Monday, March 31, 2008

The Following Is Not An Early April Fool's Day Joke

As you know, for the past few months I've been blogging about the Possible Third Book, Since The End Of The Time Before. I've consulted with you about plot problems, made changes at your suggestion, even had the outline available to read for a while. I've also told you, multiple times, how much fun I had writing the manuscript and how utterly fabulous I found it to be.

Last week I was focused on the dead and the gone. There was its first review to revel in. I answered questions about it and Life As We Knew It for the upcoming Harcourt teachers guides. I discovered that there are libraries that have pre-ordered d&g, which gives me a whole new way to waste time. I ordered specially designed book stickers for LAWKI and d&g (which I'll be offering to any of you who might want one, but that's a subject for another blog entry).

Somewhere in the midst of this, I came to the decision that much as I adore Since The End Of The Time Before, it's completely wrong as the Possible Third Book. What the P3B should be is an interesting story that can be read as a stand alone, but also one that provides closure for readers who want to know what became of the characters of LAWKI and d&g.

In Since The End Of The Time Before, the action takes place five years after the start of LAWKI/d&g, and the characters, for the most part, have no connection with the characters from those books. Jon, from LAWKI, drops by for a quick report on his family, and one important character from d&g turns out to be an important character in Since. But there was no organic connection, and I wasn't pleased about that. I also felt like five years wasn't long enough time for all the changes I'd made in society.

So I started thinking in terms of a completely different P3B, one set sixteen or seventeen years later, with the main character the child of Dad and Lisa from LAWKI. People ask me what happened to them and the baby they were expecting, so a book told from that character's viewpoint would answer those questions. I decided the basic story would be his journey (I've been picturing him as a sixteen year old boy named Luke) from the west (or "across the river," as I called it in Since) to Pennsylvania and the LAWKI family, Luke's half brothers and half sister, who he's never met. Along the way, Luke will meet a minor character from d&g, and if things go the way I'm currently imaginging, that character will provide him with the name of a second, more important, d&g character he'd meet later on.

I'm also thinking in terms of what would happen to the climate and ecology during that seventeen year period. I've been interested in a long time about how characters who had been born into the LAWKI world would feel should things change for the better. The images I have are of Luke seeing sunlight and stars for the first time, how thrilling and terrifying that would be.

I have a first line I love, which will work if I keep the story in the direction it's currently in- "The recruit was proving surprisingly difficult to kill." But I may change the direction altogether, and lose that line and the scene it would introduce. Things are in serious flux around here.

It's perfectly reasonable that you don't want to go through my writing process again, that once was enough. So I've put a poll up, which will tell me whether I should continue to explore this brand new (and as yet untitled) P3B along with you or not. I'm comfortable with anything you decide, just as I'm comfortable (heck, I'm excited) about this completely different direction for the third, and most likely final, book.

Anyway, that's what's going on. Regardless of what I decide to do with Since The End Of The Time Before, I'm very glad I wrote it, and I'm very appreciative of your interest in it. I find writing about this desolate world to be a huge amount of fun, and writing in public adds immeasurably to my pleasure. But since it might not add immeasurably to yours, I'm asking you whether you'd prefer it if I kept this new version's twists and turns to myself. If you want to give me whatfor in the comments section, that's fine too.

No matter what, Happy End Of March!


Anonymous said...

Best. Idea. Ever.

As much as I liked the jist of PB3, a book that encompasses all the unanswered questions from LAWKI and tdatg (holy bunch of acronyms, Batman!), would be a perfect end to a trilogy.

That said, PB3 would seem to work as a stand alone book, having little, if any, to do with the original story.


Jenna said...

I very much enjoyed reading about your process and even having a little bit of input! I would love to do that again.

Am I'm really excited about the plot line you've just laid out. Sounds very exciting! I would totally read that book.

And who knows, maybe there's really a P4B and we just don't know yet which one it is?

Anonymous said...

What a perfectly sound and reasonable decision to make, and, I must add, just the brief descriptive you post, gives me the sense that this story will be particularly outstanding. And, that first line is a winner.

I wouldn't post any more details about the new book. Just that bit you did post, should sufficiently whet people's appetites. Some tantalizing bits here and there, yes -- plot development - naming characters, etc., no. Not with all the books to your credit.

For that matter, just how many ARC copies ARE distributed? It was one thing when a book was read by one of these people, pre-Internet, but what with everyone and their neighbor reading advanced copies, it would certainly seem to detract from the thrill of the 'grand unveiling', if you will. And, so many of them write so extensively about the books they review.

I know it's not the same as sitting down and reading the book. But that Harry Potter woman sure had somethin' goin' on that worked, and it wasn't just the story.

I can't wait to read this new book. Fabulous news. W. Slezak

Anonymous said...

Well, I'm not sure what I think yet about this new idea, but I certainly am surprised about your 180 degree turnaround. I haven't been coming to this blog all that long, but are you always like this? I have to think that you didn't really care that much for the book you previously thought to be third book. I especially don't get it as you didn't want characters from the first book to meet characters from the second book as you thought it would be too much coincidence. As I figure it, it's your world, you can do what you want.

WIth that said, I'd be interested to see what happens to the characters so much further down the time line. It's going to take a lot more thinking on your part, but that's half the fun I would imagine. (I read S.M. Stirlings books based on the premise of what would happen if the Earth lost all technology and this somehow reminds me of that; which actually is a good thing.)

And how come your blog draws so many librarians to it? Is this what their doing when they're looking at their computers? Come on, fess up!


Janni Lee said...

I selfishly say, write them both. :-)

Dawn said...

Wow….are you sure this isn’t an April fools joke?

I don’t know what to think. As one of the people who keeps hounding you about Dad, Lisa & the baby I am super excited about this idea; however I am also really excited about P3B (or Since, which I can never remember). Any chance you could publish both??

Glen, assured that librarians are looking as Sue Pfeffer's blog whenever they are on a computer. ;)

Seriously though, as a teen librarian how often do I get the chance to look inside the world/process of a fantastic author who actually listens/cares what I think. What librarian wouldn't be thrilled by the idea of having interaction with an author whose works are so complex yet popular?

I am pumped to hear about what happens to Dad, Lisa & baby in whatever form that may take shape!

Way to keep things spiced up on this blog!


Susan Beth Pfeffer said...

Hello and thank you to Melissa, Jenna, W. Slezak (glad to see you made it off the lifeboat), GLen, Janni Lee, and Dawn-

Whoo. You know it's easier when you're all named Anonymous.

I loved the third book (and will continue to love it regardless of what happens to it), but the more I thought about it, the more it didn't feel right as a concluding volume to LAWKI/d&g. I can pretty much talk myself into anything, but when I have to do so much self-convincing (it's okay that it's only five years ahead in time, it's okay that Jon pops in to chat about his family, it's okay that the style of the book is the same as LAWKI/d&g even though the tone clearly isn't), it probably means I'm making a mistake (or three).

I hope no one thinks that I'm just churning these things out for the sake of the blog. I love writing this blog, but not enough to keep writing books just to feed it. The Insatiable Blog Monster. Heh. It probably eats people named Anonymous.

By the way, I e-mailed my editor this morning to let her know, and she e-mailed back and indicated she was somewhat startled.

Which, now that I think about it, is kind of funny. I am an extremely predictable person. It's nice to know I have the power to startle at least once in a while.

Caroline said...

I really like this idea!! =)

Anonymous said...

I like your idea so much! It was fun hearing about your thought process for PB3, but this one sounds great, too.

I'd love to hear whatever details you care to provide regarding your thought process for the alternate PB3.


Anonymous said...


As a fellow YA writer, I love that you're going this new direction. Instead of a 3rd book with more of the same (i.e., what's going on with other kids somewhere else around the same time), you're exploring what it's like to have never known what it was like to have lived in the "before" times. And great protag! I wondered what happened to the dad's baby!

I think the third book you've been working on would've been a good read. This new idea? It's going to be a FUN read, especially if you really make use of the fact that you have teens who have no point of reference for the "before" times outside of parents and history books.


Anonymous said...

i agree with janni lee, i think both of them would be awesome to read, and i think the idea of Lisa's kid, luke telling a story is a really cool twist.
Also, i don't know if you'll be able to answer this question but (just our of curiosity) what percent of the population survived the whole aftermath & stuff of the moon chaos?
Anyway, whatever you dicide to do for Since... i think it'll be really good,

~ Leah

Susan Beth Pfeffer said...

Hello to Caroline and the Anons- Nancy, S, and Leah-

Thank you for your comments and your words of encouragement.

I must really be enjoying coming up with ideas for Luke's story, since it's costing me vast amounts of sleep. That's usually a good indication of when my mind is going faster than it ought to.

I feel completely secure that telling the story of Dad and Lisa's child is the right way to go for the third and final book. It's funny. Not only would it bring closure to the readers, but it would bring closure to me (in my personal life, I'm not big on closure as a goal, but there is something to be said for it in fiction).

My theory on how many people haven't made it through thanks to me and the moon is whoo hoo, zillions. There's no medication available, diseases are as rampant as I want them to be, food and water are at a premium, no warmth, no sun, and the air quality alone is enough to kill ya.

On the other hand, I think the people who survive are very strong. I see the whole thing as very much a survival of the fittest, and I think family connectedness helps as well.

But on the whole, it's a better time to read and write about than it would be to live through!

Anonymous said...

I think that a lot of people left in the world would not only very strong, but cunning and evil.


Susan Beth Pfeffer said...

Hi Glen-

I believe my brother used to work at the law firm of Cunning And Evil.

HA! Lawyer joke! HA!

I actually don't do cunning and evil all that well, although I do seem to be intrigued by brute force and casual cruelty. Cunning and evil require thinking, and my brain cells have their limitations.

My sense of humor, however, clearly knows no bounds.

Anonymous said...

I suppose that's better than their rival 'Dewey, Cheatum and Howe'.


Megan G. said...

Hello! I just found my way to your blog after reviewing a ARC of d&g for my library, and I'm really glad to hear that there's a possible third book in the works. As for which version, I'd happily read either, but I'd really love to see the newer idea. It's a really cool proposition to follow the life of a kid who's never lived life the way we know it! But really, either one would be awesome. I'd love to hear whatever details you're willing to share about whichever P3B eventually comes into existance.

Marci said...

The unifying theme of LAWKI and D&G besides the ecological catastrophe, is that family matters. What was missing from P3b is family. And tying up loose ends is important.

That said, I think P3b will make it as a collateral 4th book addendum to the trilogy that can span the distance between Miranda and Alex to Luke. It will be interesting to see how it shapes up.

I think that you are on the right track. I can't wait to read it.

Susan Beth Pfeffer said...

Hello again to Glen and hello always to Marci and hello and welcome to Megan G.-

I have an image of Luke seeing blue sky for the first time, and how frightening that would be for someone whose entire world has always been gray.

It will be so much fun to see the world through the eyes of a character whose world view is so totally different from mine.

Now all I need are characters and plot. Pish tush. I can buy those at the neighborhood characters and plot store (the store brand is pretty inexpensive).

Anonymous said...

I think this is a great idea. As soon as you mused that gee, the world Caitlin is living in has changed an awful lot in just five years and maybe too much, I realized I agreed. While I enjoyed reading as you developed your plot and characters, this new direction sounds more promising and fertile to me.

(I'm a regular reader/commenter who can't sign in with the name I blog under at the moment for reasons that are legit but which I'm not going into here.)

Susan Beth Pfeffer said...

Hi Anonymous With A Past-

Five years really was fast tracking it, and while we are a swift moving society, there is a certain amount of history that would have to be overcome.

Or as my brother put it, given how inadequate the Bush administration's response to Katrina was, it's hard to believe they'd be organized enough to handle drogs.

Well, that might be a paraphrase, but you get the idea.

Violet said...

I think this is a wonderful idea. I recently read and loved LAWKI (though I'm already feeling chicken about d&g) and while it's been interesting to read about the process of writing PB3 it just felt...disconnected, somehow, from the first two books, maybe because that did seem like a very incongruous number of societal changes/reconfiguring to happen in only five years. And I was so hoping that eventually the ash would lift and the sun come back (and like everyone else, thinking "But, but whatever happened to the baby "Rachel"?). If you do definitely decide to pursue this, I'll be waiting very eagerly to read it.

Violet said...

PS: And please, share twists and turns! :-)

Susan Beth Pfeffer said...

Hi Violet-

"Disconnected" is the perfect word to describe Since The End Of The Time Before as it relates to LAWKI and d&g. It could be the greatest book ever written (oh heck, it is the greatest book ever written), but it's not the right book. Sort of like George Washington, Abraham Lincoln and Paris Hilton. Not that they aren't all great, but it's hard to picture the three of them at a sleepover.

Don't be too scared of d&g. I guess it is kind of sad and depressing and stenchy, but there's a really nice party scene with boys and dancing.

George Washington does a mean cha cha!