Saturday, July 12, 2008

Where In The World Is Carlos Morales

It's been twenty-seven days since I sent off the proposal and first seventy-five pages of The World We Live in to my editor. Not that I'm counting. In fact, until thirty seconds ago, I hadn't counted, and would have sworn it was a lot longer than that.

It's been a complex twenty-seven days.

This morning I forded the river of irritation and entered the welcome land of weekend. No jumping when the phone rings. No constant checking of e-mails. A time for peace and reflection.

Here's what I peacefully reflected. Since writing the dead and the gone, approximately eighteen months ago, I have come up with six different versions of the third book. And in each one, Carlos Morales has met a different fate.

For those of you unfamiliar with d&g, or who have simply forgotten, Carlos is the older brother of Alex, the main character. Carlos exists, not as a plot device, but as a character explainer. I didn't want Alex to be the firstborn. I didn't want him to be comfortable being in charge of his two younger sisters. I wanted, as Shakespeare by way of Preston Sturges put it, to have greatness thrust upon him.

In d&g, Carlos has twelve lines of dialogue (I counted) and is heard from only once more, when a postcard he sent is read on Page 144 (I looked). He's in the Marines, and frankly, from what Alex (not exactly a reliable witness) remembers about him, he's not the nicest guy in the universe.

But there must be something about him that intrigued me, since I worked him into at least five of the possible third books.

Here are the six versions of Carlos's post d&g world:

1. Untitled collection of interconnected short stories that would have followed the Life As We Knew It and the dead and the gone characters [nothing put down on paper and rejected by my editor while we chatted at NCTE]: As a Marine, Carlos is assigned the task of forcibly evacuating people from their homes so safe towns can be created.

2. Untitled completely different set of characters third book set roughly the same time as LAWKI/d&g, involving a girl who is forcibly evacuated from her home and has to go on a long march and horrible things happen [I'm not sure if I wrote anything down on that one, but I do recall discussing it with my friend Christy who thought it was awfully dark and didn't seem to like it]: I don't remember Carlos in it, but clearly the idea was inspired by Possibility 1.

3. Starry Night [Outline written and sent to my editor who didn't like it]: The action takes place a few months after the end of d&g. In it, Alex and Julie meet up with Miranda and Jon in an evac center. Alex dies saving Jon's life; Miranda and Jon take on Julie and the three of them make it to Dad and Lisa's. Carlos is dead. I don't remember if Alex already knows that or if he finds it out in the beginning of the novel.

4. Since The End Of The Time Before (aka Caitlin The Drog; aka The Story Of O Without Sex) [written in its entirety, unseen by anyone,and currently residing in my now dead computer]: It's four years after the end of LAWKI/d&g. Alex and Julie had believed Carlos was alive and received certain privileges as a result of having a brother in the Marines. When it was found out he was dead, they were held guilty of defrauding the government and had to go into hiding. All of which Julie reveals to Caitlin the drog for reasons I've kind of forgotten.

5. The Four Hundred Page Saga On The Evils of Capitalism (definitely my favorite title) [nothing written, but much discussed in this blog]: Seventeen years have passed. Dad and Lisa's son Luke has escaped from the coal mines, and is making his way back east, accompanied by a girl named Rachel, to the LAWKI family. Carlos is married with a couple of kids. He does personnel work at the coal mines, and is instrumental in helping Luke escape. He gives Luke Julie's name and address, and when Luke meets Julie, she sends him along to Alex.

6. The World We Live In [outline and seventy-five pages awaiting decision by Harcourt, which, if they say yes, they'll have to send back to me, since the heavily revised version is in my now dead computer, keeping company with Caitlin the drog, etc.]: It's a different seventeen years later, and a different Luke is making his way back to the LAWKI family, where he meets Eden, Miranda's teenage stepdaughter. Jon and Julie are married, and Julie talks to Luke about her brother Carlos, who hasn't been heard from since page 144.

To give you a proper contrast, in the same six possible book threes, Alex is: a novice monk, not a character, martyr, being hidden in monastaries, a priest and a priest.

Will there be a seventh possible book three? Who knows. Well, maybe Harcourt knows and just hasn't told me. Or maybe I'll quit at six and spend many happy years reading and watching dvds and taking my mother to countless doctor appointments and imagining all kinds of different fates for Carlos Morales and the starry end of time evil world he lives in.


S.M.D. said...

Tell your publisher that if they don't contract you for 6 books in this "universe" I will throw a huge fit. Seriously. I'm talking six-year-old temper tantrum type fit with screaming, kicking, drools, spitting, crying, and likely other sorts of unhappy childish things. I absolutely love these books and I want more. They are terrific. I even told my Mom she should read them because I found out she likes disaster-SF stories (like Lucifer's Hammer by Larry Niven). Good stuff, and I want more.
So this is my loud way of saying I support all of the above potential projects :P

Linda said...

Wow, isn't it wonderful what our brains can come up with?

Keeping my fingers crossed that you hear soon! I've been going through withdrawal since finishing d&g and will need a fix soon!

Paige Y. said...

I too will be throwing a huge fit. Each possible book three has sounded better than the last and I'm eager to see the finished product. I simply cannot imagine that your publisher would decline it.

Susan Beth Pfeffer said...

Hi to S.M.D. and Linda and Paige Y-

I really enjoyed traispsing down memory lane. It had been so long since I'd thought of Untitled and Untitled, I'd almost forgotten them (especially Untitled The Second).

My guess is there'll be a third book, but I remain uncertain it'll be The World We Live In as it now exists. It just seems so different from LAWKI/d&g. Of course if so different is what Harcourt wants, and if they like what I submitted, then everything'll be smooth sailing.

But I wouldn't bet the family yacht on it!

wild-force71 said...

Hi Susan,

Any chance, if your dead computer can be revived, of you publishing Since the End of the Time Before? It sounds really interesting...I mean, they all do, but you said that one's written...and I'd love to have a squint.

I agree with SMD; the more books in this universe, the better. :D

Susan Beth Pfeffer said...

Hi Wild-force71-

As of the moment, Since The End Of The Time Before is going to stay in its quiet little dead computer home.

It really doesn't work as a follow-up to LAWKI/d&g, so I'd have to do some substantial rewriting to have it as a stand alone book.

Maybe someday I'll feel like it, since I certainly enjoyed writing it (and sharing the process on the blog), but right now I'm still waiting to hear from Harcourt about The World We Live In (aka Attempt Number Six!).

Dawn said...

I really like Carlos version: The Four Hundred Page Saga On The Evils of Capitalism, the best. Although your most recent version where no one has heard anything about Carlos since the D&G is good too. I like both of those scenarios better then Carlos dies or Carlos is not such a nice person.

The poor would be nice if they could catch a break. :)


Pat said...

I think all those ideas are great, but you should write about the LAWKI family going to New York to try because Mom thinks that they should think life is normal by taking a vacation with Dad, Lisa and Luke, and his twin sister Racheal. There they meet Alex and his sisters, who leave to live with them and Miranda should lose her diary, and someone should die. Sorry, just an idea. See if it's good for your editor.

Susan Beth Pfeffer said...

Hi Pat-

Thank you for your comment and for your suggestions.

I'm working hard on the ending for the third book, and if you follow this blog and the thirdmoonblog (there's a link to the right), you'll see what I'm up to and if any of my ideas mesh with yours.

Anonymous said...

Hey Susan!
I just read you book about a month ago and I loved it so much! I went to school and we had to write a book about 30 pages and I started one but could never finish it. So then I decided that I should do one sort of like yours. Its were the a solar eclipse happens and some how (I don't know how...) they get stuck like that...
I still really love Life as we knew it and I am hoping to read The dead and gone. Well see ya!

Susan Beth Pfeffer said...

Hi Emmalee-

I like the idea of the world getting stuck in a solar eclipse. I don't know how it would work either, but it sure would be scary!

Anonymous said...

Just leaving a message to say i think life as we knew it and the dead and the gone are fantastic books, im reading life as we knew it for the 6th time. Fantastic!
I can't wait for the 3rd one. Thank you for writing two such brilliant books.
I think it would be awesome if the morales family could meet up with mirandas family. Or just hearing about a completly new family would be cool as well.

Anyway thanks for hours of enjoyment reading your books, look forward to the next.
El :)

Susan Beth Pfeffer said...

Hi Anonymous and thanks for your comment (and for reading LAWKI 6 times!)-

If you're curious about how I handled the two families (and if you like spoilers), check out my other blog- and read all about it.

Otherwise you'll have to wait until next spring to find out where Carlos Morales ended up!

Anonymous said...

Hi its anonymous from above.Just read sounds awesome, can't wait!
El :)

Carlos Morales said...

Hmmm, I guess I better dig up a copy of d&g... amazing what you find when you google your name :)

BTW, beneath my gruff marine exterior, I'm a total marshmellow...

Susan Beth Pfeffer said...

Hello to the real Carlos Morales-

I hope you enjoy the dead & the gone when you read it, and that you'll feel I did your name proud.

I google my name all the time, but I think I'm safe in assuming I'll never find a fictional character named Susan Beth Pfeffer!

reader13lovesbooks said... to start...

Well, I love Life As We Knew It and the dead & the gone. I was very upset when I had to return them to the library. I love all six ideas you had for the third book, even though I have no idea what a drog is...

Anyway, I was wondering if you're only going to write books based in the United States, or if you would try something that takes place in another country. Or someplace like Hawaii, where LAWKI said that it was destroyed or flooded over or something.

Or maybe from an astronaut's point of view, and they're not even on Earth and can only watch it from very, very far away.

My friend and I love your books, and I managed to get her addicted to LAWKI and d&g as soon as she opened the books. Tell your publisher that if they turn down the manuscript, it will result in a lot of incredibly upset readers.

Thank you VERY much for writing!

Susan Beth Pfeffer said...

Hi Reader13lovesbooks-

I'm happy to say my publisher decided there should indeed be a third book, and pretty much a soon as they said yes, I wrote one.

If you want to learn about it, go to the link for the thirdmoonbook blog over on the right side of this page. I tell all kinds of things there, including (I think) where Carlos Morales turned out to be.

I thought it would be a great idea to franchise the mooncrash books, so that a writer in Pakistan could write the Pakistani version and a writer in Bolivia could write a Bolivian version, etc. Oddly enough, I was the only person who thougth this was a great idea!

Anonymous said...

i have read lawki and dand the gone can wait to read the next
what gave you the idea to combine the charecters fro both books

Susan Beth Pfeffer said...

Hi Anonymous-

When I was writing LAWKI, I wanted to know what happened next to Miranda and her family.

When I was writing d&g, I wanted to know what happened next to Alex and his family.

So it seemed natural to me to write a book where I'd get to find out about Miranda and Alex!

Crystal said...

I am in a study hall and got bored so I looked up This World We Live and got this. I think that a couple of the trid book possibitlies could be incorrperated into a forth book. I think that would be so cool if a forth book came out. It would also be cool if you wrote a book 5th book in based in the south, snice the frist 3 take place up north.
These books would also make a pretty good movie.

Susan Beth Pfeffer said...

Hi Crystal-

I really don't think there'll be a book 4 or 5, and as of the moment, there are no plans for a movie.

Three and out is my current motto!

April Galarza said...

I just finished and the series and am still spell bound. I would love to see a forth book. I think your untitled idea #2 would work well with the established plot. Although Miranda is a awesome narrator, the catastrophe you created is world-wide, and it we need to hear about how it affected people outside of NY and PA. The mastery of D&G was the different location and perspective and how the challenges (different but just as horrific as those of Miranda's family) shaped Alex and Julie. I think hearing the story of a girl forcibly removed from her home would be an ideal chance for you extol on the evils of capitalism (*wink*), let us know what happened to Carlos and introduce a whole new set of struggles and how they effect the human spirit. Since it would undoubtedly include how life is on the road, you may be able to work in Miranda and her family. I am also wondering, and I am sure I speak for all of your readers, how is humanity continuing on a larger scale? I know you said the characters here wouldn't know about wind power, but is it being used elsewhere, is food being grown with artificial light? Is there hope for the survival of humanity or is this this last generation on earth? OK one last note, perhaps the most important of all; I've scoured your blog to see if my hunch about this series being about Global Warming/Climate Change is true. I think whether you meant it to be or not, it is. The disasters we may face could parallel the kinds described in your books. Please remember to keep that in mind. Thank you so much for this amazing story. I can't wait to read the next installment!