Way way back in the early 1990's I was at university and I was running an RPG campaign using a horrible mishmash home-grown system I had slung together. The setting was a place called the Lowlands. Instead of elves and dwarves, it was populated by a pack of oddities known as the insect-kinden. There was a Beetle intelligencer called Stenwold, a Mantis Weaponsmaster named Tisamon, a resistance leader in Myna by the name of Kymene. There was an empire of the Wasps poised to roll over the map.
In around 2004, and having amassed enough rejection slips to auto da fe a dozen heretics, I decided to start work on a Grand Project. I was feeling strongly as though I was running out of chances with this writing lark, and very much as though, if the next manuscript bit the dust like the last few (1) then I should probably give the business up as a bad job. In order to make that Grand Project a good one, therefore, I ransacked my past for an idea that had been with me a while, and grown and developed, and still held its appeal. There were actually a few other contenders, but what got resurrected was the insect-kinden and their world. I set to writing Empire in Black and Gold and, rather than submit that as soon as it was done, I didn't stop until I'd got Salute the Dark down because I knew that I'd not finish it otherwise, if Empire got knocked back.
It was my extreme good fortune that, amongst my submissions I sent the first few chapters of Empire to Mic Cheetham & Co, and a certain Simon Kavanagh who, thereafter, mercilessly badgered the publishing industry on my behalf until he convinced the then-editor of Tor, Peter Lavery, to take me on. The selling point that swung things was that four books were already in the bag and so Tor could turn them out at whatever rate of knots they liked. As they did. Empire hit the shelves in 2008.
I have, this evening, put down the last words of the first draft of Seal of the Worm, the tenth and final volume of Shadows of the Apt.
It has been a long and joyous run. There's still work to do — I need to go read the damn thing now and see whether or not it's turned into unreadable tosh since I wrote it, and it won't see the light of day until around 2014, but even so. Standing at the end of that road, looking back over all of those words, all of those battles and betrayals, twists of fate, all the many characters of the insect-kinden (2), it's a strange feeling.
And yes, I will go back to them. The plan's already there. But for now, who knows? Fresh fields and pastures new.
And yes, this does mean that if I suddenly drop dead now, you still get to finish the series.
(2) albeit that, owing to my particular machine-gun approach there are now not nearly so many of them.