The last few weeks, I've been so busy, what with spring cleaning and Passover and mother stuff and Maine and a visit from Joyce and Lew, that I haven't been focusing on the third book. This isn't to say I haven't been thinking about it, because I certainly have. But I haven't had much clear the brain time, and when I have, I've been bumping into the same concern, how to make the third book the story I want to tell while keeping it true to Life As We Knew It and the dead and the gone. Not to mention good and without that pesky sex.
It's been a fun battle. On the one side there's that starred Booklist review over to the right, which says, "The story's power, as in the companion book, comes from the readers' ability to picture themselves in a similar situation; everything Pfeffer writes about seems wrenchingly plausible."
(Have you noticed, by the way, how another one of those reviews says heartwrenching? I guess d&g is a wrenching sort of book. Which is certainly better than a retching sort of book).
But on the other side is Children Of Violence by Doris Lessing (bet you didn't see that one coming). For those of you who haven't read Children Of Violence, it's five volumes of realistic fiction about growing up in what was then Rhodesia. But somewhere in the fifth book, the main character moves to London (she might have already moved there; it's been decades since I read it), and then, in a dazzling bit of future Nobel laureate writing, the story continues into the future, and becomes sci fi.
Now, apparently LAWKI and d&g are sci fi, so for the third book (still called The World We Live In, although I also call it The 400 Page Epic On The Evils Of Capitalism) to be sci fi isn't exactly Nobel laureate startling. But if The World We Live In is set seventeen years after the start of LAWKI/d&g, which is my intention, then the readers won't be picturing themselves in a similar situation. Because there's no way the situation can be similar. Not with all those volcanoes I got erupting.
It's the loss of the mundane. Do I commit to writing a book that isn't about how to get the laundry done or do I figure out a way of sticking to what worked in LAWKI/d&g?
As of the moment, I'm dumping the laundry and going with the saga of Luke (although a kinder, gentler Luke) making his way back to Pennsylvania and the family he never knew. What I'm trying to do is keep a reign in on my more creative plotting. The other morning, I came up with a fabulous subplot for Rachel, the second lead. Fabulous, that is, if I want someone to think V.C. Andrews is doing the writing. But, no insult intended to the late yet prolific Ms. Andrews, once I end up in her territory, I kind of lose the chance of being good. Fun, sure, and popular, maybe, but bye bye good.
And I like those starred Booklist reviews. They make me feel literary.
Another of the problems I've had is Miranda, now thirty three years old. I haven't had trouble picturing the various d&g characters in Luke's world. I haven't even had trouble picturing Matt and Jon. But Miranda hasn't felt right to me. I know her as a sixteen year old stuck in a house, fantasizing about her baby sister.
So this morning I decided to push Miranda out of the house, and give her seventeen more years of life. I've been planning on a third person narrative with multiple points of view, and I certainly knew Miranda's would be one. But now we're seeing her way before she meets Luke. I'm not sure the readers are going to know it's Miranda. They may just think of her as a widowed doctor (see, that way I can call her Dr. Pickanewlastname, instead of Miranda) until the appropriate time to reveal who she is and how she fits into the story. But as soon as I gave her a career and a life, she started being part of this new world I'm creating. Which made me feel a whole lot better about things.
I'm thinking about writing the third book this summer, when I have a stretch of time without too many interruptions. Of course it's possible that by July, Harcourt will be telling me they're never ever going to want a third book, in which case all this thinking will have been for naught. Worse still, they might tell me that in September, after I've written all 400 pages about the evils of capitalism. Given that possibility, I'd better have a story I'll really enjoy writing, somewhere between Doris Lessing and V.C. Andrews. No sex, but no laundry either.