The continuity and fracturing of personality over time is more obvious to writers than to any creature in the world.
Or at least it is obvious to writers who suddenly find themselves in the position of writing a series they were forced to abandon years or decades before.
Now, this rarely happened with traditional publishing, or at least it rarely happened with traditional publishing by the time I came in. It seemed the game by the time I came in was to give the author one or two books (three if you were lucky and in the more generous houses) to “make it big” (by a miracle, with no support and sometimes — most of the time? — with anti-support, because unless you were one of the chosen few, you were treated like dirt by the office staff, whether that was intended or not) and if you didn’t and they didn’t fire you (because you know, your books had after all earned out, just not become a massive success) the publisher made you change series, and sometimes your name and your genre too.
This left you in the unenviable position of not wanting to tell the readers the series flopped, and why (Lousy cover, no distro, and basically no support being the most common ones, though there were far more interesting ones, like taking the book out of print the day it earned out, or deciding before the book comes out that that genre doesn’t sell, or–) because part of it is not telling your fans you’re a miserable flop — part of the game in trad pub was to gaslight you to make you feel it was all your fault, no matter what, and that if you admit to it, the fans will hate you. Yah — so you tell them you “lost interest.” Hell, sometimes the publishers told the readers you lost interest. (While they have five proposals sitting on their desk, for the sequels.)
All of which led the readers to thinking you were insane, flitting from series to series and not giving any of them much effort, because you lost interest so easily. I, personally, have sat in a kafe klatch being berated by a fan for “never following up” on the Shakespeare series, which was her favorite series in the world. And I’d said it was five books, why were there only three. And you sit there, and you mumble about the genre not selling, and you feel like you killed someone’s baby.
If this strikes you rather like being in an abusive marriage, where you have to explain why you’re so clumsy you run into doorways and get bruises on your face just before your sister’s wedding, you have the feelings exactly right.
(And yes, the Shakespeare series has two more books planned, but it’s actually and for real “complicated.” Partly because of that continuity of personality, but really because vast amounts of memory and my easy ability to memorize whatever struck my fancy were lost to major concussion eighteen years ago, which means resuming it would require …. time to research everything anew. Which probably would necessitate a go fund me, so I could take six months to get back to Tudor England in my mind.)
Anyway, the only time I ever had to revisit things I had written years before was when the Magical British Empire series sold 8 years after I first sent the proposals out (Yes, those are sitting, because right now I don’t particularly feel like being a lightening rod.)
But now… Well, all those shells left along the way, from Shifters to the Furniture refinishing mysteries, to the most recent, Darkships, can and will be continued.
Dyce… Due to the events of the last year, I had the hardest time writing a funny and quirky quick mystery. But it will be done. It’s not…. that difficult. I actually wrote it while I was incredibly tired and furious at the house (it was the third series they forced me to start after abandoning series in which I still had a lot more to say) and at that point I knew they’d kill that series also (they did, though it sold and sold and kept selling, mostly because by the end of it I’d become persona non grata politically, and so they didn’t want to employ me anymore.) So as funny and quirky and light as that series is, it was written in deep blackness of spirit. Just not in the depression when I can’t think of words, which was the last year.
Darkships, it’s a matter of reading myself into place, and yes, I need to reissue them, and I’m only slightly hampered by having to paint walls and get a house ready for sale. I’m hoping to get the first back up this week, anyway, with the future history apendix it was meant to have.
But– But having got Another Rhodes to the betas, I’m now trying to plunge back into Bowl of Red, the fourth of the Shifter’s books, the one that was started oh, so long ago.
And it’s difficult.
When I started Shifters, I was the mother of kids in elementary school and middle school. Now the former middle schooler is married and working far away from the nest. The former elementary schooler is 26 and taller than I, and will hopefully in the next couple of years find his own way into the world.
I’m very very far from the young woman just having her first kid.
Sure, my characters are not me, but it helps to think of them as peers, as friends. And honestly, at this point Kyrie feels more like a daughter.
It can be done, but as I’m listening to the novels (as a way of getting myself back into the voice) I catch glimpses of the person who wrote them, between the energy, the clear cut thoughts, the certainties… and the optimism.
It’s someone I barely remember being, who lived in a world where…. political differences were no hampering to friendship — you just talked around them — and where keeping your mouth shut wasn’t that hard, because you were fairly sure that the “other side” though they had a bizarre idea of your own beliefs, wouldn’t completely destroy you if they found out you weren’t of them. Oh, they probably would destroy your career, which is why I kept my mouth shut, but they wouldn’t try to also get you blackballed from society in general, or throw you in jail on some pretext, or make sure no one in your family could earn a living. And yes, that’s exactly what the executive order signed on April 15th gives the Junta in control of the country the right to do to you and yours on any pretext or none at all. If you haven’t heard of this peach, which is slid in under the excuse of “Russia collusion” (because of course it is) but where the collusion is no more important than the fact they called us all “russian bots” for months, go here. Read it and weep. And I mean that.
And this is where we are now. Which is why it is so hard to reach back to the innocent days where, at worst, should my politics become known, they’d run me out of the field. I thought that was outrageous then. Now–
Well, other societies have descended into madness before ours. And most of our society remains remarkably sane. Just unaware of what is being done in its name.
I don’t know what lies ahead. I sense — intuit? figure from everything I read — a brief and violent convulsion. And what comes after that nobody knows.
Perhaps it is fitting I’m writing a story of people who can shape shift and are under threat of an invasion by unimaginable aliens.
And maybe I can channel some of my younger self’s energy as I write.
It can be hoped, if nothing else.
And so I shall go and perform a seance to unearth hope and carry it aloft into the new books.
Maybe it is fiddling while Rome burns, but by gum, we shall have some music by firelight.