Thursday, June 10, 2021

Joani Elliott: "My condolences on your death - now who's going to finish your book?"

And the winner of Debra H. Goldstein's FOUR CUTS TOO MANY is: Pat D! Contact Debra at dhg@debrahgoldstein.com.
 

HALLIE EPHRON: As authors (particularly of crime fiction), we're wont to say something to the effect: Writing this book is going to kill me. Especially as we wade through writing the mushy middle.

Joani Elliott goes one step further and imagines it happening, because if you die in the middle of a book, who's going to finish it? Say the word "literary executor" to one of your colleagues or offspring and they're likely to run screaming from the room.

Today we're happy to welcome Joani talking about the inspiration for her brand new debut novel, THE AUDACITY OF SARAH GRAYSON. Joani is giving away a signed copy of her new book to one lucky commenter. (Don't you love that cover?!)



JOANI ELLIOTT: THE AUDACITY OF SARA GRAYSON centers around the death of a literary icon and her dying wish that her daughter finish the final volume in her wildly popular best-selling series. There are plenty of missteps and mysteries along the way for Sara who is horrified at the prospect of stepping into her mother’s shoes.

My book’s premise has also generated some interesting conversations with my own daughter, Lexa, who happens to love writing, but still looked at me one day with pleading eyes and said, “Please swear that you will never do that to me, Mom.”

“Do what?” I asked.

“Go and die and then ask me to finish your book.”

I smiled at her. I believe she can do anything. “Define swear,” I said.

At age twenty-one, Lexa is still a master of the eye roll.

I have made no promises about unfinished manuscripts to my daughter, but it does raise interesting questions as writers. Who would you trust to finish one of your books? Is there anyone? And if so, who would that be?

The beloved fantasy writer Robert Jordan died before he could finish his epic Wheel of Time series. With awareness of his coming demise, he asked his wife and editor, Harriet McDougal, to choose someone to finish his series after his death.

(Photo by Jeanne Collins, licensed under CC BY 3.00


McDougal kept her promise and chose author Brandon Sanderson. He was young and accomplished, but he had never even met Jordan. Sanderson was so overwhelmed by the task that he almost didn’t do it. When it came down to making the final decision, Sanderson explained in a 2010 interview with “Fast Forward: Contemporary Science Fiction,” that of “all the people out there…I would screw it up the least.”

Sanderson had read his first Jordan book when he was fourteen. Can you imagine taking on the task of finishing the series of someone you idolized? Would you do it? Sanderson did finish the task, breaking up the last book into three successful volumes.

Michael Crichton died of cancer with more than one unfinished manuscript. His widow and his assistant chose Richard Preston to finish a book that was already one third complete, but Preston had to write a proposal first and then he had to closely follow Crichton’s voice and style to make Micro a success.


Stieg Larsson, author of the famous Millenium trilogy (The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, etc.) died suddenly of a heart attack at age fifty with no will, so his longtime partner was left out of the decision making all together while his family chose another Swedish writer, David Lagercrantz, to continue the series. Despite the initial uproar among Swedish fans and the press, the series sold millions of copies.


Then there is the beloved author Sue Grafton who died before she could finish her final book, Z is for Zero, in her famous Kinsey Millhone Alphabet series. So close! In a post on Grafton’s website after her death, her daughter explained that Grafton was adamant that a ghost writer would never complete her work.


With Grafton’s last published work, Y IS FOR YESTERDAY, her daughter wrote, “As far as we in the family are concerned, the alphabet now ends at Y.

Even as I neared completion of my first Sara Grayson draft, I found myself asking, would her mother, Cassandra Bond, have a back-up plan? Since Bond had cancer and a little time to plan, would she have stashed a draft of the book somewhere just in case her daughter didn’t come through? Would she really trust Sara to finish her work? I’ve asked myself how I would feel about placing my own unfinished work in someone else’s hands.

I’d love to know your thoughts and I’m giving away a signed copy of my novel to a lucky commenter. Would you ask someone to finish one of your stories or would you prefer your unfinished projects to remain that way?


ABOUT The Audacity of Sara Grayson What happens when the world's greatest literary icon dies before she finishes the final book in her best-selling series?

And what happens when she leaves that book in the hands of her unstable, neurotic daughter, who swears she's not a real writer? Sara Grayson is a thirty-two-year-old greeting card writer about to land the toughest assignment of her life. Three weeks after the death of her mother--a world-famous suspense novelist--Sara learns that her mother's dying wish is for her to write the final book in her bestselling series.

Sara has lived alone with her dog, Gatsby, ever since her husband walked out with their Pro Double Waffle Maker and her last shred of confidence. She can't fathom writing a book for thirty million fans--not when last week's big win was resetting the microwave clock.

  But in a bold move that surprises even herself, Sara takes it on. Against an impossible deadline and a publisher intent on sabotaging her every move, Sara discovers that stepping into her mother's shoes means stumbling on family secrets she was never meant to find--secrets that threaten her mother's legacy and the very book she's trying to create.

ABOUT Joani Elliott: Joani grew up with six sisters which means that she can shower fast and do her makeup using the kitchen toaster as a mirror. You should never pick her for your dodgeball team or any team sport—but she does have a rather excellent cartwheel. Joani has taught writing at the University of Maryland and Brigham Young University. She is the mother of two adult daughters who feel sorry for Sara Grayson and believe authors should finish their own damn books.

116 comments:

  1. I don't expect there would be a great outpouring of demands for any of my incomplete manuscripts so I wouldn't burden anyone with the task. If anything, I might leave a request for someone to delete those files from my computer and burn my notebooks!

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    1. Hey, you never know! But something all of us should think about is making sure that anything that you wouldn't want exposed to the scrutiny of friends, relatives, or strangers, delete it yourself.

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    2. Hi Annette!
      There would be no demand for mine either! Eeks I think I've got some things I'd like to burn too!

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    3. Hi Hallie! You must have loads of files, what do you do with it all--do you get rid of things every so often? Do you have things you don't anyone going through???

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    4. I don't write down anything I don't want people going through. Seriously. If there's one thing we're learning is Tweets never die. Just for example.

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    5. Seriously! You're right! I've always kept a personal journal and I'm just not writing stuff in there that I'm not okay with my survivors reading.

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  2. Congratulations, Joani, on your book . . . I’m looking forward to reading it.

    I believe I’d prefer the unfinished projects remained unfinished, but it certainly raises a lot of interesting questions . . . .
    Why continue a series in the first place? And does the new author try to emulate the original author or does he put his own “stamp” on the stories? How much change will readers accept? How much will the new author feel stymied by being forced to write as the original writer would have told the story? Or is it such an honor to be asked to continue a series that none of that matters? Tough decision . . . .

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    1. There's a lot of money to be made these days in writing that bears the name of a dead bestselling author... or one who's too busy to write their own. Personally, I think Sue Grafton got it right. But then I've never aspired to be a gazillionaire.

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  3. I love the premise, Joani!

    As a completely theoretical construct (I'm not sick, and I hope to live a long time) I asked my older son (a good writer on his own) if he would be my literary executor. He immediately said yes. I think I'd better give him a heads up that he might have to finish writing a book, not just handle the accounts for the books out there.

    Sheila Connolly's daughter, Julie Williams, did extensive edits on her mom's last book (The Secret Staircase is out in August!), and wrote the Author's Note. I think Sheila might have completed the first draft but it was pretty rough. I don't think Julie expected to have to do that work, but I got to read an ARC and she did a fabulous job.

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    1. I hope to read that last Sheila Connolly book and it's nice to know that it was finished by her daughter.

      And dear me, I hope your son never has to finish a book for you Edith. I'm going to have to work on an immortality serum so I can read Country Store mysteries forever and ever!

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    2. Julie will be a guest on Jungle Red in August, can't wait to talk to her about the process...

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    3. Looking forward to hosting Julie! That's great news, Lucy - Sheila Connolly is sorely missed.

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    4. I'm glad Julie was able to finish Sheila's book. Looking forward to her post in August.

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    5. (Jay, my editor did say recently that the series can go on "indefinitely" as far as he's concerned. Yay!)

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    6. Thank you, Edith! Thank you for bringing up Sheila Connolly and her daughter! A great example here. I'm so glad she did it. She's lucky to have had a first draft, but I agree that it still would have been very difficult. Lucy, I'm excited to hear she will be on Jungle Red. I will watch for that because I would love to know her process as well! Edith, are you saying that Sheila's series could continue--with another writer?

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    7. Joani, apparently not. I don't think it's my place to say anything more. But it would be great if Julie decided to write her own series!

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  4. I don't have any stories written so this isn't that much of a concern for me. However, if I did I wouldn't want them finished by someone else. That's just my own personal preference.

    With that being said, I have come to enjoy a couple of series that have continued on after the author's death.

    Kyle Mills was hired to take over the Mitch Rapp series by Vince Flynn and has done a masterful job of not only continuing the series but has really made it his own at the same time.

    Ace Atkins has done a great job with taking over Robert B. Parker's Spenser series as well.

    As for the Robert Jordan example cited in the main article, it was a bummer that he didn't finish the series. Initially I loved The Wheel of Time books. I first knew of Jordan because he wrote some Conan stories I liked. He also wrote a trilogy that was started out during the Revolutionary War under a pen name that I liked too. I can't say what I thought of how Brandon Sanderson finished off The Wheel of Time series though. I didn't read it. I had long since given up on the series by that point. These books were at least 700 pages long and it was book 7 that caused me to give up after reading the first 300 pages and realizing that absolutely NOTHING had happened. That's one of the reasons I stopped reading fantasy novels altogether. So much in the way of page counts with nothing of consequence going on doesn't impress me. If the waste of time stuff had been edited out, the series probably would've ended long before Robert Jordan had passed.

    It's also why I consider the truly awful ending of the Game of Thrones TV show to be THE ending. George R.R. Martin is NEVER going to finish the book series. It's been what, 7 or 8 years since book 5 and he's not done with book 6? And there's still a 7th book to write? I have a better chance of inventing a working TARDIS than readers have of ever seeing a finished Game of Thrones book series.

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    1. I love your posts, Jay! Hilariously, brutally honest about literature. For me, some of these books held no appeal. I picked up a fantasy series on Kindle for Irwin. He read 2 and told me don't get any more. Each book is just a come on to the next one. 700 pages is a bit much to plow through for 200 pages of story.

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    2. Hi Jay!
      Thanks for these great examples of continues book series! I haven't read them so I'm glad to know. Okay, I just have to say that you've hit on something that I have a problem with in fantasy: the length. I love a good story! And fantasy writers tell such brilliant stories, but the genre seems to LOVE seriously long books and the fans (and editors) can stomach those VERY long books. Wouldn't it be nice if they offered us the 400 page versions? And that is sad about Game of Thrones. The screenwriters had to go ahead and just write the ending to the series themselves. I'm trying to wrap my head around that one as a writer! "Go ahead and finish it your way and then when I get to it, I'll finish it my way, if I get to it."

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    3. Jay, I second your opinion on Wheel of Time and Game of Thrones. I persevered with the first because my husband told me, "It gets better." It didn't, not for me. I gave up on GoT after book 4. Too long and too long between volumes.

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    4. This comment has been removed by the author.

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    5. Do they still have those Readers Digest condensed books? I'm sure there are mixed feelings about them, but maybe that's what I need for Game of Thrones and some fantasy series.
      BTW, I deleted this initial comment because it was full of typos. Instead it just says:
      "This comment has been removed by the author." It looks very ominous--like what kind of terrible thing did she write and then had to delete. Did she lash out uncontrollably and then thought better of it?

      It will remain a mystery.

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    6. But not really, because I just told you.

      Unless I delete another one.
      And another.

      And more people do it. Then we will all be wondering about all these "comments have been removed" comments.

      It's downright scandalous.
      All on Jungle Red Writers.

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    7. Lucy, thanks. But I really wasn't trying to be funny other than the TARDIS line. Before mysteries and thrillers took over for me, I read mainly fantasy novels. And while series like The Belgariad, The Malloreon, The Elenium and The Tamuli by David (and Leigh Eddings) and The Chronicles of Prydain by Lloyd Alexander were great series, there were others that just droned on and on with no end in sight and it affected my overall enjoyment of the fantasy genre as a whole. These days, I'd rather just read Conan prose novels for my fantasy fix.

      Judy, I will always give my honest opinion about something. I don't sugarcoat, especially when asked for my opinion. I try not to be an a** about stuff but I won't lie either.

      Joanie E. - Yes, Game of Thrones ran out of book material after season 5 and they had to make it up after that. And despite how lazy the last season was with the producers having essentially checked out because they wanted to do other stuff, at least they gave us an ending. (A BAD ONE!) And then Martin came out and said something to the effect of "Well, that's not how I plan to end it. My reaction was, then you should've written the last couple of books BEFORE they finished the series. To me, Martin ceded the right to end the series on his terms once he let the TV show write their own ending.

      The fantasy genre is spectacular at the art of world building. But not so great on working that building into a tighter script that doesn't make you have to take a month off in order to read a single installment in the series.

      And I don't believe they do condensed versions of the books for those of lacking the time for 300 pages of thumb twiddling.

      Liz, I read the first 6 books in The Wheel of Time series and as I said originally, gave up in book 7. Game of Thrones in the book form was practically unreadable for me. I never finished the first book.

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    8. Jay, you are delightful. I like your honest opinions. Lots o' truth speaking here. I particularly like: "The fantasy genre is spectacular at the art of world building. But not so great on working that building into a tighter script that doesn't make you have to take a month off in order to read a single installment in the series." Amen to that!

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  5. I absolutely LOVE that cover and the premise is amazing, congrats Joan! I suppose it would make a big difference if the author in question had been making pots of money. Then you might have someone step up with alacrity:)

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    1. Thank you, Lucy!
      Well, you've hit on something there. MONEY! That will certainly make some writers step right up. And it will certainly move publishing companies to search for the right replacements
      Then there are also the super fans, motivated by love of the original work. In the interviews I've watched with Brandon Sanderson, I think he really felt like he might be the least likely to screw it up. They are worth watching! He was in awe when Robert Jordan's widow/editor handed him his notes about the end of the book. Gave me chills!

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  6. I love this cover and now I want to read this book.

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  7. What a delightfully macabre premise! Sue Grafton had the right idea, I think. I'm done, so is the series. As a writer, I can't imagine the pressure to essentially ghost for a ghost. As a reader who had followed on multiple attempts, the books may be million sellers, but more as curiosity factors. Voice is personal and unique. Yes, it can be imitated, but when it is, it loses depth. At least that's my $0.02.

    Sorry as I am to have a series end with the death of the author, there is a certain elegance about letting it end at that point. What can sometimes work is a follow-on writer continuing a series. One example that comes to mind is the way that Anne Hillerman has made the Chee series hers by shifting the focus to Bernie.

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    1. Kait, I agree about Anne Hillerman--I think she was smart o focus obn Bernie. She's just begun to get Joe Leaphorn's voice close to her father's version, but as for Jim Chee--not even close.

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    2. Thanks, Kait! I love your phrase "ghost for a ghost."
      I do like what you brought up here with a shift of focus to another character in a series. That could freshen it up and naturally open space for a new writer.

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  8. First let me say, that cover is amazing! I don't often choose a book by its cover, but I am convinced that one would have made me stop to consider it even if I knew nothing about it.

    Speaking as a reader rather than an author, I think each situation is different and so are the answers. I can totally respect and understand Sue Grafton's view. But I can also understand and appreciate when an author or the author's family want to finish a story that has begun, whether that's completing a single manuscript or finishing out a series story arc.

    I think the story of Brandon Sanderson finishing out the McDougal series makes a lot of sense. If a gifted writer in his own right has been reading another author's story since the age of 14, I think the odds are good that he will be able to assume the voice and honor the canon.

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    1. Thank you, Susan!
      Yes, I think the situation and answers are different for each family. And great point about Brandon Sanderson. If he was reading his books since age 14, he probably was a good choice!

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  9. I can think of only one series I read that was continued by someone else. I wasn't impressed with the work but maybe because it had been implanted in my brain that no one else could do justice to the characters.

    Of the few things that I have written the 2 most personal "books" I have already destroyed. They served their purpose and no one else needs to read them. On the other hand, I hope that someday someone can enjoy the children's stories I wrote, although they are probably too dated to work now.

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    1. I hope so, too -- maybe some day "dated" will once again be fashionable.

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    2. Hi Judi!
      Sometimes it can really flop.
      I'm with Hallie--maybe those stories will come into fashion again. I'd hang onto them!

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  10. I'm with Sue Grafton. When it's done, it's done, no substitute authors, no "based on the works of" series with the Russian alphabet. I don't know about a tv series or movie based on Kinsey Milhone without Grafton's approval of the script.

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    1. Thanks for your thoughts, Margaret! I read that Grafton passed up millions on TV and movie deals. She never wanted Kinsey Millhone anywhere but in her books. I'd love to know more about that decision if anyone knows more about it.

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    2. I've always heard that because she once wrote for TV (before novels) and saw how beloved books were ruined, she didn't want to let that happen to Kinsey.

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    3. Yes, that's what Sue Grafton said at a conference where I heard her speak. Her experience watching novels turned into shows and ruined, in her opinion, turned her off anybody getting a hold of her books and putting them out in any other format then the one she wrote them for.

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    4. That's really interesting. Thanks for sharing! There is plenty of evidence to support her concerns. Then there are also such wonderful adaptations. I certainly admire her courage to stick to what she felt was right for her books.

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  11. Great cover and what a premise! Definitely checking this one out, Joani.

    My immediate response is NO, never. The original author or no one. But a more philosophical response has me going down the road of pondering who really owns the stories once they are out there and couldn't anyone competent continue them on in order to keep them alive? If we readers love the characters and the book-world that the author created, wouldn't we want more more more, regardless of who the writer is? (presuming, of course, the writing is good) And how does fan fiction fit into this matter?

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    1. Thanks, Amanda!

      Okay, as you were talking about this, I was just thinking about fan fiction myself! There is an entire universe of fan fiction. Apparently some of it is pretty good. Obviously, fan fiction can't be legitimately published because of copyright but I love your questions here.

      For characters in the public domain, there are some wonderful works in the Jane Austen world. I loved Death Comes to Pemberly, for example. Taking Austen's characters and turning it into a mystery was bloody brilliant!

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  12. I wonder if the similarity between the names Sara Grayson and Sue Grafton was intentional or not...

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  13. Like Annette, I don't think there will be a great demand for anything half-done when I die to be completed.

    I did read Sanderson's final Wheel of Time books. He did a great job.

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    1. Hi Liz! Many Jordan fans agree with you. :)

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  14. I'm with Hallie. As much as I mourned her passing (and the loss of "Z"), Sue Grafton got it right when she declared no one would ever finish her novel(s).

    But then I look at several promising MSs left behind when my dear writing partner and friend died 3 years ago, and I long to finish and publish at least one of them for her. Her family isn't interested.

    I'll be looking for Joani's book!

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    1. (Hi Cyndi!) That is a real shame... even just finishing it so the family and friends can have a copies would be worth doing, but it would be up to them.

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    2. Thanks for understanding! I know how hard Lori worked on those stories; I hate to see them languish.

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    3. I'm sorry for the loss of your friend! I hope her family will come around. It would be wonderful to share Lori's work. :)

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    4. Thanks, Joani. I may approach them again when I'm done with my current WIP.

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  15. Joan Hess finished the last Amelia Peabody book after Barbara Peters died. Now Joan herself is gone.

    Wasn't Hemingway's The Garden of Eden finished by another writer?

    As much as I will miss new titles from Sue Grafton, 25 books in a series is more than most readers could hope for already!

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    1. By the way, the cover is fantastic!

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    2. Yes, Karen, I was thinking about the last Barbara Peters book too. I thought Joan Hess did a splendid job with continuing the tone of Barbara's style. Loved and miss that series. And I agree that Sue Grafton, sadly, must end at y. Joani's cover is delightful and eye catching. I'd buy that book!

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    3. I haven't read the Joan Hess Amelia--will have to look that one up. Joan and Barbara Mertz (who wrote as Elizabeth Peters and as Barbara Michaels) were great friends and had the same sense of humor, so I can see that working.

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    4. Thank you Karen and Charlene!
      I love hearing about more authors who had someone else finish their work.

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    5. Elizabeth Peters, of Course! Thanks, Debs.

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    6. I was a big fan of Joan Hess's Claire Malloy series so when she died I was sad that there wouldn't be any more books in that series but I don't believe I would've wanted to read someone else doing their take on it.

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  16. Joani, welcome to JRW and congratulations on your new book. The cover is terrific and the premise enticing. Thinking about authors, I am pretty sure I haven't read anything finished by someone else, but have read lots of works co-authored.

    I am rooting for Sara. Her life so far has been challenging. Having a famous parent can be a particular type of challenge. This story has grabbed me and I am off to look for the book.

    As far as someone else finishing my work, just take the cake out when the timer dings!

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  17. I think the answer is: it depends. I'm an historian, working on a long series along with a team of fantastic colleagues. Recently I had a medical scare, and had to ask myself if my colleagues would do justice to the research I've begun, but not finalized, and the answer was a resounding "yes." However, my experience as a reader in terms of completing a fictional work has been less than satisfactory. Likewise follow up volumes in a series, with the exception of Jill Paton Walsh and Dorothy Sayers.

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    1. I read the first of the Paton Walsh Peter Wimsey books, but it's been so long that I can't remember if I liked it. I obviously didn't go looking for further books...

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    2. Great point, Unknown. Each situation really does have its own set of unique circumstances.

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  18. I'm not an author, but as a reader, I'm wary when someone takes on a deceased author's series. One occasion in which it was handled perfectly, though, was Blaize Clement's Dixie Hemingway mystery series. Her son John wrote the last few beautifully, keeping up his mother's high standards.

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    1. Hello Margie!
      Thank you for telling me about Blaize Clement! I'm looking her up now. I love that her son wrote for her.

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  19. JoanI— fabulous premise! I do have a literary trust in place and I’m already writing with my daughter so I know she’d do a good job finishing my book. But I’m so diligent about my deadlines that it would really be a dead-line for me. I’d keep writing from my bed and insist on staying alive until I finished the damned thing!

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    1. Thank you, Rhys! I'm still laughing about your "dead-line!" I don't doubt you and your daughter will love you for it!

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  20. This got me thinking about L. Frank Baum's legacy - he created the 14 original Oz books and after his death, Ruth Plumly Thompson took over. She published something like 27 of them. I powered through Baum's books but I sputtered trying to read Thompsons's ...

    Which brings me to consider Arthur Conan Doyle! How many gazillions of writers have tried to pick up where he left off? And encountered lawsuits from the Doyle estate. Now his work is out of copyright.

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    1. Oh yeah! The Oz books, of course!
      Now Arthur Conan Doyle--that's interesting. There have been so many wonderful spin-offs! As fans, do we just need TIME? Right now, do we all say--no one can touch Sue Grafton's work, but then later we are okay? What if we said no one can ever touch Doyle's work or characters? I'm sad to think of what we would miss! There's the fantastic Enola Holmes series and Benedict Cumberbatch's Sherlock is brilliant.

      Sigh.

      So maybe after an author dies, we all just need some time and then we're okay with having their work made into new, beautiful creations?

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    2. There's been so many different takes on Sherlock Holmes (or rather the expansion of the stories) that I think he's probably the only literary character that is immune to authors offering their own spin.

      The Canon stands alone, untouched forever. But there's been so many fantastic pastiches based off it, there is just a boatload of great stuff to choose from. It's not Doyle, but the great stuff is in fact GREAT.

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    3. That's a good point, Jay. The Canon itself does stand rather alone. I've got it sitting in my living room. But so much that has come out of it really is fantastic. I suppose there has been plenty of lousy stuff too, but we've all just ignored it.

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  21. Joani, welcome to Jungle Reds and your new novel sounds fascinating! It sounds like her author mother had more confidence in her daughter than her daughter had in herself, right?

    Great post. I was reminded of Agatha Christie's estate choice of Sophie Hannah in writing more Hercule Poirot novels.

    Margie, yes, Blaize Clement's son John wrote the last few beautifully. I met him at my first Malice conference and I bought his books.

    As Unknown said, the answer is it depends. I am Not an Author. Though I have several WIP. If someone could write in my voice, then it is possible. I can understand why Sue Grafton did not want a ghostwriter.

    Interesting topic today since it would have been HRH Prince Philip the Duke of Edinburgh's 100th birthday. He died last month in May.

    Diana

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    1. Thank you, Diana!
      And thank you for bringing up these other books. I'm going to make note of them!

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  22. Good morning, All! Waking up on the west coast to a lively discussion already! I was thinking about the next book that I'm writing and how much my daughter already knows about it and loves the story. If she wanted to finish it, I think she could (haha) and I'd be totally okay with it, but she might bring me back in a seance for a few choice words!

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  23. I fall in the camp of stop if the author dies. Mimicking an author's voice? I haven't been happy with most of the efforts I've tried to read. As Kait mentioned above, Anne Hillerman continued her father's series by redirecting the focus to Bernie. But as a longtime fan of Tony Hillerman's books, oh how I've missed his voice! His Joe Leaphorn, his Jim Chee, his take on the secondary characters, the physical and cultural landscapes. To finish a manuscript in progress? I'm willing to give it a read. Will definitely be looking for Sheila Connolly's last book, knowing that she'd completed a first draft.

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    1. Thanks for your thoughts, Flora! It's definitely hard to get an author's voice right and a challenge to satisfy fans.

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  24. Hi Joani. Just had so many others have said, I like your books cover. I would stop and take a look at your book of saw it in the bookstore. Bunny slippers are so cute but I've always wondered if the ears are wired to stand up or do they flip dowm? I think I would trip on floppy ears.

    Would I, if I was a writer, want someone else finish my last works when I died. Luckily that will never be a problem since I'm a reader, not an author so there will be no partially finished manuscripts to deal with. Now, my WIPs of crocheting is a while different story.

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    1. Thank you, Deana! The ears are floppy, but length is key (keep them short) so that one does not trip, which I certainly would! LOL!

      Now, will you will those crochet WIP to just anyone or do you have someone in mind?
      P.S. There's a lovely character in my book who loves to crochet. :)

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    2. Alas, no one else crochets in my family. So I guess I'll just need to stick around until I finish them.

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  25. Thanks for all the great discussion! I've been thinking more about the Sue Grafton question myself. I am in awe and respect of Grafton's ability to stick with what she feels is right for her work--no one finishing it AND no one making any TV or movies out of it. She would have made millions on the screen rights. It's clear she felt a certain way and had the guts to stick with it. That's incredible to me.

    Now from MY end, I wish there were films because I love film and I love seeing good film adaptations. Also, I love closure. There's something in me that just feels sad about stopping with Y. I wish there was someone Sue Grafton had chosen, someone she loved, who knew her work deeply and who could finish Z in tribute to her. I guess that's the romantic in me.

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  26. Okay, so I just came up with another brilliant author who died and had a family member take over and NO ONE has mentioned her AT ALL and I don't know why NONE OF US have even thought of HER.

    I think she was my first favorite!

    ARE YOU READY???

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  27. AMELIA BEDELIA by PEGGY PARISH!

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  28. Hi Joani! What a great premise, and the cover is irresistible. As a writer, it's certainly an interesting question. I'm sure there are other writers who could plot better than I do, but I don't know if anyone would ever have quite the same voice. My daughter is a great reader but hasn't shown any desire to write--so far. I keep telling her she needs to write a mystery based on a realtor, which she is. She certainly sees every imaginable side of human nature! And there would be lots of opportunities for finding bodies...

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    1. Thanks, Deborah!
      I agree--voice would be the hardest. And the realtor mystery series! Brilliant--so many places for dead bodies--LOL!

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  29. Now hold onto your socks everyone.
    There is going to be some in-fighting here. ;) I mean, come on--it's Amelia Bedelia.

    Peggy Parish wrote the Amelia Bedelia series from 1963 until her death in 1988 and then her nephew Herman Parish took over in 1995.

    I loved Amelia Bedelia. I laughed so hard as a kid. Then I bought some of the newer ones for my daughter and I'm not so sure. Something might have been just a little off. I think it might be Herman.

    So you win some, you lose some.

    Now, as to a film adaptation of Amelia Bedelia, Universal and Tom Hanks' company Playtone actually bought the rights in 2005 but the project never materialized. Dream cast?
    Emma Stone as Amelia? And should they introduce a love interest?
    They could always turn it into a cozy mystery...

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    1. I think I missed the new ones for my kids - thankfully, I guess. As for casting the movie, I have to disagree with Emma Stone. I can see Anya Taylor-Joy (EMMA, THE QUEEN'S GAMBIT) as Amelia Bedelia. She has a delightfully serious face.

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    2. OH, yes--I can totally see that! Do you have Tom Hanks on speed dial?

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    3. The new Amelia Bedelia books, at least the one I read, skipped over the whole word confusion and were just a story. Not nearly the same level of fun.

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  30. This sounds great, Joani. And full of pitfalls. I'm looking forward to reading it.

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  31. Well nuts. My scribble disappeared. Joani, I love the plot of your book. I want to know why the publisher is dead set on sabotaging the book Sara is to finish.
    Authors' wishes should be respected. If they want their series to end with them, then that is what should happen. Some writers are very capable of picking up the torch and writing on, but others not so much. It can be a satisfying experience for the reader or a disappointment.

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    1. Hi Pat,
      Great question! So Sara's mother had a rider on her contract allowing her to choose the writer to replace her so the publisher is stuck with Sara Grayson. Sara has never published a novel (she has talent; her mother believes in her) and so the publisher is rightfully worried. They don't want an unproven author taking on the biggest book of the decade--and their biggest money maker. If they can get Sara to quit, they are free to choose their own author.

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  32. I'm torn on this one. I want to read the final book from an author, but I want it to be right. I respect those who do it well, but I would hate to read a horrible "final" book.

    And I'm torn on Z is for Zero. I want to know how Sue would have ended the series. But maybe it's better that we can each get to imagine how Kinsey's life plays out. I just finished S, so I still have a few letters to go. But I am going to miss Kinsey when I hit Y.

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    1. Mark, you or I won't get to see it, but somewhere out there right now, there's a little girl who will grow up to be the mother of the author of Z IS FOR ZERO, coming out in 2087 (probably in full sensurround holographic immersion.)

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    2. LOL! I actually believe you have it right, Julia!
      There is something about a lapse in time that gives people and culture the space to do things more creatively with beloved stories/characters. Right now fan fiction exists as a space to do that, but it has taken considerable time for Death at Pemberly and Enola Holmes and all the beautiful spin offs of classic characters that would have certainly been impossible to pull off too close to the originals (copyright issues aside).

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  33. Joani, I love this concept with a burning passion, and I'm getting THE AUDACITY OF SARA GRAYSON for my oldest daughter. I actually went through this discussion back in 2010, when I had the H1N1 flu and I was SO sick I thought I might die (but was so exhausted I didn't care.) I called the Maine Millennial to my bedside and told her everything I already knew would happen in my half-unfinished novel. I didn't make her vow to finish it for me - she was a freshman in college and had a lot going on! - but I wanted her to tell whomever my agent picked to carry on.

    Now, even though that same daughter is a professional writer herself, I wouldn't ask her to keep my series going in my place, mostly because she doesn't like mysteries. She will be my literary executor, however, and I trust her and my agency to find a good replacement for me, if they think (fingers crossed) there's enough commercial demand to do so.

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    1. Julia! Wow! This is absolutely fascinating! Thanks for sharing! I am glad to know you have thought of this and that (fingers crossed) your work will continue!

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  34. Joani, I already love the character of Sara and your witty writing. And, Hallie is right about that cover. Spectacular!

    A beloved author dying before finishing a favorite series is a major blow to readers. Of course, the worst part about it is that this wonderfully talented person isn't here anymore for her/his family and friends. But, readers do feel that loss of a special enjoyment in their lives. I agree with Mark, that even though I want a final book in the series to tie up all the loose ends, I would rather have no book than a badly done one.

    I have deliberately put off reading Sue Grafton's Y book because I know it is the last, but I will be reading it later this year, finally putting to rest the series and the author. The same has happened with another favorite author and series, one not as well known here as in England (although there are plenty of fans here). Dianna Norman writing as Ariana Franklin wrote the historical crime/mystery series, the Mistress of the Art of Death featuring Adelia Aguilar, a female surgeon in Henry II's time when female doctors and surgeons weren't allowed. Well, Diana dies while working on another book, and it has come out now co-authored by her daughter. I think it's going to be fine, but I haven't read it yet.

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    1. Thank you, Kathy, for the kind words! I'm sad to hear we lost another brilliant author. Thank you for sharing Dianna Norman with me. I will look her up immediately! It really is a complex situation. We love an author and we will always want more of their work--how that can and should play out upon their death is complex.

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  35. Take comfort in the fact the you (the now demised author) no longer have to think about it, let alone worry about it!
    But, if you want to cover your bases, plan ahead and discuss who you think would have the right "voice".

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    1. I don't know, Libby--if it's not done well, I am planning on haunting my successor for at least a year or two. Just mild stuff, turning lights on and off, hiding salt and pepper shakers and writing "You did it wrong" with blood on the bathroom mirror.

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  36. All right. I've just thought of another great writer who died, but his work has continued.

    Drum roll...

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  37. Does anyone know if Clancy himself made a decision about allowing others to continue with his characters or if the choice was made to his literary executor?

    Amazon has produced two seasons of a complete reboot to Jack Ryan's story. I've seen the first season and liked it. The second one I haven't finished. While season one felt consistent with Jack Ryan's character (one of my favorite literary characters), season two did not get this right.

    I'm not aware of any books that are continuing Jack Ryan's story. Anyone?

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    1. I was in my library yesterday and saw a Tom Clancy book on the new books shelf. I picked it up and realized it had another author's name also on the cover. I don't remember the name. And I haven't read Clancy in decades but I like him for a while

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    2. That's interesting, Edith! I did a little digging and it looks like two authors took the helm for a while and then in 2017, they stepped back and two more were selected to keep things moving forward. Apparently there are even Jack Ryan Jr. books. So some franchises just keep going and going. Tom Clancy's name is still fifty times bigger than his new authors on the book covers. ;) Not bad for a dead guy.

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  38. I think it depends on the popularity of the series. When V.C. Andrews died, another slew of books followed. It looked like there were a lot in the pending to be published pipeline. On the other hand, if a series ended on a cliff hanger I would love to have someone come in and finish the thought as it were. It would be nice to have a solution tp Elwin Drood, don't you think?

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    1. Good points and examples here, Coralee! Commercial demand plays a big role and also unanswered questions drive what comes next. Certainly Grafton has both, but she ultimately put her foot down.
      Fan fiction can fill a void for many who seek answers or long for a story to continue. Has anyone read any fan fiction for Kinsey Millhone?

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