My Love Letter to Brooklyn, and How it Relates to Natalie

I’ve lived in Brooklyn for ten years now, and one of my favorite things about it is the Brooklyn Bridge. The story of how the Bridge came to be is truly epic, and the Bridge itself is a thing of utter beauty. I have crossed it by car, bicycle, and foot; in the sun, the rain and the snow; and I have stared at it from train windows. I never get tired of it. I love it desperately, just as I love my adopted hometown. I guess it was inevitable that I would wind up writing a book about it.

Or, I should say, it was inevitable that I’d cannibalize the first book I ever wrote, which happened to be about Brooklyn, and try and turn it into something great. And get this: it was a romance novel. Hilarious, right?

I called it Gravesend. It wound up being something closer to a psychological thriller, but the original project was to write a romance novel. I did a tremendous amount of research into Coney Island, Victorian psychology, dining, painting, and eighteenth and nineteenth century medicine (like hydropathy, phrenology, magnetism…guess what I did with that research)…and I wrote a four-hundred page novel that, trust me, was awful. But that’s how I learned, with the help of a few very dedicated teachers, to write fiction.

Then I put it away and a few months later wrote the first draft of the book that eventually became The Boneshaker (I guess you’ve got to write something terrible before you write something remotely good). Now here I am, something like seven or eight years later, and while most of Gravesend will never, ever see light of day, it turns out there was a reason I did all that research.

It turns out I know a whole heck of a lot about Coney Island in the last quarter-century of the 1800’s.  About eight months ago Nathan and I were watching a documentary on the building of the Brooklyn Bridge, which was taking place about the same time. This is how stories happen for me: stuff just all of a sudden comes together (usually because Nathan makes me watch a documentary or sends me a weird link or article or something). What came together just then was a book about Clever Jack, who was turned away from Hell by the Devil himself, forced to walk the earth with nothing but a piece of coal to start his own place. The original plan was to write it as a novella and move on to the next part of Natalie’s story, but a couple very smart people (namely my agent and editor at Clarion) convinced me to write it as a book. That book is The Broken Lands.

Now, how, apart from having Clever Jack in it, does The Broken Lands relate to Natalie’s adventures in The Boneshaker? In order to answer that, let’s look at a few questions that I’ve been asked pretty consistently in the year since The Boneshaker was released.

  • FAQ: Are you going to write more about Natalie?
  • FAQ: What’s the deal with the phantasmata?
  • FAQ: Simon says Natalie’s place is at the middle of a firestorm. What does that mean?
  • FAQ: What’s the deal with Simon Coffrett? What is a jumper?
  • FAQ: What’s the deal with Jack, the drifter with the lantern?

The answer to the first question is a simple, emphatic yes. I’m working on the next part of Natalie’s story right now. The reason there are loose ends in The Boneshaker is that the story isn’t over; it’s just beginning. Here’s as clear as I can be without spoilers: you’ve met the uber-villain, and you’ve been given the big conflict. In The Broken Lands, you’ll learn more about both of them, and about what Natalie and her friends are really up against in Arcane. You’ll get to see some old friends again, and you’ll meet some new ones. As for the second, third, and fourth questions: there is more information about every single one of them in The Broken Lands. The fifth is, more or less, the point of the book.

Of main characters, there are two: Sam, a fifteen year-old Coney Island card sharp, and Jin, also fifteen, who is one-third of the itinerant Fata Morgana Fireworks Company. I can’t wait for you to meet them, and I hope you’ll love them as much as I do.  Of villains, there are two or three or four or more, depending on how you calculate.If you’ve read The Boneshaker, you know how I feel about my villains.  I’m pretty excited for you to meet them as well. Then, publisher willing, we’ll return to Natalie and Arcane, where, as always, there are strange things happening at the crossroads. In the meantime, the countdown is on! One year to go.



  1. I am reading the current draft of The Broken Lands… it is full of so much Win!

    Sam is fantastic, Jin is a bad ass and Walter Mapp is Tom Waits 🙂

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