The blog has suffered because it’s been a busy summer. But I have a new book to flog so it’s time to juggle priorities. I mentioned in my last posting that The Likeness had taken me four times as long to write as any of the previous ones, and now a couple of early reactions to it have set me asking myself different questions about it. So far, it’s had two reviews, one of them an assessment for acceptance by Awesome Indies, and they’ve both given it 5 stars and been very complimentary. The most recent one, however, says that,
‘the ending is one that intrigues the reader about what will happen next – I do hope this is not the last time we’ll meet these powerful characters’.
In fact, a couple of months ago, in a finely detailed analysis of the ending of the first draft, one of my beta-readers wrote that the story’s still not over. Specifically, she said that Helen,
‘will not be taken seriously in 1841 Aberdeen, but possibly in another world. The New World? Or Europe? Seven years later was the Europe of the Revolutions. Aren’t Helen and John perfect for reflecting that? As a benevolent Capitalist, Anderson would realise he must branch out and have representation overseas. So, Vancouver, New York, Boston or Marseilles? Helen and John are the real pioneers.’
Given that I had no intention of writing even this sequel, the idea of a third in the series seems absurd. And yet, and yet…
When you’ve spent a long time with characters, seen them through a few crises, watched their relationship grow, they really do exist for you, and you get curious about them. So far the two books have taken them to an arrangement that seems to satisfy them both without unduly worrying Helen’s parents, but will it work? How will Helen’s involvement in her father’s business progress? Will the ideas she gathered in The Likeness prove to be practical and successful? And also, there’s no question but that it would be very interesting for me to transport them to North America or Marseilles and either find out what happens to all those emigrants flowing out of Scotland or indulge my Francophile tendencies.
I have friends who write sagas and I’ll be asking them whether they decide right at the start that there’ll be a certain number of books or whether what the characters do decides that for them. Mind you, on that basis, the series might not end until the characters died. But even then, what if they’d had offspring? They’d still be on their various journeys. And, since the pattern in each book is that, while all the other stuff’s going on, John also solves the problem of a mysterious death, the repetitive structural aspect might begin to stretch their credibility. I mean, ‘Bye Honey, I’m off to do some more carving’, is a bit different from ‘Bye Honey, I’m off to solve a mysterious death’.
Writing fiction is endlessly fascinating. I’ve created characters in other books, with other ages, different contexts, most of them more or less interesting, but the way in which these two people, Helen Anderson and John Grant, have come alive for me is new. I think both the books in which they appear have satisfactory endings, with all the loose ends tied up, but the sheer charisma and character, especially of Helen, suggest that there could be plenty more adventures for them. It’s just a pity I have to write them.