Or What You Will

Of course, all books are easier to read that to describe. This is true even when you’re a character in them, when that’s been your whole life, when you began as the author’s imaginary friend and wound up as narrator, protagonist, and bit part player in her over thirty novels. But I don’t know why we’re talking about you. This is a book about me.

OR WHAT YOU WILL was published on 7th July 2020 by Tor.

I wrote it between February 7th and July 31st 2018, in Montreal, Chicago, Montreal, Grand Rapids, Montreal, Florence, Paestum, Rome, Florence, Montreal and Chicago. It’s a standard length book for me, around 94,000 words.

Tor back cover copy

From the Hugo, Nebula, and World Fantasy Award-winning author of Among Others, an utterly original novel about how stories are brought forth.

He has been too many things to count. He has been a dragon with a boy on his back. He has been a scholar, a warrior, a lover, and a thief. He has been dream and dreamer. He has been a god.

But “he” is in fact nothing more than a spark of idea, a character in the mind of Sylvia Harrison, 73, award-winning author of thirty novels over forty years. He has played a part in most of those novels, and in the recesses of her mind, Sylvia has conversed with him for years.

But Sylvia won’t live forever, any more than any human does. And he’s trapped inside her cave of bone, her hollow of skull. When she dies, so will he.

Now Sylvia is starting a new novel, a fantasy for adult readers, set in Thalia, the Florence-resembling imaginary city that was the setting for a successful YA trilogy she published decades before. Of course he’s got a part in it. But he also has a notion. He thinks he knows how he and Sylvia can step off the wheel of mortality altogether. All he has to do is convince her.

Publisher’s Weekly STARRED review

Walton shifts effortlessly between Sylvia’s life, Florentine history, and the plot unfolding in Illyria, giving equal weight to the mundane and the fantastic. The narrator’s voice is spellbinding (“What am I? Figment, fakement, fragment, furious fancy-free form. I have been the spark that ignites in a cold winter”), drawing readers into a nuanced meditation on reality and fiction.

This gorgeous, deeply philosophical work is a knockout

Bookpage Starred Review

a thoroughly memorable story about magic, meddling gods, learning to love properly and all the ways the worlds we create can save us in the ones we’re born into.

Smart Bitches, Trashy Books, Squee

So may we all change our stories, when we need to.

I love this book. I want to live in this book. I want you to live in this book, too.

Goodreads page for Or What You Will

Frequently Asked Questions

Q. Do you have characters in your head like that?

A. Not like that!

Q. But do you have characters in your head?

A. Sure…

Q. Is any of it true?

A. The bit about the chair is true. And the stories about Brunelleschi. And the thing about painting the Palazzo Vecchio white. Lots of the incidental historical details about real Firenze are true.

Q. Do you want to escape into a fantasy world?

A. No, actually. I like this world.