Hello and welcome to the cover reveal for C.M. Caplan’s next fantasy novel, The Fall is All There Is! As many of you know, I am a huge fan of Caplan’s debut The Sword in the Street. If you haven’t already read it, you can check out my review of it here. The short of it though is that Caplan is one of the best character writers I have ever read, in addition to writing in wonderful neurodivergent representation. Needless to say, I am super excited to be revealing the cover of The Fall is All There Is and I am practically buzzing over the fact that I have a shiny ARC queued up in my Kindle ready to read.
The Fall is All There Is by C.M. Caplan
Published: November 7, 2022
Series: Four of Mercies #1
Genre: Science Fantasy
Intended Age Group: Adult
Publisher: Self Published
You never want to ruin a really good dramatic exit. When you flee home on a cyborg horse the exact second you turn eighteen, you don’t really expect to go back to the place you fled from, you know? But sometimes your old life hits you from behind.
Sometimes you spend years away from home, killing dangerous people who had the bad luck to get infected by a lungful of ghostfog, only to find out that your dad, the king, is dead, and now your siblings are ordering you back home for a high stakes family reunion.
But when you’ve got four heirs who are all the same age, the line of succession tends to get a wee bit murky. So in order to regain your independence, you’ve got to navigate a deadly web of intrigue, where every sibling wants your allegiance, and any decision might tear your country—and your family—apart.
Amazon Pre-order Page: https://amzn.to/3yjefXI
Thank you so much for joining us for this short Q&A! Before we get going, please tell us a bit about yourself.
Thank you for having me! I’m C.M. Caplan, and I’m a quadruplet, I’m 26, I’m autistic, and I’ve been writing since I was about fourteen. I’ve got a degree in creative writing and my debut was an SPFBO semifinalist last year!
I want to start things off by asking: what is a great book that you’ve read recently and why should we give it a go?
I dunno if this counts, but I’ve been getting back into comic books for the first time since I was around sixteen. I’m going through Alan Moore’s run on Swamp Thing right now, and he’s the only writer I know who can write purple prose that paradoxically does not seem overwrought. The turn he took in rebooting the character is really incredible and imaginative and high concept, and I don’t think I’ve ever read anything quite like it. I’m only at the start of his run, but goddamn it’s really cool to see the initial inklings of a story that would shake up the industry so completely.
Do you have any hobbies or interests outside of reading/writing? Do you care to elaborate?
Not as many as I probably should have. I really enjoy exercise, and cooking, though. Or any activity that involves doing something with my hands, really. I just really like the zen that comes from getting into a groove with an activity, and that’s really easy to achieve if it requires enough physical work and effort to keep you from getting distracted.
Tell us about your road to writing. What made you want to become an author?
Even when I was little I was constantly coming up with what-if scenarios. Both for the books I read and in real life. I initially wanted to write comic books when I was a kid, because as a child that was all I would ever read. Then in High School someone pointed out that if I want to learn how to write a comic, I should probably figure out how to actually write first. So I pursued that instead with an obsessive zeal and eventually got good enough at it that I kind of drifted away from comics, and found Lord of the Rings and A Song of Ice and Fire and branched into fantasy from there.
Writing is a hard and lonely affair in the best of circumstances. How do you achieve a good work/life/writing balance?
Oh man if you ever find the answer can you let me know? I still struggle with that a lot, in all honesty. I have significantly more free time than the average person, but I never know when I’m pushing myself too far with any of this. But one thing I try to do is have at least one kind of event per day that I can do which has nothing to do with writing, just so I’m not constantly tied to it.
Is this your first book? If so, what lessons have you learned from writing it? If not, what lessons did you learn from writing earlier books that you brought into this one?
This is my second book. My first, The Sword in the Street, was something I wrote when I was 23 and published just before turning 24. It was a fantastic object lesson in breaking away from some of the more imitative habits I used to have. I used to write the kinds of stories that I thought my girlfriend would like, or whatever somebody else pushed me to do, or thought was good. It was a way of appeasing other people. Which in retrospect was probably why I could never finish anything. The Sword in the Street was the book that taught me to finish what I started, and to write something for myself.
Which is a lesson I tried to carry forward into The Fall is All There Is. Now that I’d learned to finish the things I started, I wanted to write something that was as weird and unique and thoroughly mine that I could manage. So I brought in a narrator I’ve had bouncing around in the back of my head for the last ten years now and pushed everything as far as it could go. I really feel like I took off the training wheels with this book, in a sense.
Do you usually write to background noise, music, etc. or do you prefer silence?
If I have noise on in the background it becomes difficult to tune out, and writing begins to feel like following two different conversations at once, so I usually try to work in silence. Though sometimes binaural beats can come in handy.
What made you want to write in Science Fantasy? Do you write (or plan to write) in any other genres?
I wish I had a decent answer for this, but this was honestly just the way this story came to me. I’ve written a lot of stories over the years involving post-apocalyptic societies, and I think I have some sort of morbid fascination with what happens after the end of everything we know. I already had a couple of stories like that, so a lot of this was just folding in a lot of elements I’d used elsewhere in abandoned projects to add flavor or texture to the world.
What is one thing that you love about the current state of SFF and what is one thing that you wish you saw more of?
I think for the last few years we’ve been seeing an influx of a broader range of stories, from people who come from a broader range of backgrounds. Barriers between genres and storytelling conventions I think are being pushed back at more than ever before. Obviously, there are still barriers—the biases of gatekeepers in trad pub, or the pay-to play nature of self-publishing, where some people can pay for fancier covers or edits, but I think generally it’s really cool to see where SFF is going and the way it’s been pushing boundaries of late, and I really hope things continue to trend in that direction.
Who are your favorite current writers and who are your greatest influences?
There are so many, I’m not even sure where to start. NK Jemisin’s book really kicked in my conception of what genre could be and what you could do with voice and structure when I first red it, and there are lines I that still come back to me all of the time, even years later. Robin Hobb I think is the other major influence. Nobody does character work the way she does, and like with Jemisin I’ve never seen anyone write something the way she approaches things. I just really admire her head for storytelling, and I think her approach is as fascinating because it feels so rare to see books that are structured the way hers are.
What do you think characterizes your writing style?
Someone once told me “I will read a line you wrote, and never would have thought to describe something that way in a million years, and yet in retrospect it seems like the only way to describe it that makes sense.” And I hope I’ve done that at least half as well as this person’s confidence in me implies.
Are you a plotter or a pantser?
The only way I can ever finish anything is by knowing where I’m going. It’d be like going to the grocery store without a list of items to buy. I’d be too disorganized to actually remember everything I’ve got to put in my cart. I don’t usually build the whole book in one go, though. The story arrives in layers. I’ll write a 30K outline that compromises what turns out to be chapters 2, 3, 6, 17, and 22 in the final product, but in the first draft they’re just the self-contained little short story beats. And then after I write out that draft I’ll go back and outline all the spots where I need to fill in the gaps. Usually I rarely end up with a lot of stuff in my final draft that ever existed in the first draft, so it does change a lot as I go—but usually I work better when I have some structure, and something to write towards, if that makes sense.
What are your favorite types of characters?
Oh I love the absolutely pitiful wrecks of characters. Someone whose psyche is just an emotional nightmare zone. The kind of person who refuses to admit anything is wrong, even for a second.
How much of yourself do you write into your stories?
I think to a certain extent it’s difficult to avoid writing yourself into your stories. And certainly being a quadruplet writing about quadruplets, I’m sure people will think each of these characters is based on one or another sibling. But I think any autobiography in a book like this is less of a 1:1 analogy so much as it provides a bit of background texture. You take from the stuff you can write with authority on, the stuff that makes you you, which is dependent on the stuff you like and the experiences you’ve had. But you have to be careful not to mimic your own life too closely, cause I think that can steer you a bit too close to an emotional uncanny valley. But you need to import some of it there just for the sake of authenticity. So it’s all me and at the same time none of it’s me.
Man I don’t even know if that answered your question.
For those who haven’t read The Fall Is All There Is, give us the elevator pitch.
A quadruplet royal named Petre Mercy needs to navigate his siblings’ quarrel over the line of succession before they kick of an intercontinental temper tantrum and kill thousands in a civil war.
Describe your book in 3 adjectives.
Smartass, Sleek, Down-To-Earth (do hyphens count?)
What do you think is the overarching theme?
I wanted to interrogate the idea of power and responsibility. If you have a certain amount of power in your culture, then what is your individual responsibility towards creating a better world? How much should you sacrifice to make that happen? Petre starts the book having divested himself of his role as a Prince, but there’s only so far he can run away from that life. A lot of the book is exploring the fallout of dumping that much power and privilege onto the shoulders of a quartet of 23-year-olds who don’t know what they’re doing.
Were there any specific challenges with writing The Fall is All There Is? Or, did you find anything to be easier?
The book was originally about 210K words and had a huge central romantic arc. But when it went to beta reading it was pointed out that Petre is not the kind of guy with the emotional temperament to cultivate meaningful relationships—at least in the way that the initial romantic angle depicted, so I had to cut that out and tighten the focus onto Petre and his family, and I had to make Petre into more of a hot mess. I think of that 210K only about 40K or 60K survived, and I had to build a new story around that. The end result was the 120K that made it into this thing. I got the feedback in February of this year and had three days just freaking out wondering if I could even salvage this thing, though by the time I figured out how to I flew straight through it. I got most of the big changes done by about halfway through May, so actually enacting those changes went smoother than expected, it just took a while to figure out what to do.
If you had to do so in just one or two sentences, how would you describe the plot of The Fall is All There Is?
Five years after Petre Mercy runs away from his family, he has to decide whether or not to reenter the toxic life at court, if it means keeping the people he cares about from getting hurt.
They say to never judge a book by its cover and maybe that’s true in the philosophical sense, but it certainly happens with books. Can you tell us about the idea behind the cover of The Fall is All There Is?
I give all credit on this cover to Fiona West, who designed this whole thing. We put together a google doc with a bunch of themes and imagery from the book. In some ways, the world is very high tech—people wear gas masks, they use radios, they’ve got these cyborg horses, and sonic guns with a battery made out of human vocal cords. But at the same time they’re wielding sabers and backswords and the world had ended so many times that they barely understand how to use the blend of magic and technology that they do have, much less functionally reproduce anything. So the cover was supposed to highlight the science-fantasy vibes of the book by highlighting the variance in the everyday objects these people might interact with.
One of my favorite things is highlighting quotes that really resonate with me and sharing them in my reviews. Do you have a favorite quote from The Fall is All There Is that you can share with us?
“A new administration comes in, you sort of expect there are going to be a few cosmetic differences. But it was like she was afraid to shake things up, like swapping out a color palette would dishonor Dad’s memory. How hard was she trying to imitate him?
Was that how we’d ended up here? Imitation? Was that all a monarchy was? A generations-long game of telephone with a concept called Kingship? A game of Divine Right playing homeopathy?”
What can you tell us about what’s coming up next for you?
I need to get to work on book two, honestly. And I while I make no promises, I might work on a novella centering around a side character named Avram that I’d release to people who are subscribed to my newsletter.
Thank you so much for taking the time to answer a few questions for us! I always enjoy this little peek behind the curtain. Do you have any parting thoughts or comments you’d like to leave for our readers?
Thank you for having me! I really appreciate the opportunity to talk about this book, and I just hope anyone who checks it out likes what I came up with!!
And, there it is! I absolutely love how the cover mixes common images that evoke the sense of both Sci-Fi and Fantasy, with the gas mask, rapier, and diodes. If you didn’t see before, this is available to pre-order or add to your Goodreads shelf at the links above ahead of its release on 11/07/22!
About the Author:
C.M. Caplan is a quadruplet (yes, really), mentally disabled, and he spent two years as the Senior Fiction Editor on a national magazine while he was still an undergrad in college.
He has a degree in creative writing and was the recipient of his university’s highest honor in the arts. His short fiction also won an Honorable Mention in the 2019 Writers of the Future Contest. His debut novel, The Sword in the Street, was a 2021 SPFBO semifinalist.