Monday, October 3, 2011

Status Report (Low On Status, High On Report)

As you know, because I griped about it all summer, I had a Sept. 1 deadline for The Shade Of The Moon, my title for a fourth moon book (the first three, in case you've forgotten, having been Life As We Knew It, The Dead And The Gone, and This World We Live In). As you also know, because I crowed about it at the time, I met the Sept. 1 deadline and submitted the manuscript to my editor.

Then came the waiting time, which no doubt, felt longer to me than to you.

I've been writing for a living for over 40 years now, and I've learned a thing or two in that time. I've learned the checks never come as fast as you want them to, and that editors dawdle about telling you bad news, while generally telling you good news pretty swiftly.

So as the waiting time progressed and my editor told me nothing, I figured out she and my publishing house didn't like the book. Maybe they were trying to like it. Maybe they were trying to figure out how to tell me they didn't like it. Maybe they were trying to figure out what could be done to make it a book they would like. Lots of maybes, but all leading to they didn't like what I'd written.

During the course of September, the contract (contracts move as slowly as checks) finally arrived at my apartment. But I'd had enough time to think about it to decide whenever it came, I wasn't going to sign it.

My reasoning went as follows (and it never changed): My publisher doesn't like the book. If there were no contract, they'd simply reject it. Because there's a contract, they have to figure out what to do about it, and that's going to mean a lot of rewriting and time pressure and general dissatisfaction both on my part and theirs. But if I don't sign the contract, there's no contractual obligation on anyone's part. So what if they reject it? I've had lots and lots of rejections in my life, and most of them have come at moments far more financially vulnerable. I've got money in the bank and Social Security beckoning and why should we all be miserable?

I guess what I did was reject the rejection.

I left the contract on the kitchen counter, gave myself a weekend before emailing my agent to let her know my intentions, and waited to hear from my editor. A week or so later I did. She sent me two lengthy, well thought out emails about the manuscript, with lots of suggestions about how to make it work. She assured me Houghton Mifflin Harcourt wanted a fourth moon book. The email was pretty much as I imagined it would be.

I gave myself a few days just in case I was going to change my mind, and then I emailed her back and said the contract was unsigned and would remain unsigned and no one had anything to worry about. What I didn't tell her was my biggest worry was how I was I going to tell all of you.

My editor emailed back and said she'd call me in a day or two, and in a day or two, she did call. We had a very nice chat. She said they really want a fourth moon book and I should feel free to sign the contract. I said the contract had made its way from the kitchen counter to the file cabinet, but I wasn't going to sign it unless HMH and I were all on the same page about what a fourth book should be like. I said the one thing I knew about a fourth book was it had to be completely different from the first three, and the only thought I had was one I'd played around with for quite a while and that was a volume of short stories, some of which would have Miranda or Alex or other characters from the books and some of which wouldn't.

My editor said that short story volumes were a hard sell, but teachers and librarians were always asking for them and in this case it was an established concept and she liked it.

I said that was good but the contract was staying in the file cabinet. Then we talked about family and the suchlike.

So that's where things are now with The Shade Of The Moon. Those of you who've been reading this blog for a while may remember I had a completely different third book that I rejected before anyone had a chance to read it. These books are a lot of fun to create, but they're very hard to get right. I see the world as darker and darker and darker still, and I get way too dark and violent and depressing (while having a darn fine time doing so).

What I do know is I'm very close to brain dead right now. Between pushing to meet that Sept. 1 deadline and dealing with serious mother stuff, I've been on a high stress level for several months. Now my mother is settled in at the nursing home, and I have no professional obligations other than going to Germany to get my award, and staying in touch here, and answering emails.

If my brain starts coming up with short stories, I won't stop it. I'll write one or two or three, and if I think they're good enough, I'll send them to my editor. But I'm not pushing myself. There are books to read and movies to see and I've been neglectful of my friends for months now. I have to do my mother's laundry (not to mention taking her to Dr. Hearing Aid later today and to the dentist tomorrow morning). Not to mention Scooter's current obsession with twist ties, which don't toss themselves.

So thank you all of you for your support and interest in The Shade Of The Moon. If there's a fourth book, I'm keeping the title. And if there isn't, I'm keeping the title anyway. It's a part of my life, just like you are, and I don't give up things I care about easily.

24 comments:

Anonymous said...

I'm sorry to hear this, but I understand your reasons. Thanks for the books you have written so far!!! Whatever you end up writing will be amazing.

Mr. Cavin said...

Wow, that's hardcore. I can't wait to see how this plays out. And for Pete's sake please keep those unpublished manuscripts in your trunk, okay?

grrlpup said...

I'm glad we have your blog to read, while we wait and see what happens!

Emily said...

Darn it! I know WHY the contract is in the filing cabinet, but that doesn't mean I have to like it. I hope that some day the time will be right for that contract to find its way back to HMH.

Emily said...

Any chance of giving us a synopsis of what WAS going to happen. :)

Susan said...

Susan--

What a brave, brave thing that was. As an author at the beginning of her career that hasn't learned the skillset to be prolific (yet), I am in awe of what you just did in the name of staying true to your story.

Yay you.

-Another Susan

Anonymous said...

Thanks for sharing this with us. I'm sad that I'll never get to read the book, but I appreciate everything that you shared with us.

Tara said...

I was so looking forward to this book, words can't even describe it. I really hope that this will somehow work out and we will get to read it. Ever think of Indie/ self- publishing it to get the story out? Or does HMH own the rights? Just a thought, I have no idea how that works. I'm just sooooooo soooo bummed and want to read it!

Morgaine said...

While I am sorry to hear I might not get to read a fourth book, I completely understand your reasoning behind it. I hope things work out and we get a fourth book, but I also hope you are completely happy with the entire process and project!

Short stories would be amazing. I am a big fan of short stories.

Nora Durbin said...

Totally understand where you are coming from. Breathe for now and see where things go.

Jeff Vincent said...

I'm really surprised to hear they didn't like this vision for the fourth book, it sounded incredible to me. I could not wait to read it. I don't usually get too excited about short story collections, but I think stories set in your moon-world would be an excellent read, in fact I'd want to read them even if you also were able to put out the novel-length story. I'm sure the ideas will start taking over before you know it, in the meantime enjoy some rest!

Susan Beth Pfeffer said...

Hello and thank you to Anonymous and Mr. Cavin and grrlpup and Emily and Susan (another and better) and Anonymous and Tara and Morgaine and Nora Durbin and Jeff Vincent-

I love all of you.

I have to admit what remains of my brain is starting to think of short stories and how to structure them and where would it begin and how would it end and what characters would I write about and what would happen.

Since I love thinking of ideas and playing with them, I'm not stopping myself.

Besides, it's an excellent distraction from worrying about how the Yankees are probably going to lose today and be out of the playoffs so soon!

Emily said...

While I am exceedingly disappointed to learn that there isn't a forthcoming fourth book (and I know several of my students are going to cry over it), I completely understand. You have the right to have a life of your own, and you are certainly under no obligation to continue to provide entertainment and vicarious lives to the rest of us. I really have loved every minute of it though, and I (and my students) desperately wish you'd sign a movie contract!!

Anonymous said...

Have you considered releasing it as an e-book and letting the readers decide? Except, come to think of it, your nasty publishers would probably eat ground glass before ever letting THAT happen!

Anonymous Santa Fe

Susan Beth Pfeffer said...

Hello Emily (and your students) and Anonymous Santa Fe-

I love being a writer and making stuff up, and the great joy of the internet is now I know other people enjoy what I write. So thank you.

My publisher is actually very nice (I've had my share of nasty ones, so I can tell the difference). And I trust their judgment. If they don't think the book works, the odds are the book doesn't work. So there are no plans for releasing it as an e-book.

But thanks for the idea!

Jane said...

I am sorry this book didn't work out, because I would love to read some more about Mom and Miranda and Alex and so on - and find out about what's going on in the safe towns - instead of reading improving things about Pliny.

But it sounds a very sensible decision and as though you could really use a holiday and stop thinking about the end of the world for a while.

P.S Ice cream is relaxing. Also chocolate cake and a very large glass of wine.

Susan Beth Pfeffer said...

Thank you Jane.

I find ice cream exceptionally relaxing. I bet Pliny would have also!

tigerlily* said...

I'm sorry to hear about this! I was really looking forward to a fourth book. Thanks for keeping us posted...

Susan Beth Pfeffer said...

Thanks tigerlily* and have a great holiday weekend!

Emily B said...

Can you post the Shade of the Moon or at least a little more of it online to let us read it kinda like what Stephanie Meyer has done with some of her books or at least tell us what happened to Alex because from what it sounds like he didn't marry Miranda! The readers demand to know! Please!

online ged said...

you writing an excellent article. i appreciated, i cannot express my feeling in my words. your writing skill is very unique.
please share more article.. i am waiting...

Susan Beth Pfeffer said...

Hi Emily B-

I'm undecided about what to do with The Shade Of The Moon Version 1 (and maybe only). I tend to trust my editor; if she doesn't think it works, there's no reason for me to doubt her.

And if I do a different version, things might be very different, so it would only be confusing to have one version of What Happens Next one place and another, completely different one, someplace else.

But I am pondering!

Kelly said...

Susan I am an avid reader and stumbled upon your "Moon Books" at the bookstore while looking for something to read. I read all three in three days and passed them around to everyone I know! Incredible, so sorry to hear that Shade of the Moon 1 will not be published but respect your decision and appreciate your ability to recognize your publisher's advice. Thank you for my favorite books. Do what is best for you! Will watch your blog for anything you may choose to write in the future!

Anonymous said...

WOW. I actually READ what you were writing this time and so...I think I might like you after all. I'd no idea how much you wrote was perhaps not what you had in mind but the parameters set by an editor. Must suck. I'm wondering what would happen if you wrote something you really wanted to write, the way you wanted to write it--and maybe put it on Wattpad to see how the public reacted...then again to do so would not pay any bills and ultimately, craft aside, bills always have to be paid. Still wish Miranda was not so immature--I keep thinking back to when I was 13/14 and I was much more street savvy and smarter and more aware of the world than she appears in this story (TWWLI)