My apologies to everyone who has written in the past two to three months: I try to answer every email I receive, but lately I’ve had a difficult time keeping up with my correspondence. My mom has been ill and I’ve been commuting between Northern and Southern California, so I hope you don’t mind if I answer your most frequently asked questions here.
Q: Are you writing another book?
A: Yes, I am. Like the first two, it’s set in the 17th century, but this one takes place in France. (The Rossetti Letter is set in Venice, and The Devlin Diary in England.)
Q: Is it a sequel to the first two?
A: No, the new book is set entirely in the past (1675), and has a whole new slate of characters and an entirely different sort of plot.
Q: I loved Claire. When am I going to find out what happens with her and Andrew?
A: You may have to wait a little longer.
Q: I hated Claire. I don’t understand why you wrote about her, or why half of each book was set in the present day. It was stupid and pointless.
A: That’s not actually a question.
Q: When is the new book going to be finished?
A: My goal is to complete it by the end of June. This year.
Q: Isn’t it taking a long time for you to write it?
A: I don’t happen to think so, but I can assure you that everyone else does.
Q: How long has it taken you so far?
A: About eight months.
Q: Really? It seems like much, much longer than that.
A: That’s because I’m not counting the months when I wasn’t actually writing it.
Q: What the hell were you doing during those other months?
A: I was writing another book.
Q: Is that book finished?
A: Not exactly.
Q: “Not exactly” means “no,” doesn’t it?
A: You’re very clever!
Q: Flattery is not going to get you off the hook. So, when do I actually get to read the new book?
A: My best estimate is sometime early next year. I’ll post updates here. As soon as I have a pub date, I’ll let you know.
Q: Does the new book have a title?
A: The working title is In the Labyrinth of the Sun King, but I’m not entirely convinced that this is the best title for the book. For one thing, it’s too long. But I can’t shorten it to Labyrinth, because that title has been used for at least one book and one film within the past ten years. Also, I think “Sun King” is kind of lame: I don’t think anyone I know would be all that excited to read a book with “Sun King” in the title.
And, probably most important, books change as you write them: they veer off to unforeseen places, pick up new, unexpected characters…all sorts of things happen, if you give them time to happen. Giving yourself time to encounter and work with the new ideas and images that crop up during the writing is the best thing you can do for your book. If you don’t do this, if you cleave to a rigid book outline that offers a safe and secure path to the finish line, you’ll end up with a book that may have a good plot, or even a sympathetic character–but you will have a book with very little heart and soul, and worse, no surprises.
Writing a novel is sort of like making a soup from scratch (although, if you read any of my other blog posts, you’ll discover that I know very little about making soup). But everyone knows that soup doesn’t taste good after only 15 minutes of cooking time; it needs to simmer for at least a few hours before it acquires the richness and subtle flavors that characterize a well-made soup.
Novels need time, too; it’s an important ingredient that few people talk about, especially in a publishing environment that offers the greatest rewards to those who write fast. Time is what allows authors to discover hidden layers of meaning and complexity in their stories. Yes, many authors write a book a year, and some of them write very good books. However, many of them don’t. I prefer books that have been more carefully crafted, and I suspect that you do, too.
Again, I apologize for the wait, but I promise that it will be worth it.