Celebrating 5 Years of Ordshaw!
Five years ago today, Under Ordshaw was released and the world was exposed to a unique British city with the occasional magical/horrific twist. The series has now seen two story arcs completed with The Sunken City Trilogy and The Ikiri Duology; two new arcs started with The City Screams and Dyer Street Punk Witches, and a host of short stories.
What is Under Ordshaw?
It all started with poker player Pax Kuranes discovering a secret labyrinth under her otherwise normal (if rough) city. Also, she discovered some very unusual, but mostly horrible, monsters – and a community of rather offensive and violent diminutive fairies. All this in a city otherwise rooted in reality, with distinct, characterful boroughs and a deep, detailed history (inspired variously by some cities I’m most familiar with, such as London, Nottingham, Bristol and Luton (not a city, with spite)). The books mostly explore the seedier, darker side of Ordshaw, involving criminal gangs, shady government organisations and impoverished, rundown neighbourhoods, with some hints at the brighter, cheerier suburbs.
The Journey to the Story
Under Ordshaw was written and released over about 18 months, between 2017 and 2018 (alongside and overlapping my dystopian Estalia books). Blue Angel and The Violent Fae followed in 2019 to complete The Sunken City Trilogy (with The City Screams emerging somewhere in between). My plans for it emerged much earlier, though, while frequently riding the metro working in Prague, 2008 (a job that also inspired parts of Dyer Street Punk Witches).
The bare roots of the story came together in a screenplay around 2008. I spent two or three years revising it, taking it to producers and directors. In its earliest form, it resembled something of the final structure of Under Ordshaw, but followed the Barton family with no Pax in sight. At some point this warped, as screenplays do, into an animation involving talking penguins, and there were rumours at one point of Whoopi Goldberg coming on board. That all petered out, until some years later when I’d got a couple of self-published books under my belt, and had a burning desire to revive and combine a slew of older works.
A Shared Universe
I wrote Under Ordshaw with big plans in mind from the offset. There was to be an opening trilogy, but also a series of independent or loosely connected tales. Blue Angel hints at a character in The City Screams; The City Screams introduces a character from The Ikiri Duology; and Under Ordshaw itself references criminals discussed in Dyer Street Punk Witches.
My goal was to explore different tropes and story arcs framed in one particular Ordshaw lens: gritter action thrillers (in a vein of the emergent cinema of the 90s) with the propensity for wild fantasy twists and turns. There would be a witches saga, a haunted house tale, a Faustian story, secular crime stories and more. Then, there was also the opportunity for absolutely off-the-wall adventures, as Kept From Cages introduced.
Five Years in the Open
For all my lofty goals, Under Ordshaw got off to a fairly inauspicious start, and really owes the spark of life it found to Mark Lawrence’s SPFBO and the many wonderful contacts I’ve made following that. The book was a semi-finalist for Lynn’s Books in 2018 and Lynn kindly put me in touch with other bloggers who helped review and promote the series. It picked up momentum through the attention of a lot of great reviewers, which in turn has always encouraged me to keep hammering at my greater scheme. Never mind that sales have always been an uphill struggle, and Ordshaw doesn’t neatly fit the existing markets – the rewards are there in seeing readers’ responses to the series.
I have slowed down in recent years to split my focus over other projects, but little by little, Ordshaw has spread further into the world. We’re now up to seven novels in the series. Dyer Street has opened up a whole new venture, while Kept From Cages also reached the SPFBO semi-finals and went on to give Mark Lawrence himself a paper cut. And the books themselves are only improving as they go: I’ll forever love Under Ordshaw, but it is a particular starting point, with a certain roughness to it. Each entry that follows aims to expand and improve on that.
The Next Five Years
My plans for the future vary between the simple (add more books to the series) and elaborate (design Ordshaw animations and games; Ordshaw theme park?). What’s on the more immediate horizon are a sequel to The City Screams, with the long-overdue return of Pax and Letty, and the sequel to Dyer Street Punk Witches. There’s also an interactive story I’ve been itching to write forever. Then there will eventually be more from the Cutjaw Kids and Katiya and a couple of other standalone tales, and I’d like to go back to where this started and produce fresh screenplays from the books. Because the world needs more foul-mouthed fairies, criminal jazz musicians, weird monsters and punk witches, in every format.
For now, though, my most heartfelt thanks to everyone who’s come along for the ride, and everyone who’s yet to step into Ordshaw (don’t forget to grab your copy for free while you can!). I couldn’t have got anywhere near as far as I have without the support of a wonderful community of readers and writers, and I look forward to sharing more with you.