photo by Dennis Skley
As an author, I love talking to readers. Whether that's at book club discussions, or through my website or Goodreads, I get a lot of wonderful feedback and tons of great questions. Many questions are inevitable, like: "How did you come up with this idea?" That's not surprising. As a reader I always want to know that. It's the literary version of VH1's Behind the Music. Everyone likes to hear the story behind the story.
Sometimes I get a question like, "How are the girls doing now?" Or, "Whatever happened to Timothy?" Those types of questions always surprise me.
When I was a reader before being an author, I had similar experiences. I would get so invested in the characters in a book I couldn't help but think of them once the story concluded. Honestly, for me, the story really hadn't concluded even though the book had. I still thought about them. What would happen to them next? How would they move on with their life? And I think, given the opportunity to talk to the author, I would have asked the same questions. Shouldn't the author know?
The truth is, once I stop writing about my characters, they go into a cryogenic state. They are frozen in time. And unless I start thinking about them again, and by that I mean, writing about them again, that's where they stay.
This may be difficult for a reader to understand. And a typical conversation will go like this:
"After your book ends, what happens to Andy?"
"Well, I don't really know."
"What do you mean, you don't know? You're the author."
"Yes, but I haven't thought about that."
"What do you mean, you haven't thought about that? How could you . . . how's he gonna . . . does he ever . . . ?"
Some readers get very upset.
For most authors, when we get to the end of writing a book, it feels like we have been through childbirth without an epidural. And book labor can last for years. That's a lot of screaming. So when we're finished it feels freeing. In some ways, we can't wait to let go. In other ways, it feels impossible to let go, which I write about here in Writers Separation Anxiety. But, when the story comes it its conclusion I think to myself, "Okay gang, I got you all this far. That's it for now. I need a nap. I may touch base with you in a few. But if not, always know I love you to death." (By the way, I love them unconditionally, even the ones who've made really bad decisions. Just like a good book-mama should!)
And the beauty of cryogenics is, if in the future I decide to write a sequel, none of my characters will have aged a bit.