Recently, LemurKat left a comment asking why I'd written This World We Live In from Miranda's perspective, rather than taking a different approach and writing instead about Alex and Julie's journey through what remained of America.
Also recently, blog regular Fear Death By Water put a link to his own blog review of Life As We Knew It, and he had questions also, wondering (among other things) why there were no marauders to make Miranda's life even more difficult.
Even though I'm a firm believer in Never Apologize Never Explain (Always Complain), I've decided to explain anyway. Complaining is optional (but always in good taste).
I'll start with the marauders question, because I wrote LAWKI first. When I first worked out the plot for LAWKI, I certainly considered a home invasion. But I decided against one, for several reasons.
To start out with, my idea for the book was to put Miranda and her family into a situation of hunger and isolation. I didn't want them to be able to escape, or to improve their situation. That would have been a different book. If they were to be in a situation that seemed hopeless, they couldn't acquire food. That meant no hunting, no trapping.
I covered both of those possibilities very quickly. Early on in the book, the family goes to town and finds the sporting goods store closed and empty. And later on, Miranda walks through the woods and comments on the lack of animal life.
So Miranda and her family are unarmed. Which meant that anyone breaking into their house could easily overpower them, and most likely rape and murder them. Which was definitely not the story I intended to tell.
And if you're thinking, well they could have cleverly outwitted the marauders, then you have to ask what would have stopped a different set of marauders from showing up. As long as there were signs of life, there could have been people breaking in.
No guns, no means of self-defense, no marauders.
When I wrote LAWKI, I was certain there would be a sequel. I wanted to write one, and I felt sure people who liked the book would want to know what happened next. Only my publisher didn't want a sequel. What they were open to was a companion book, same catastrophe but different characters. So I came up with and wrote The Dead And The Gone, always assuming that at some point, my publisher would want a third book that would combine the characters from the first two.
For what felt like a very long time, the publisher said no. I wrote at least one completely different (and completely unusable) third book, which had Julie as a fairly important character and Jon as a minor one. I may have a copy of that manuscript somewhere, but it doesn't matter, since no one will ever see it. But while I was writing it, and for a while thereafter, I pestered my then editor about my getting to write a third book. "No, no, no," she'd say, until one day she said, "Yes, yes, yes." But not a sequel.
I came up with a plot that I thought was brilliant (and I still think was pretty darn good). It was set about a year later, so readers would see what the world was like (pretty lousy), but with a third completely different set of characters. I may have sent my editor an outline, but I certainly didn't get any further than that, when she said, "No, no, no.What we want is a sequel."
Well, that was what I'd wanted to do in the first place. So I couldn't exactly argue. I had suggested to my editor a third book version where Miranda and Alex met on the road, but that was when my publisher was in its "No, no, no," phase, and that was exactly what my editor had said.
I might have tried to work out a different Miranda and Alex meet on the road book except I'd created my own problem, which was that LAWKI ends on March 20 and d&g ends three months earlier than that. Which meant that by the time I'd have gotten Miranda to wherever Alex was, it would be June or later, and for the life of me, I couldn't figure out why Alex would be someplace where Miranda could meet him.
Trust me. I lost a fair amount of sleep over that.
Then I decided that if I couldn't get Miranda to Alex, I should get Alex to Miranda. I determined that I was okay with returning to Miranda and her diary, and worked out a reason why Alex would have gone back east. Once I was comfortable with all that, I began writing This World We Live In.
While it may not seem like this to you, basically these are the short versions of the decision making process. And a lot of what the long version includes is my personal preferences, the choices I make to tell the stories I want to tell. Those choices aren't necessarily the readers' choices (or the reviewers or the publishers'), and I'd be even more delusional than I am if I thought every choice I made was ultimately the best one. But those choices are rarely made casually. I think a lot about what my intentions are before I ever begin writing, and I consider and reconsider things while I'm writing, and then I even do rewrites to make sure the choices I've made work within the context of the story.
I hope you understand all that. Even more, I hope the copy editor who's working on Blood Wounds understands all that as well. Because the thing I dislike most about working on a copy edited version of a manuscript is the unspoken assumption that I haven't considered my choices and the copy editor knows better than I do what should be done.
Ooh. I think I've moved from explaining to complaining. Thank goodness, that's always in good taste!