Tuesday, March 19, 2013

What's next?

A lot of times I get asked the question: "When will your next book be out?" Until recently, I've always had a good estimate for a publication date and a solid book in the pipeline. While it seems like I can churn out a 100,000 word thoroughly researched historical novel in six months (having published six of them in less than three years), the reality is that it took me FIFTEEN YEARS to research, outline, write, re-write, re-re-write and finally publish those six books.

Yes, 15 years. And each one was the equivalent of writing a graduate thesis (I know, because I've done that).

When my kids were younger, I decided one day after seeing the movie Braveheart that I wanted to write an epic historical novel. Well, that one book turned into three and I just kept writing. In between running the kidsters to dance classes, soccer games, track meets and band concerts - not to mention rehabbing two houses and raising the occasional litter of Australian Shepherd puppies - immersing myself in that long ago world was a glorious diversion. I was drawn there. I reveled in it. I felt a part of it.

Now, the kids are gone and I have the house to myself. You might think all this free time would turn me into a writing machine, but I've since figured out that it's living a full life that gives you reason to write. These days, when someone asks me,  "When will your next book be out?, my answer is: "I don't know."

I've been doing some intense navel-gazing the last few months. I started a time travel historical romance, got 40,000 words into it and stalled at the historical section. This isn't so much 'writer's block' as it is just feeling pulled in another direction. Honestly, I'm not sure when  I'll return to writing the research-intense biographical type of historical I'm known for, the main reason being the length of time it takes to actually (and properly) write such a book.

The other reason is simply that I want to explore issues that everyday people can relate to - love, life, loss and hope - without the restrictions imposed by writing in another time period. While the wall behind my desk is covered with letters from readers saying how much they enjoyed my historical fiction, I also know there's a large portion of the population that doesn't read the genre. I feel like there are things I have to say, experiences I want to share, and there are soooo many people I have yet to reach.

Meanwhile, I've been cleaning out the basement, running on the treadmill, thinking about a part-time job, purging filing cabinets and kitchen cupboards, and patiently waiting for spring to arrive so I can tidy up the garden while I ponder what I'll write next. Or whether I'll finally use that college degree and return to teaching and coaching.

A few days ago I wrote the opening to a new story. It's about a dog and the way she enters the lives of several people at just the right time (think A Dog's Purpose or The Art of Racing in the Rain). It was freeing. I'm excited. And it's all unfolding clearly in my imagination. With 25 years of experience training and raising dogs, I have a LOT of real-life stories I can work into the pages of a fiction book.

Having been hung up at this fork in the road for too long now, I'm going to set my feet down on this path and follow it for awhile. I have a feeling that this is the right thing for me to do right now. I sincerely hope many of my readers will follow me. I think you'll be able to relate.

Thanks to all of you for staying with me so long. I'm simply amazed when someone tells me they've read all six of my books. (Where do you find the time?) I really do have the best readers in the world!

Until later,


Anita Davison said...

It's definitely that first 'epic' that takes the longest because you have so much to learn about the historical background, techniques of writing etc. I would really look forward to your change of direction and feel you could handle the human emotions really well as you give your historical ones such heart.

N. Gemini Sasson said...

Thanks, Anita. You gave me confidence when I had none. I am forever indebted to you.

The historicals arose from my desire to create heroes with substance. This probably stems from a childhood spent in search of someone who would protect me. But whatever their origins, I'm glad I've been able to make them equally real for others.

I've always been a sucker for a story dripping with emotion, no matter what the setting. Good stories remind us what really matters in life. Geesh, just last night I got all teary-eyed over Karen McQuestion's A Scattered Life.

Hazel West said...

This is exactly what happened to me. I got so burned out with research with all the early novels (some, annoyingly, not even published) that I became more of a fan of the 'character driven' story than the plot driven one even if it's talking about historical events and people. That way you can glance over dates if you have to (aka, lazy). That's why I have gone to Victorian England to write a steampunk novel now. I think it's really important authors try something different, and it's always really exciting. First I dabbled in ancient Rome, which is a time period and setting I never would have thought of writing about until I read Rosemary Sutcliff's books, and now I'm pretty much crossing into the fantasy genre with a steampunk novel.

I wish you luck in your next writing venture =)

N. Gemini Sasson said...

Hi Hazel! Yes, I think we're on the same wavelength. I often marvel at authors who can produce dozens of novels in the same very defined genre over many years. But I do think it's important to keep things fresh as a writer, so that you're excited about them. If your heart's not in it, it will show and your readers will know.

This brings to mind an interview I once saw of Ken Follett with Oprah. He told her when he came up with the idea of a novel about building a cathedral in medieval England, they were less than enthusiastic. They tried to dissuade him, but he wrote it anyway. That novel was Pillars of the Earth. I wouldn't be surprised if it's one of the top ten, if not THE biggest, selling historical novels of all time.

N. Gemini Sasson said...

(^ I should say his publishers were less than enthusiastic about the idea.)

Hazel West said...

That's why I self publish, so I can have all the freedom of choosing what I want to write, even if it's not the most popular thing. I love writing historical fiction and military adventure, but I also have ideas for time travel books and even a paranormal one that I'm not quite sure about yet. As I like to experiment in the books I read, I like to do the same with the stuff I write.

N. Gemini Sasson said...

My reading tastes are very eclectic, too! Keeps things interesting.