Wednesday, May 29, 2013

WHATEVER HAPPENED TO...


 
 
Nancy Mehl lives in Wichita, Kansas, with her husband Norman and her very active puggle, Watson. She’s authored fourteen books and is currently at work on a new series for Bethany House Publishing. The first book in her Road to Kingdom series, “Inescapable,” came out in July of 2012. The second book, “Unbreakable” released in February of 2013. The final book in the series, “Unforeseeable,” will be available in September of 2013.

Readers can learn more about Nancy through her Web site: www.nancymehl.com. She has a newsletter located at: www.nancymehl.blogspot.com, and is a part of another blog, The Suspense Sisters: www.suspensesisters.blogspot.com, along with several other popular suspense authors. She is also very active on Facebook.
 
WHAT EVER HAPPENED TO...
 
Writing for publishers can be exciting, disappointing, confusing, and fun. Sometimes, all these emotions happen with one book! There are a lot of things that happen behind the scenes that impact readers. For example, the other day a friend asked me about sequels that aren’t published. Readers who connect with certain characters feel that they’ve been left hanging. Authors get the email that starts out…”Whatever happened to…?” Today, I want to talk about why sometimes characters appear and disappear like mini-raptures.

When an author starts writing a series, we all hope we will be just like Sue Grafton. She started out with A is for Alibi and will release W is for Witness in September. I can only guess that the next books will be X is for X-ray, Y is for Yawn and Z is for Zzzzzzz, seeing her character, Kinsey Malone, must be in her eighties by now. Unfortunately, most publishers don’t like long running series. The current trend is three books and you’re done. For authors who are always optimistic (or living in a dream world), the hope is still out there that our editor will say, “This is the best series ever! Don’t make any plans for the next thirty years!” But, unfortunately, that doesn’t happen very often. So…characters we’ve planted in the background, hoping to bring them forward in a sequel, just float off into character heaven. Unloved, unfulfilled, and un… Okay, I ran out of “un” words. But you get the idea. This happened to me recently with characters from my Road to Kingdom series. So, what does a hapless writer do with these poor unfortunate characters that never get a chance to live out their fictional lives?

When I was notified that my Road to Kingdom series was over, and it was time for a new series, I was disappointed that Kingdom and its inhabitants were headed for character heaven. I quickly came to the conclusion that the only possible reason had to do with the Kingdom titles. We’d simply run out of titles that ended with –able. Inescapable, Unbreakable and Unforeseeable. All we had left were choices like: Unbelievable, Indescribable, Unworkable, Untranslatable, Unutterable, Unthinkable, Unprintable, Unidentifiable, Undecipherable, Uncopyrightable (yes, it’s a word!), Incomprehensible, and Insufferable. As you can imagine, it was a set up for disaster. Mean-spirited reviewers would have pounced on these unfortunate titles with evil relish. Now my editor hasn’t admitted that this was their thinking, but in my mind, this was the only possible reason to discontinue the series. This explanation makes me feel better. So leave me alone.

But what about poor Sophie who fled Kingdom in shame? And the suitor Hope didn’t choose? And what about poor plain Leah, the schoolteacher who never found love? What happens to these lost souls?

First of all, characters are never really wasted. They can make a comeback in a different book. For example, Leah Burkholder from Kingdom, Kansas, has become Sarah Miller, a schoolteacher in Sanctuary, Missouri. So, Leah’s story will be told. But what about Sophie and the young man rejected by Hope in Unbreakable? It would have been hard to recreate these characters under different names. Sophie would have had to cause chaos and leave town again. If the Sanctuary series stays at three books, poor Sophie will be cast out into the world for the second time. That just wouldn’t be fair. She could start feeling unloved.

In this situation, I contacted my awesome editor and mentioned that people in the real world actually do move. What if Sophie showed up in Sanctuary? And our poor man with the broken heart happens to be there as well? Thankfully, my editor gave me the go ahead. So, these characters will finish out their stories. My readers will be able to see their fictional lives fulfilled.

So, if you notice a character that springs to life in your favorite author’s book and then fades into the sunset before living a full life – have hope! They could make a comeback. They may look different, act a little different, and have different friends, but inside they’re the same.

Kind of like Doctor Who.

 


 

 

13 comments:

  1. Hopefully those characters will resurface somewhere! :)

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  2. I'm so glad you wrote this today. Many (most) of the characters in your Kingdom series were like old friends and I really did want to know what happens to them. Might be silly, but when I read a good book, I immersed myself completely in the setting and the characters, and can't just leave them hanging. :)

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  3. i love your blog and i love your books, i feel like im right there with them, ever thing comes to life. keep on writing my friend
    Shirley

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  4. I am so glad some of the characters in the Kingdom Series is going to be part of the Sanctuary Series! I loved those characters and hated to say goodbye to them!

    Hugs,
    Janet

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  5. Nancy, one of the things I love about your books are the characters you introduce me to, and make me care about. Thanks for the hard work you put in to this area.
    (I tried to post earlier and messed up, so if you get two comments from me, they will say basically the same thing...sorry)

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  6. Thanks for the comments. I do work hard on my characters. Funny thing is, it's hard for me to say good-bye to them too! LOL!

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  7. So glad to hear that they will be coming back. I hate when a series ends and you are left to wonder: What happened?? Thank you for this blog!

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  8. Great blog and I'm glad to hear that you will be telling the continued story for some of the 'forgotten' characters. I haven't yet read those other books, but I'm sure if I had, I would want to find out how those other characters were doing. We, as readers, get wrapped up in the books (at least any written by a great author) and often later wonder, well, what about???

    I look forward to reading these books someday!
    Vicki

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  9. I wish the editors would ask the fans what THEY want, because I can tell you, fans are loyal to the stories and characters they enjoy. For example, Victoria Alexander has written 17 related books within three series. I personally do not know any reader who is reluctant to read more than three stories in a series.

    I wonder if it would be possible to write a book of short stories telling the outcome of the characters that so many of your fans love? I know I would buy it.

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  10. First of all, thanks for all the comments. Dodie, I did write an Epilogue for my Ivy Towers series. I posted it on my blog years ago. Maybe I'll get it out tomorrow and put it up on my fan page. :)

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    1. I'd love to read that! :D

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  11. Would love to read the epilogue for the Ivy Towers Series! Would love to read more books based on those characters!

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  12. I would really like to read the prequel to the Ivy Towers Series. A book about Aunt Bitty. Maybe Bitty wasn't even really her name, she was simply called that because she was small in stature. Who knows! I'd love to hear her story of how she came to Winter Break, what it was like to renovate the old house, etc. Of course, it would be set in the time when she was young, and I would think that would make it even better. I love those books. I've read that series many times and have tried almost all of the recipes. :)

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