Wednesday, March 19, 2008
I'm so excited to bring you a special guest blogger for Wacky Wednesday! Kathryn R. Wall lives in the South Carolina Lowcountry where her series of mystery novels is set. Her eighth book, The Mercy Oak, which features widowed financial consultant and part-time detective Bay Tanner, will be released April 29.
I've gotten to know Kathy through her work as treasurer of Sisters in Crime. I'm truly in awe that one person can be so gifted with both words and numbers. Read on to hear her take on when it's time to stop writing a series. Welcome Kathy!
Thanks, ladies, for inviting me to share your forum. I enjoy your postings, and I appreciate the opportunity to contribute—hopefully—to the dialogue.
I haven’t written a word on my new manuscript for more than two weeks, which is an extended drought for me. True, I’ve been occupied elsewhere. My husband was hospitalized for four days with a scary infection. His recuperation is occupying most of my time and energy, and writing has been the last thing on my mind. Still, I have a deadline, and I need to get back in the game before too much longer.
The eighth Bay Tanner mystery, The Mercy Oak, will be released at the end of April. I’m working on the 2009 book now, and I have to say that, for the most part, I’m still loving the process as well as the characters I’ve created over the past eleven years. It’s tremendously gratifying when people approach me at a signing or speaking event and talk about Bay and the Judge and Red and Lavinia as if they were real people. The nicest compliment I’ve ever received was from a reader who said Bay was like an old friend who owed her a letter—she needed to catch up on what had been happening in Bay’s life. I’ve worked hard at allowing my principal characters to grow and evolve through the triumphs and tragedies I’ve made them face, and I feel as if they still have stories and secrets to reveal to me.
What I’m wondering about this morning is if I’ll know when it’s time to stop.
Of course, that decision may be taken out of my hands. It’s happened to a lot of my writer friends whose series have been dropped by their publishers for one reason or another. But I’m thinking about authors like Sue Grafton, Marcia Mueller, and others whose series entries exceed twenty books. (I’ll probably be in the “home” before I get that far.) These talented writers continue to captivate faithful readers and garner new ones despite their works’ spanning a couple of decades.
We can all remember television series that went on one season too long—Fonzie “jumping the shark” springs immediately to mind. Yet I think the final episode of M*A*S*H still holds the record for the largest viewing audience ever. We see it, too, with professional athletes who play past their prime. And getting back on track, there are certainly authors who keep grinding them out—no names, please—with what seems to be a decreasing level of the excellence and energy they began with, simply mailing it in, or so it seems. That’s a sorority I certainly don’t want to pledge. But the question persists: how do you know when it’s time to fold your tent gracefully and steal away into the night? Will there be a sign—flashing lights in the sky, an inner voice shouting in your ear?—that says it’s time to move on to something else?
If I had the answer, I wouldn’t be posing the question. I’m hoping some of the regulars here may have some wisdom to pass along. I’ll admit it’s a dilemma aspiring writers dream about having, so please don’t throw tomatoes at your monitors. They make a real mess.