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S.F. author helping write episodic novel about magic and Cold War history

SANTA FE, N.M. — A popular Santa Fe sci-fi/fantasy author is part of an innovative literary collaboration under the auspices of the website serialbox.com.

Ian Tregillis

Ian Tregillis

The author is Ian Tregillis and he’s been collaborating in the writing of the genre novel “The Witch Who Came in From the Cold.”

Set in Prague, the novel puts an alternate-history twist on the Cold War by imagining that if magic were real, spies would be at the front lines, said Leah Withers,Serial Box publicity director.

On Feb. 8 the first episode of Season 2 of “The Witch” is to be released. The 13 episodes are to be released weekly to ebook and audio; each episode is about 40 minutes. Serial Box delivers the installments to digital devices.

Tregillis said he’s been writing three episodes in the second season – No. 3 (“Old Game, New Players”), No. 9 (“Aftermath”) and the concluding episode (“We All Fall Down”). He also wrote three episodes for the novel’s first season.

“I’m the sole writer (of my episodes) but I write in consultation with the other writers on the team,” Tregillis said. “Before we start writing, we have a pretty detailed idea of plot progression and story. But once you’re writing episodes, you find yourself needing more detail than what’s in the outline. If I make a decision, or if I forgot something, I make sure it doesn’t break the season-long plan.”

bks_j29jan_tregillis2He’s had a similar, yet different, collaborative writing experience with editors George R.R. Martin and Melinda Snodgrass of the “Wild Cards” series of sci-fi novels. Tregillis contributed to about five of the 23 books in that series. He said the two series are similar in that there’s a lot of give-and-take and negotiation and cooperation. But they differ in that Martin or Snodgrass would have a concept or broad outline, which is shared with the writers in the consortium; authors then pitch story ideas, Tregillis said.

Serial Box says that its digital model blends story production and distribution practices from TV serials, narrative podcasting and book publishing.

“I think publishing, traditional publishing, has been in flux, at least in the genre world. Sci-fi/fantasy has seen a rise in ebooks. Publishing houses have been closing imprints, merging. In the 10 years I’ve been a novelist, the publishing world has been changing,” Tregillis said. “This model is a nice angle to find a niche for readers.”

Serial Box co-founder Julian Yap said in an email why and how Tregillis was picked for “The Witch” writing team. “Ian,” Yap said, “was one of the top names on our wish list due to his prior work – particularly ‘The Milkweed Triptych.’ Lindsay (Smith) and Max (Gladstone) commented that ‘ideally, we’d liked to find an author who writes like Ian Tregillis,’ and I said, ‘Well, why don’t we just ask Ian?'” Smith and Gladstone are other writers for the series.

In putting together “wish lists,” Yap said, Serial Box and the project’s lead author consider established best-selling authors, talented newcomers “and everything in between.”

When not writing episodes or whole novels, Tregillis works as a physicist at Los Alamos National Laboratory.

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