Sunday, September 26, 2010
Contemplating The End
I promised an entry about Sammy, so here we go! First off, for those of you who don’t know, Sammy Keyes and the Wedding Crasher will be released in a couple of weeks. Yay! It will be the 13th of a projected 18 titles—a number that was finalized with my editor about two years ago. I did not originally intend to write a series. I had the idea for a single mystery and thought no further than the end of that story. But as Sammy Keyes and the Hotel Thief drew to a close, I already wanted to spend more time with Sammy. She was quick-witted, hot-headed, and, underneath it all, broken hearted. She was also in seventh grade, and man, that’s a tough place to leave someone you care about! So when the idea for Sammy Keyes and the Skeleton Man crept into my mind, I immediately began the ‘sequel’ to Hotel Thief. Midway through the writing of that second book, Sammy Keyes and the Sisters of Mercy began to infect my thinking. After all, I knew Sammy’d be slapped with a ton of detention for what she had to do to clear her name in Skeleton Man, and what better place to serve that detention than with nuns at a soup kitchen? So I wrote and I wrote and I wrote, and I found that no matter where the next story took me, there was somewhere else for Sammy to go…and grow. Thirteen books later, I still like her, still want to spend time with her, still want to see how she’ll surprise me next. Now, I say thirteen books because the thirteenth is ready for release, but in actuality I am almost done with Sammy Keyes and the Night of Skulls…book fourteen…and I find myself in a very emotional place. (Okay, okay, what else is new, right? But that’s how I am and you know that only because you read this blog. Believe me, I don’t let on to my neighbors or even most of my acquaintances.) I think the reason I find myself weirding out about this “place” is because after Night of Skulls there will be four books left. Four. Yes, that’s actually a lot of books…and nearly a thousand pages of writing to do! But I think the four is significant to me because that’s how the series started—with four. Again, you may already know this, but in case not: I didn’t have a contract for Hotel Thief or Skeleton Man or Sisters of Mercy or Runaway Elf…I’d actually be rejected by publishers and agents all over NYC and my response to them was to write the next book in a series they did not want. It was crazy, but I really thought I was onto something with Sammy, and I couldn’t seem to stop her from creeping back into my mind…and out onto paper. With each new book I hoped that one of those publishers who’d asked me to think of them again with my next project, would see Sammy Keyes the way I did. It wasn’t until after the first four books were written that I finally got my “yes,” and the ensuing contract was for all four books. So “four” has significance to me. It was the launch of this wonderful life, the evolution of characters I would have the luxury of getting to know book by book, year by year…it was a license to love Sammy with all my heart because she’d be in my life for as long as I could imagine. But now, here I am, getting ready to face the final four, and what’s been making this increasingly difficult is that I find myself obsessing about the last book. I’ve known for years how I want the last book to be structured, but there’s a new character that keeps appearing in my thoughts, demanding to be written in. One that shouldn’t be in the book because she has no business being there. One that promises to not interfere, but I’m not sure it’s possible for her to do that. Someone I can’t seem to shake. Me. I feel a little Inception-like—if you saw that movie—where I’ve been in my head with Sammy so long that I’m not sure what’s real…or where I belong. And the whole thing makes me weepy and confused, which is ridiculous because I’m still miles away from that 18th book. A thousand pages! All of us know that our time is going to run out eventually. It’s not knowing when The End happens that makes it bearable. And maybe this heightened emotion I’m experiencing is caused in part by the fact that Sammy has spent half of Night of Skulls in a graveyard or a funeral home or trying to understand death and beliefs in the hereafter, but I can’t seem to shake this looming feeling of The End. The consolation here is that Sammy may reach The End (of the series!) before I reach The End (for reals) (which better be how it goes, ‘cause if I reach The End first, how will Sammy get to The End?), but in the end, she will continue to exist much longer than I will. Which is something I can live with. Something that will help me get to—and through—The End.