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Annotation Alcatraz Author’s Foreword


This is probably a good place to talk about the shift from third person into first person.

The book was originally written in the third person. There was a narrator telling us this story–someone listed as “Cecil G. Bagsworth the Third” on the title page. (Cecil, by the way, was invented by my friend Dan Wells as a humorous alter ego. I borrowed him for this as an inside joke, but eventually cut him–then put him back in as Alcatraz’s Free Kingdoms editor.)

There was a joke inherent in the narrator guise for this book. As the novel progressed, you realized that the author of the book was indeed Alcatraz, who was writing it and talking about himself in the third person. This let me have all kinds of jokes where the narrator would exaggeratedly describe Alcatraz as being smart, witty, or handsome. It also let me get away with some very clever word plays.

The problem is, it was too clever. Meaning that it was something I found funny, but that undermined the book. Since it was so convoluted and strange, it distracted from the story and the characters. It also felt a little bit too much like the Lemony Snicket narrator used in the A Series of Unfortunate Events books.

Credit for getting me to change the book from third person to first person goes to my agent Joshua and his assistant Steve. Joshua was very firm on the need to swap out the third person narrator for a first person that would bring us closer to the character of Alcatraz, while at the same time give a more solid narrative reason for all of the diversions and asides in the book.

Once I came around to this suggestion–which didn’t take much–I realized that I’d need a foreword to explain why Alcatraz was writing this book. Now that the ‘third person who is the first person’ mechanic was gone, I could create and use a backstory for why Alcatraz is writing his memoirs, which I ended up really liking (far more than what I lost) for what it let me do.

This introduction not only lets me acclimatize readers to the difference between Librarian lands and the Free Kingdoms, but also lets me begin to establish the character of Alcatraz the failure–the person our hero will become. That gives some tension to the narrative, I think, as the reader wonders how Alcatraz ended up like that. This introduction gives a framework to the fictional publication to the book, giving us a story we can all–as readers–be part of: the resistance against the Librarians.

Assistant Peter’s note: I’ve put up the original third person versions of the first two chapters. You may enjoy comparing them to the final versions.


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