Fantasy writer Will Wight has two surprises for readers – release dates for the final book of his longrunning Cradle fantasy series and the first book in his new science-fantasy series The Last Horizon. The popular fantasy author has a busy 2023 planned, with his Cradle series reaching brick and mortar bookstores for the first time thanks to a Kickstarter that raised over $850,000 last year. While the first three Cradle books will hit traditional book stores later this month, Wight also made the surprise announcement that The Captain, the first book in his new series The Last Horizon, will be released on April 4th. What’s more, the final book in the Cradle series, titled Waybound, will be released on June 6th.
Wight is one of a growing number of popular authors who have found success outside of traditional publishing career. The Cradle series, which Wight describes as “sort of like kung fu movies or shown anime in a Chinese-inspired fantasy world where people just get stronger and stronger until eventually they’re punching Godzilla in the face,” was previously distributed exclusively through Amazon and Audible. Wight grew his audience and fanbase on platforms like Reddit instead of through book tours or traditional marketing.
“I think that a lot of what the internet has done is it’s allowed us to cut out the middleman,” Wight said when asked about the internet’s role in growing his career. “If you’re a fantasy fan and you’re out looking for books of your own to read, you go to some of these places [like Reddit]. As a reader, I’d go to Reddit and r/Fantasy and all these places, and that’s where I would look for recommendations and new, upcoming stuff that I hadn’t heard of. So when I was starting out, all I did was I went, ‘Okay, where would I go as a reader to find out where my book would be?’ And then I tried to figure out how do I get my books talked about there.”
Wight noted that fantasy fans online seem to be very hungry for new content and things to read, so it wasn’t necessarily an issue with finding an audience. “You don’t have to chase them down. They are trying to chase you down,” Wight said of online fans. “They’re actively looking for new things to read. So because of that, as long as your stuff is in their way and it is good and they enjoy it, they will keep coming back for more. They’re pushing you to get more out faster so that they can read more. And that’s been very cool.”
While Wight has been an established author with a sizable fanbase for years, winning multiple awards on Reddit’s large Fantasy subreddit and landing on the New York Times’ bestseller list several times, it won’t be until this month that his books will be sold in physical stores. Wight raised over $850,000 on Kickstarter last year to help fund the production of the first three novels in the Cradle series, which was over 10 times the amount he and his team predicted. Because of the increased scale (and an ongoing paper shortage), it took much longer than expected to actually get Wight’s books into stores.
When asked if there was a feeling of validation as an author for finally getting his books into stores, Wight said that it was “very cool” but not necessarily validating. “For the first few years I was writing, it felt like, ‘I’ll feel like I made it when I get into bookstores,’” Wight said. “But that eventually faded because I mean, we’ve hit the New York Times bestseller list. We’ve sold so many books. More importantly, we’ve just got such fans. And most of the books I read now are digital. I read on the Kindle, I read on web novels, I read just all this stuff online. So it’s not to me personally as a reader, the mark of a real book like it was before. When I was growing up, it felt like if it’s in the bookstore, it’s a real book. And that’s how I felt the first few years I was writing. And that has kind of gone away with time, but it’s still a special treat. It’s still something I’m looking forward to.”
Wight’s new book series, The Last Horizon, represents a new genre for the author – science-fantasy. The book series follows a magic starship dealing with high-level galactic threats, with each character representing a different kind of trope of science-diction or fantasy genre. The captain of the ship is an archmage, while other crew members are armor-clad super-soldiers or mech-summoning sentai warriors. “It’s a big melting pot of stuff that I enjoyed,” Wight said. One big inspiration for the series is that the ship’s crew is, in Wight’s words, “someone who completed their story.” They’re the best of the best, folks who could have been the protagonists of their own book series, but are now working together on even bigger threats.
The first book, titled The Captain, will explore the crew dynamic of the ship and introduce the various characters, before diving into adventures in subsequent books. However, Wight noted that he wasn’t too interested in exploring the various characters’ pasts in spinoff series, because he’d rather just write stories about all of the characters together in the future.
When we dug into process and juggling writing two books at the same time, Wight mentioned that The Last Horizon was actually delayed so he could finish the last book in his Cradle series, leading to both books finishing up around the same time. However, Wight typically tries to turn around a book in a six month stretch, focusing on making the best “six month book” he could instead of trying to perfect each book he wrote. It’s an acknowledgement of the hustle of being a modern day fantasy writer, one where writers don’t have the luxury of putting out a single book series over the course of a career. Wight did reveal that his writing process did come with a few perks – he does a lot of writing while on a cruise ship.
“I usually like to take large blocks of time to write a book,” Wight said. “So I isolate two to three weeks at a time. And so I go to a cabin, or I go on a cruise, and I get to a point where I’m isolated. Then I just do nothing but write all day for two, three weeks at a time. And I get most of the first rough draft of a book done during that time. And then I go home, and I finish out the draft and edit it during normal working hours.” Wight admitted that it was easier to write in large chunks of time, because it’s easy to get distracted to write during “normal business hours.” And he also said that it was easier to write on a cruise than in a cabin because there’s no cell phone service nor is there a need to venture out to get supplies. He did joke that writing fantasy novels on cruises seemed to match up well with people’s perceptions of full-time authors do.
Wight finished the interview by answering the age-old question of what advice he’d give to people trying to make it as a writer today. “When I talk to people about starting to become a fantasy novelist, usually they start asking me questions from the wrong place,” Wight said. “They usually start asking me questions based on the assumption that their book is already really good and people are going to love it, and they just need to know how to market it. In my experience, most books that are written are not really great and people are not going to love them. They’re just okay. So I feel like many people would benefit from being asked ‘How good is your book really? And how can you make it better?’”
Wight recommended getting feedback and trying to find ways of improving the book to make it more appealing to readers, which led to his second piece of advice. “A writer’s objective is not really to sell books. Their objective is you want to find readers who are genuinely going to love this story,” Wight continued. “You want to find people who are going to think your book is is going to be their favorite book. And if you’re looking at that with your target audience in mind and you have them at the forefront of your thoughts, you’re going to know how to build your story better. So, maybe your target audience doesn’t need a romance subplot. Maybe they do. Maybe they really love long books. Maybe they really love short books. Maybe it would be better off releasing the book in chunks. The more familiar you are with your target audience and the more familiar you are with the kinds of people who are really going to love your story, the better you can connect with them.”
You can find Wight’s full blog here. The first three books of the Cradle series will come to brick and mortar booksellers on March 14th, while The Last Captain comes out on April 4th.