Earlier today, fantasy author Jim Butcher dropped a couple of bombshell announcements: Not only was the next installment of his long-running Dresden Files series, Peace Talks, set to come out this summer, but a second novel, Battle Ground, would hit stores this fall.
On top of that, he released a slick book trailer for the two novels, directed by Priscilla Spencer, which showed off the first live-action take on the series since the 2007 SCI FI Channel show.
After the reveals, Butcher and Spencer went onto Zoom and YouTube to answer fan questions about the trailer and the upcoming books. Here are the highlights.
This wasn’t an ordinary book trailer.
Most book trailers are short videos that an ad or marketing department can whip up with a bit of artwork. This trailer was quite a bit more than that: It’s a mini-adaptation of the world. Spencer formally cast her characters, scouted out locations, and filmed the scenes.
Spencer explained that shooting locations in L.A. included a private home in Malibu with a castle-style facade. Other scenes were existing locations that she was able to find from other productions, while a couple were filmed in her own home.
The two would love more videos like this one.
Spencer and Butcher noted that they loved this video and were excited to bring it to fans, and that they’d “both love” more, although it’s not entirely clear if they’ll do another trailer.
The trailer includes scenes from both Peace Talks and Battle Ground.
When one fan asked if they’ll do another trailer for Battle Ground, Spencer noted that this trailer featured scenes from both novels.
Breaking down the roundtable scene
Spencer broke down the big roundtable scene that’s featured in the trailer. The people around the edge of the room are extras—fans who had responded to the ads she put out, and some crew members that they pulled in in a pinch.
In the center is Mab, while on camera left is Molly, with Evanna to her left. On the right is Marcone, Lara. Next to them is the White Council, with Ramirez, Ebenezar, and Warden Chandler. “That was such a fun shot to do,” Spencer said.
What were the challenges creating a live action version of the world?
Spencer explained that her biggest challenges were “just understanding when to let go of something,” because she’s a continuity nut. She notes that she always went with performance, when it came to casting, rather than looks when it came to characters.
“Everyone imagines characters looking differently, and if I picked versions of the characters that looked like the versions in my head, that wouldn’t necessarily match up with those in other people’s heads.”
Spencer: Absolutely, yes. Not sure when, but at some point.
On Peace Talks
Peace Talks, Butcher says, “is essentially Harry’s worst weekend of the year. In this case, we’re doing a double weekend, so up to that point, his worst weekend.” He also noted that they’ll explore some of his family life, but that the focus will remain on his adventures.
Why two books?
The biggest surprise today was that we’d be getting not one, but two novels, the first since 2015’s Skin Game.
Butcher explained that initially, he wanted to experiment with his next book. “I started writing a novel that essentially was going to be about 2/3 of a Dresden Files novel like everyone was used to that took this sudden hard juke to one side and was then the rest of the novel.”
That proved to be troublesome: The next part of the book grew considerably, and “basically we had this novel that was 4/3rds when I sort of got finished, and that was this Frankensteinian thing.”
I tried for the longest time to make it work, 2-3 years, and my editor said “well, we can publish it like this, and if we do, it’ll be a $50 cover price or more.” I didn’t want to be the first guy that had hardbacks go up over [that price point].
The other option that he was given was to split the manuscript into two, and publish them year after year. Butcher notes that he wasn’t a fan of that option either.
“I had to sit down and think about it, and I didn’t like either of those, finally I thought “I have two thirds of one book, and two thirds of another, if I can write the other thirds of both books, it should turn out okay.”
He ended up writing up the extra parts and made a stipulation: Both books had to come out in the same year.
By breaking it into two books and giving himself a little more time and space on each of them to handle all of the plot, “I was essentially able to hurt everyone a little more. That’s good writing, is when people are suffering. I don’t know that I killed any darlings, but I tortured them quite a bit more than I would have gotten to otherwise.”
Does Peace Talks end with a huge cliffhanger?
I tried not to make it the worst cliffhanger, I tried to set it up where it’s obvious you won’t see all of this play out right now.
Butcher initially wanted the books to hit in consecutive months
Butcher explained that because the wait had been so long between books, he didn’t want fans to wait any longer, and wanted to have the books come out in back-to-back months.
That turns out to be problematic, logistically. For one, there are “too many” fans out there, and it sounded like trying to print up copies to meet demand would have overtaxed his publisher. So, they opted to release one in July, and the other in September.
The additional book will change the number of “case files.”
Butcher had initially planned to write 20 installments of the series, with a big finale trilogy that ended everything. That’s grown a bit in the years since, and the final total for the series will likely be 25 books in all, trilogy included.
There is more short fiction on the way.
This year marks the 20th anniversary since the first book, Storm Front, hit stores, and Butcher and his publisher are celebrating with “The Year of Dresden,” with some new short stories published on the website.
Butcher noted that there isn’t enough microfiction (very short stories that he’s published online) to justify a collection, but if he ends up doing another short story collection like Side Jobs. He also hinted that he might do a bit of alternate universe fan fiction set after Skin Games.
On James Marsters as the audiobook narrator
Butcher noted that longtime audiobook narrator James Marsters—best known for the role of Spike on Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel, as well as his work on Smallville, Torchwood, and Caprica—has had a major impact on the series.
“He sometimes changes the story at times, based on his inflection and emphasizes the lines. A couple of times, he’s just broken my heart doing that.”
Is there any chance for a Netflix show like what they did for The Witcher?
Butcher: Probably not Netflix.