Sometimes I get fan e-mails. They always make me smile. But some of them make me smile AND scratch my head a little in befuddlement. Those are the ones that ask me whether or not I’m planning to write a sequel. Sometimes they even beg me to.
It’s not that the idea of a sequel is foreign to me. I loved Godfather II. I devoured Little Men, so thrilled to be back with the March sisters that I could almost accept the fact that Jo had married some old guy with a weird accent. I followed Claudine out of school and into Paris very happily, although she lost me when she got married because instead of the happy ending that I knew marriage had to be from reading so much Austen, she went and got all miserable on me. (Those are by Colette by the way–Claudine at School is one of the greatest books ever written and hugely inspirational to me, so if you haven’t read it, you should.)
So I get the idea of sequels, I really do. After all, if you’ve gone to the effort of creating some really great characters whom your readers (and maybe even you) are connecting with on some deep, emotional level, why not bring them back so everyone can spend some more time together? And, let’s be honest, sequels also work great on a purely crass, commercial basis: if readers liked ’em once, they’ll probably like ’em again. (And even if they don’t, they’ll have bought the book before realizing it.)
Actually, I dream of writing a series as successful as, say, the Outlander series by Diana Gabaldon. Or the YA Twilight series. It must be wonderful to build your audience book by book, until people are waiting breathlessly for the next one to come out, and to return to characters whose way of speaking, moving, acting are all second nature to you so you can plug them into new situations and plots without starting from scratch each time.
So I have no problem with sequels on an intellectual level. I just can’t figure out how to write one myself.
The main problem is my personality. When I’m done with something, I’m DONE with it. I can’t stand to look back at past work. It embarrasses me for some reason. I’m like the opposite of nostalgic, whatever that would be (is there a word for that?)–if it’s in my past, I want it to stay buried there. Writing a sequel would mean digging something up and maybe finding that what I had buried there wasn’t as good as I remembered.
The other problem is that when I write a book, I like to bring my characters to some sort of settled place at the end. I don’t mean settled as in wedding bells or huge worldly success, but settled as in the future makes sense to them in a way it hadn’t before. Emotionally settled, I guess. So it seems mean to shake them up again, almost as if I’m saying, “Hey, you–you know how you felt so good about things on page 398 of that last book? Well, you were wrong. Things weren’t so good. That guy who seemed so perfect? He’s got problems. The way you and your parents finally were getting along? Not anymore. That sense that you had figured things out? All gone.”
Doesn’t that seem mean?
Maybe if I started something with an eye toward continuing it, especially if it was a book that involved a lot of characters and I could focus on different ones in different books–then I could see having a continuation of some sort from one book to the next. But so far all my books have ended where I wanted them and the characters to end, and I think I’ll leave them there in peace.
I’m glad some people finish my books wanting more. I know that’s a good thing when you’re throwing a party, and I’m going to assume it’s a good thing in books, too! Let me know if you disagree.