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