Patrick Ness’s Chaos Walking trilogy obviously has legs. Originally published in the U.K. by Walker, the series has been translated into 22 languages and has sold more than 350,000 copies in the U.S. and Canada alone. Candlewick launched this YA saga in 2008 with The Knife of Never Letting Go, with The Ask and the Answer (2009) and Monsters of Men (2010) following in its footsteps. Candlewick has just reissued the trilogy in paperback with new covers and a prequel short story in each, and is promoting the re-launch with a campaign dubbed Noise for Ness.
The trilogy centers on a teen who lives in a world populated only by men infected by the Noise germ, which enables residents to hear each other’s thoughts. Ness, who had previously written fiction for adults, did not make a calculated move into YA. “It was the story that told me what it needed to be,” he told PW. “I just set out to write a book, and it eventually revealed itself to be YA. At that point, I thought my job was just to say, ‘Great!’ and run with it.”
And run he did. Although the trilogy falls under the science-fiction umbrella, Ness didn’t have to look too far to find the premise of involuntary revealing one’s thoughts. “The inspiration was our own world,” he said. “I think we’re already pretty noisy with smartphones and apps. I just wondered what the next logical step was: what if you couldn’t get away?”
The author envisioned the story as a trilogy from the start – for two tactical reasons. “I like stories that have an end, even if ambiguous, and that don’t outstay their welcome,” he said. “Publishing a book is such a privilege, I always assume that the next time might be the last. And if it is the last, why not go out in a blaze of glory, trying to write a mad, huge trilogy? It was fun!”
Ness said he also enjoyed creating the prequel stories that appear in the Candlewick reissues. He penned the first one as a writer-in-residence for Booktrust, a literacy charity in the U.K. “That story was so much fun to write, I thought, ‘Why not do two more?,’ so I wrote one for each book,” he said. “I reread the trilogy in preparation, and it really felt like a good, warm family reunion.”
A ‘Bold, Fresh’ New Look
Ness is very pleased with the trilogy’s new cover design, which he called “bold, fresh, and really striking.” And he noted that the covers are gender-neutral, “which was also very important to me. Everyone’s welcome. They suggest what the book is rather than instruct, and that’s what I’ve always wanted as a reader.” As a bonus, Ness added, “they fit in really nicely” with the paperback cover of his 2013 YA novel, More Than This, which Candlewick issued last month.
Hilary Van Dusen, senior paperback editor at Candlewick, noted that Chaos Walking’s numerous awards and “an increasing number of die-hard fans” made this what she called “the perfect time” to repackage the trilogy. “The eye-catching nature of the design, utilizing ample white space and graphic components, unifies the three books,” she said, “while also complementing the digital, graphic feel of More Than This.”
Candlewick’s Noise for Ness promotional campaign features consumer advertising in high visibility commuter locations, including transit and bus signage in Seattle, Chicago, Los Angeles, and San Francisco, trade advertising, and extensive YA blogger promotion and a #NoiseforNess Twitter campaign, both involving book giveaways.
“From the very beginning, the torrent of accolades for the trilogy has been remarkable, and with the publication of Patrick’s 2011 standalone novel, A Monster Calls, the noise for his work reached a fever pitch,” said John Mendelson, Candlewick senior v-p of sales and digital initiatives. Adding to that buzz was last spring’s news of Focus Entertainment’s plans to adapt A Monster Calls into a feature film directed by Juan Antonio Bayous, with Sigourney Weaver, Felicity Jones, and Liam Neeson on board to star in the fall 2016 release.
“With the movie announcement and the paperback release of More Than This, we felt it was a great time to revisit Chaos Walking with a comprehensive push to strengthen the novels’ presence in the book trade, but also to push further into the mass market,” Mendelson explained. That strategy appears to have worked: he reported that sales of the trilogy in chain outlets, independents, and big-box stores have “more than quadrupled on a weekly basis” in the month since the reissues were released.
Ness, who has just finished a new YA novel for Walker, called The Rest of Us Just Live Here (U.S. rights have yet to be sold), has no plans to step back into the world of Chaos Walking – but won’t rule out a revisit entirely. “The trilogy is done, and I won’t go back to that particular story,” he said. “But I’m a never-say-never kind of writer, so if I ever get another Chaos Walking idea, I’ll keep a very open mind.”
The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness. Candlewick, $10.99 paper July ISBN 978-0-7636-7618-6
The Ask and the Answer by Patrick Ness. Candlewick, $10.99 paper July ISBN 978-0-7636-7617-9
Monsters of Men by Patrick Ness. Candlewick, $10.99 paper July ISBN 978-0-7636-7619-3