On the release of her fifth book,The Rosewood Guitar, Jon’s Story, Mariam Kobras reflects on knowing when to let go and end a series…
“Write about ending a series,” my publisher said to me. “Write about how you know when to end a series.”
Being the good, cooperative author I try to be, I said, “Sure! I was going to do that anyway!” Implying that yes, I’m versatile, spontaneous and flexible, no fuss, no problem. (Well, I try to be.)
After all I came to writing as a child comes to chocolate cake: it was a surprise to me that I had it in me to write an entire novel, let alone five. Or six. Truth is, if my publisher at Buddhapuss Ink hadn’t found me on Twitter and snatched my first book, The Distant Shore, from my willing yet reluctant hands, I’d still be writing that book now, some five years later.
I had made myself at home in it, explored every twist, every nook and cranny in the lives of Jon and Naomi Stone and their families. I’d probably have drifted off and made up an entirely new spinoff series about the Italian branch of Naomi’s relatives, and eventually, I’d have killed off Jon Stone. I’d have left Naomi alone, embittered, a cold, lonely woman trying to deal with what life had thrown at her. Who would have the power to unlock her frozen heart? Who would save her from herself?
That book will never be written, nor its alter ego, the story where Naomi dies and leaves Jon behind unable to cope with life or find solace even in his music, and what miracle would have to happen to make him pick up the pieces of his shattered soul!
Oh, the drama! I can see the beautiful sadness, and the bright ray of new hope when they find new life, new happiness… but, no.
When you’ve lived with characters as intimately as I have with the Stones, letting them go is so hard.
Even if there’s a new idea, a new premise, new, intriguing characters in a totally new story; the pain of letting go remains. And it is pain, trust me.
It’s letting go of something you know you can actually do. After all, it was these characters and their stories that got me that first book deal. Can I do that again? Do I have it in me to write something new, something different, and will my publisher like it, will they think it’s worth their time, money, effort?
Letting go of a series is stepping off a cliff. It’s moving to a different country.
It’s getting a divorce from someone you know you still love, and deeply, it’s drifting away on a raft from everything you knew, felt comfortable with, loved. It’s walking a tightrope, blindfolded. It’s going on a diet without sugar, a morning without coffee, a missed plane that leaves you stranded at a strange airport in a strange land.
It’s being dropped into a room full of strangers who don’t speak your language who stare at you with that huge big “Who the hell are YOU?” on their faces.
It’s stepping up to the conductor’s podium, and the orchestra looks around, confused, and asks where the real conductor is? Because it surely can’t be you, can it?
Leaving the Stone Series behind was a moment of change for me.
I’d started writing the first book before I was an author, out of an inner drive that I can’t name. I’d written it in my spare time, to amuse myself, to fulfill a teenage dream, but never with the thought of submitting it. It was mine and mine alone. And even when The Distant Shore was published, and the other books after it, it still felt as if I was writing for myself and only letting others in on the fun. I’d set the rules for those characters. I was safe within the parameters of a well-known world.
Would I be able to do it again? And how comfortable would I be in that new world, with new characters, new habits, new needs, dreams, desires?
Would I even be able to create something like that again?
Would I be able to do this again?
Yes, and that’s the heart of the matter, isn’t it? Can you do this again? Can you create something new that’s so different from what you did before that people will enjoy it and not say it’s a pale shadow, and can you make it true enough to be recognized as yours?
There’s only one way to find out, right? Jump off that cliff. Get that divorce. Let them go, those old characters, watch them leave, bid them a fond adieu. Join the ball and smile at those strangers dancing around you, introduce yourself! They’re your new imaginary family, even if they’re still hiding behind masks.
And–oh yes! Explore that new world! Nothing is lost. Anytime you want to, you can visit with those old characters: they’re waiting right there on the shelf, waiting.
Jon and Naomi Stone will never die. They live on in those books.
But they’re not the only ones who want their stories told. The curtains are drawn back now; I can see new characters patiently waiting, gazing at me, silent, smiling, knowing they will be heard.
My heart is open to their fates.
© 2015 Mariam Kobras
Three-time IPPY Award winning author Mariam Kobras, was born in Frankfurt, Germany. Growing up, she and her family lived in Brazil and Saudi Arabia before settling in Germany. Mariam attended school there and studied American literature and psychology at Justus-Liebig-University in Giessen. Today she lives and writes in Hamburg, Germany, with her husband, two sons, and two cats.
To hear Mariam read the first chapter of her new book, CLICK HERE.
Thanks, Mariam, for a great piece on leaving characters and stories that you’ve loved behind and embarking on a new series. The first book in Mariam's new series, Sunset Bay, written with co-author CW Morgan, will be coming out later in 2015. A mix of mystery and romance, it unfolds in the wilds of Vancouver Island in western Canada.
READERS: We hope you enjoyed this week's edition of our #WW Writer Wednesday Series and that we'll see you again next week when our guest is Selaine Henriksen who will be talking about picking the right format for your story. Until then, "Butt in chair, WRITE!
~ The Black Cat
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