It's been four months since my latest book, Jack Waters, came out. I spent much of that time doing blog posts to promote it and writing non-fiction pieces, essays and book reviews, for a couple of crime fiction sites. Now it's time to get back into the new novel, and I'm eager to do that. I have about 13,000 words done, and words done in my case means fairly polished, since I never do first drafts and go back. Write a page or two, revise, finish a chapter, circle back, rewrite, revise, and then advance is, as I'm sure I've mentioned here before, my laborious method. But 13,000 words also means I probably have about a quarter of the book done since I never write anything all that long. For the rest of this spring, through the summer, and into the fall, I'm sure I'll be working on the new thing.
So I'm at that stage where my main focus is the book at hand while at the same time I'm developing a picture of how the last book is doing. I can't say I have any complaints. Feedback has been good, and though you always want to sell as many books as possible, sales after four months are about where I expected them to be. Then there are the surprising reactions, or one in particular - that some people who read the book say they find the second most important character, Isobel Paulsen, more interesting than the lead, Jack Waters. It's not a bad surprise, just something unexpected, and it's one of those things that makes getting responses to what you wrote such an interesting and thought-provoking experience.
The natural question, which a few people have asked me, is whether I'd write a follow-up book with Isobel as the lead character. It's not something I've ever been asked with other characters in earlier novels (though to be fair, a lot of people in those books, Spiders and Flies and Graveyard Love anyway, ended up dead), so it's worth giving some thought. It would be a chance to go back to 1904 or thereabouts and write another historical tale. I could keep Isobel in the Caribbean, where Jack Waters takes place, or move her somewhere else. She does have a portable skill - she writes books - and no husband around anymore to hinder her movements.
It's odd. I've never been one to give much consideration to writing sequels, so when someone says, "Hey, I could read more about Isobel," I almost get annoyed. Why are these people making me consider writing something I had no plans for? I have enough book ideas I want to get to. But I'm not entirely serious, of course. Who isn't tickled when a person expresses enough interest in a character you wrote to say he'd like to see more of that character? More Isobel? A story of her own? I don't know. I'll let the ideas for that kick around. In the meantime, I'll see what anyone else who reads Jack Waters has to say about it - a process I always find fun despite the occasional rough comment - and I'll push ahead on the new book. On the new one, I can only be certain of one thing. What I think I'm doing, what I'm aiming for, may not be what an individual takes away from the story at all. It's the literary uncertainty principle, and it sure helps keep the experience of writing a vital one.