martin has noted being in communication with his editors on numerous occasions, flying to New York to provide in-person updates and apologise for the book's lateness, and periodically submitting completed batches of chapters for them to work on whilst he continues to write new material. In the case of The Kingkiller Chronicle, Wollheim reports not having read a single word of The Doors of Stone in the nine years since The Wise Man's Fear was published, which is mind-boggling. If Rothfuss had a semi-complete draft in 2013 that he was circulating to friends and early readers, the question arises why he didn't also share this draft with his publishers. Furthermore, if the book's non-appearance since 2013 indicates considerable problems with this draft (as would appear inevitable), it would also appear to be common sense to share that draft with his publishers to see if they agree. It's not uncommon for authors to believe their latest novel is poor and a disaster and threaten to delete it and having to be talked off the ledge by their editors, since they've been working so closely on the material that they've lost all objectivity.

Normally, of course, authors only share completed manuscripts (at least in first draft) with their editor, but when the author in question is a decade behind schedule and one of the biggest-selling authors in the publishers' stable, that normally changes to having much more regular feedback.

Although she notes the impact a long-missing manuscript can have on the margins of a small publisher like DAW, Wollheim notes no ill feeling towards Rothfuss and she continues to be proud of him and the work they've done in the first two volumes:

"If I get a draft of book three by surprise some time, I will be extraordinarily happy...joyous, actually, and will read it immediately with gusto. I love Pat's writing. I will instantly feel forgiving and lucky. Lucky to be his editor and publisher."

More news, as normal, as I get it.


Gaston de Foix said...

Wert can you please link to the source of Wollheim's quotes? And is the indented quote in the middle of the article a quote from her? Thanks for the clarification.

Andy said...

Much more could be said about the unique structural problems of the Kingkiller Chronicle that make his task worse than the Meereenese knot or the mess Brandon Sanderson inherited from Robert Jordan.

Both of the latter series could be expanded to reach a conclusion beyond the initially planned number of books. But Rothfuss created the frame story that Kvothe only has three days to tell the Chronicler his story before the latter has to leave and it seems physically impossible to address everything that has been mentioned so far in a single book.

Rothfuss has really written himself into a corner and I see no solution that does not disappoint. Either he crams years of Kvothe's adventures into a single tale that is sure to be unsatisfying or he breaks the frame story with an interruption that prevents Kvothe from finishing.

The latter would also be pretty unsatisfying, but I'd rather have a broken promise and rejiggered narrative than no narrative at all.

The saving grace is Rothfuss is a beautiful writer, and I wish he'd just give his fans more prose than obsess about structural problems.

Unknown said...

I am personally not what someone would call an upset fan at the lack of a third book. It’s not the lack of book that upsets me, it’s the lack of updates regarding it. I’d rather Rothfuss be truthful and upfront with the millions of fans that admire him and his work. Most of us would understand if he came out and said, “the book will be done in 2025” or “I have decided to never write this book”. Instead, he keeps silent, while we all hang on the edges of our seats, waiting, biting at the chance to beg for answers. It’s almost cruel to meet us with silence.

David Millington said...

I had a look at the comments below the Facebook post and I have to say they're pretty depressing. I'd always assumed that I'd get to read the book some day and that the delays were due to a combination of personal issues and perfectionism;I can sympathise with the former and the latter is a feature not a bug. It is starting to seem like he's lost interest and we make never see the book at all.

The delays to 'Winds of Winter' are understandable to a degree. The plotting challenges to dealing with the number of characters, timelines, geography and mechanics of the monster that ASOIAF has become must be immense. Plus GRRM has been (productively) distracted by creating the biggest TV show in the world and other professional gigs. Pat Rothfuss doesn't have these excuses.

I was listening to TNOTW and WMF on Audible (also recommended - UK narrator) this time last year, as I stayed in hospital for a couple of weeks with my wife and newborn son, and they are exceptional. I will say this - Patrick Rothfuss is one of a tiny handful of writers who could make the wait worthwhile. Despite the moaning I'm sending best wishes and love, I hope all's well. Sorry to be an entitled reader dick.

Joshua said...

My pet theory: he knows he's burned all the trust people are willing to give him, so the legendary "second series" got the final and definitive axe (after the movie/TV stuff went sideways) and now he's gotta figure out how to rewrite the end of Doors to make *this* trilogy self-contained.

Unknown said...


Marco Esquandolis said...

Sorry. I don't agree with the "authors don't owe their readers anything" idea. I mean, when I spent my money to buy the first books in the series, and then spent the time to read them, there was an understanding that eventually I would get the rest of the story. I mean, would want to buy 2/3 of a book? Would you bother sinking your time, money, and energy into something that you knew ahead of time the author would be either unable to, or too lazy to finish?

Waitingnomore said...

I give up and no longer can I wait I’ve have quietly waiting for years It was a tale of three parts imbued with a silence of three parts but the third silence being the most terrible of the three! It is the kind of silence that has settled into the floor boards of a small town inn A silence so great that not even whisper of the third and final part of this tale can escape. Sadly it’s locked behind the doors of stone

Adam Whitehead said...

It looks like Wollheim has deleted the original post, as I suspected might be the case once her comments got wider traction.

Abalieno said...

No one remembers that Rothfuss announced, back when the first book was published, that he had ALL THREE books completed and to be published each following year. This was announced by himself on his own website officially.

Then he apologized that the editing of the second book could be done within a year because of family issues. And then the rest happened.

He had the three books written, the other two needing editing, and he was committed to publish every year. Then he changed his mind after he got popular and felt more pressure and he decided that the two other books had to be rewritten entirely.

It's not an absolute law, but whenever an author betrays his own plan, the result is usually worse. Martin fucked up when after A Storm of Swords removed the time gap that the books were driving toward, and then even split the characters, and Rothfuss for what I described here.

Just bad planning for projects whose ambition surpasses the ability to manage it of the same authors.

Abalieno said...

Actually, it's still there:

"We were sure we could have book two out in a year"

"“I thought you said that books two and three were done?”
"I did. It wasn’t a lie."

"In some ways all three books were done way back in 2000 when I managed to write the story all the way through to the end. But there’s a HUGE difference between a story that’s finished, and one that is polished, revised, and refined into something really, really good."

"I tend to revise A LOT. Over the years these three books have been put through hundreds of revisions." (this in 2008)

"What I have right now is good, but it’s not the best book possible. I want to give you a great book."

"That said, I’d rather disappoint you a little now by delaying things, than by crapping out some half-finished turd of a book and disappointing you a LOT in April."

...he could as well fed the text to a GPT-3 AI, and it'd surely have produced something in 9 years.

Unknown said...

I am going to assume that he knows the basics of the story and would just ask him to not overthink it

Andy said...

Authors always lie when they say they know the ending from the beginning. Look at the proposals Martin pitched for Game of Thrones and JMS for Babylon 5,both now online. The most fascinating is Christopher Tolkien's 1000+ pages on the composition of the LOTR where you can see the nature of the ring develop over time and Strider change from a hobbit to a king. But other scenes like Gollum finding the ring have a first draft that is dramatically close to the final. As much as I hate GRRMs process I would love to see his drafts. A little less so for Rothfuss; alternative versions of Kvothe don't sound as interesting.

Korakys said...

This is pretty bad. Still it's not The Sea Beggars

*stares off mournfully into the distance*

insurrbution said...

"I mean, would want to buy 2/3 of a book?"

Except it's not - it's a trilogy of three novels, with the first 2 novels already published.

Buying 2/3 of a book would equate to only buying The Fellowship of the Ring and The Two Towers. The Lord of the Rings is NOT a trilogy, or a book series - it's ONE novel. Rothfuss has promised three novels in his trilogy.

Your comment should read "Why would anyone buy an incomplete book series?"

Anonymous said...

Rothfuss advertised the books as part of a completed story that would come out in relatively quick succession, his failure to deliver the full story after 13 long years is ethical fraud in my view. I understand unforeseen delays but even his publisher has lost faith and patience.
Nobody pays for part of story, the guy owes millions of people the finished product or a refund.
He makes a big deal about raising money for charity but can't be bothered fulfilling the professional obligation that established his platform in the first place. It all screams virtue signaling and general contempt for the professional obligations that we little people have to abide by.

Anonymous said...

You can't escape the wayback machine! The following is the link to his blog in 2007:

Why so long? / I thought I read somewhere that you already had the second two books written?

The trilogy is already written all the way through to the end, but there is still some editorial work to be done. I want the second one to be at least as good as the first, if not better.

Sean said...

The 3rd book will be about kvothes Minecraft skills.

Thedudeisaconman said...

He's been coasting his whole life off of the expectations surrounding this last book. He will only publish it when he finally uses up all the goodwill of his fans.

Basically who can manage to care anymore? There are other books to read.