by Wendy Hornsby
About a month ago, I delivered the manuscript for my next book, Disturbing the Dark, to Perseverance Press. When this book is published in the spring of 2015, it will be the tenth Maggie MacGowen Mystery, and my thirteenth book altogether. A baker’s dozen. The question my husband posed on the way home from handing the book to Meredith, my editor, was, What next? I did not have an answer.
One might think that by now I would have this writing thing nailed down so that producing a book has become a snap, but I don’t. Every book, like every child, presents its own joys and crises. For various reasons, getting to the end of the recent one seemed more grueling than usual. As Paul said, we were overtaken by events that stopped book progress dead for a bit, so getting it finished was something of a literary marathon. I was both exhausted and exhilarated when I reached the end.
After the manuscript was safely in Meredith’s hands, and the grandson and his parents, who live nearby, had been visited, Paul and I took a much needed long ramble home. Some important questions came up during our drive:
Does a series have a shelf life? We know that many readers love to follow the further adventures of series characters, but do those characters, and their creators, get stale, or redundant, after time? We know that Agatha Christie killed off Poirot and Conan-Doyle threw Sherlock over a precipice before their readers were ready to attend the funerals. But you have to admit that the books that followed Sherlock’s miraculous reappearance and Poirot’s demise getting locked away in the publisher’s vault showed the authors’ malaise. Have I reached that point with Maggie MacGowen? I hope the next book leaves the reader eager to find out what comes next for her, because I am.
Does the writer have a shelf life? A good friend, a writer who, like me, had a hiatus between his early publishing success and a second start, but who came back like gangbusters in part two, asked that question recently. He was weighing the amount of time and energy he spends writing and promoting his books against the years he has left if he reaches his statistical lifespan. At this time in his life, he wondered, are there more important ways to spend the time left to him? Only he and his wife can answer that. However, at the same time my friend posed his query, my husband, who has been endlessly supportive of my writing, always my greatest cheerleader, asked me to take a break. Not to quit, certainly, but to take some real time off to travel and to give hard thought about the direction I—we—want to go. A stand alone, the historical I have wanted to write for a decade, a new anthology of short stories? Another Maggie MacGowen? A new series?
I have no answers yet, except that we have several trips planned this summer and fall. And two short stories with deadlines. Beyond that? Who can say? Except, I have a great story line brewing, based on something we encountered in a local pioneer cemetery, but a thoroughly contemporary event. Rich material for a book.
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