Monday, April 25, 2011

Think Of It As Gone With Cousine Mildred

The past few mornings I've woken up at 5 AM, which I can't even blame on Scooter, who doesn't start playing Purr On The Neck until 6. Maybe because I know in an hour I'm going to aggressively adored, I haven't been able to fall back asleep. Instead I play with ideas for The Shade Of The Moon.

Now I've been devoting a lot of brain cells to a book that I've yet to be told my publisher wants. I did that recently (as recently as Saturday) with The Offering, but the difference is if one publisher should happen to reject The Offering, then there are dozens of others to turn to. The Shade Of The Moon is more of a one publisher deal, so I should preserve my brain cells until I'm informed that they were overwhelmed by the two sentence version and want to give me lots of money.

Then again, I wrote 12 pages when all they wanted was 2 sentences, so this is obviously a book I enjoy thinking about.

This morning, as I awaited Scooter and played with ideas, I had a vision of The Shade as a Balzacian novel. Not that I've ever read anything by Balzac, but I did see a Masterpiece Theater of one of his novels. I had actually just created a character that I thought of as a combination of Rhett Butler and Belle Watling (not that I ever read Gone With The Wind but I did see the movie), so I don't know why I thought about Balzac, who, to be perfectly honest, I get mixed up with Emile Zola, who I never read anything by either (but I saw the movie about him). Before breakfast, I googled Balzacian, which turns out not to be a word, and then I googled Zolaesque, which also turns out not to be a word (and then I ate breakfast).

Dickens and Byron get words. I don't see why Balzac and Zola don't. Well, maybe they do in France.

I'm at the stage where I'm creating scenes and developing characters, which is my favorite stage of writing. I do have to be careful though. I heard Lisa (who is turning into a considerably more important character than you might have thought) say that Miranda's daughter Meggie was spoiled, and the next thing I knew, Meggie had morphed into Veda Pierce (and yes, I saw Mildred Pierce and I read the book). That seemed a tad on the overkill side, so I pulled away from Meggie and started thinking about other characters instead.

The trickiest character, by far, is Miranda. The younger generation can be whoever I want them to be. Mom is definitely who she is, and Lisa is someone who the readers of Life As We Knew It and This World We Live In don't know that well. Alex is a little difficult, because I have such a strong sense of who he has become and it's not necessarily what the readers might think, but I figure as long as I understand his motivations and portray him sympathetically, it's okay.

But Miranda is someone the readers know very well, or knew very well, when she was 16/17 years old. Seventeen years have passed, which means half her life (how's that for a weird concept), and she's grown and changed during that time. She's made decisions and compromises that the readers won't have witnessed. I was a very different person at 34 than I was at 17, and I didn't have nearly as much end of the world life experience as she has. In addition, Miranda is going to be seen through the 16 year old eyes of Juliet, and 16 year olds see family members differently than other people do. I have to keep that inner core of Mirandahood in Miranda, all grown up, but to be honest, I don't know yet how to do that.

Ooh, spellcheck is going to have a lot of words it doesn't approve of.

Anyway, the current 5 AM vision for The Shade is that it be bigger (and possibly longer) than LAWKI. Juliet is part of a community that's vital and lively and noisy, and she participates and witnesses and shares what she knows with the readers. I want the book to be read by people who are interested in what happens next to Miranda and Alex and the gang, and by people who've never read any of the first three books. I want it to be part of a quartet, and yet a book that can stand alone.

But mostly I want my publisher to tell me if I should keep waking up at 5 AM to work on it!


Anonymous said...

sounds great! i sure hope your publisher gives you the green light!

Anonymous AZ

Susan said...

I agree with Anonymous! And I love the idea that it's bigger than the first book. You Stephenie Meyer you. :o)

-Another Susan

Anonymous said...

Sorry that my thoughts about the book are so much farther apart than yours, especially about the adoption thing. It had come to mind when I was reading the first book and Laura seemed to favor Jon so much; a variation on the old saying "just because you're paranoid doesn't mean you don't have enemies" = "just because Miranda's a spoiled daddy's girl doesn't mean Laura might not actually favor Jon." I probably read too much into the Laura/Miranda tension that went on throughout the series. Plus, something you'd mentioned in your spelling-challenged post -- about how Miranda thought she was doing the right thing in not telling Alex about how Julie really died because it'd seemed to her to be what Laura would've done -- made me wonder what would happen if Miranda learned that Laura wasn't as ideally heroic and self-sacrificing as she'd thought, and the possibility of learning her identity wasn't what she'd grown up thinking what it was would've been a really ironic twist. Sorry I was so off base.

I was wondering something: if I (or anybody else for that matter) wanted sometime to send you a short story connected with the Last Survivors series (but about different characters in different places), would it be okay to do so? Don't worry, I haven't come close to putting anything down on Word, but I've seen that, for instance, the tv show WHITE COLLAR has a thread for fans who have developed short stories. It could even be a new part of your site if you wanted it to be. The reason I'm asking is because I'm thinking about taking the plunge as a writer and I'd like to know if I have any talent.

Thanks for putting up with me for so long.

Anonymous Santa Fe

Anonymous said...

I'll be really mad at your publisher if the 4th book isn't a go. I love your characters and I want to know more about them. And in case it's because of the Young Adult Catagory they have the books classified as, I'm 48 years old and love them.

Susan Beth Pfeffer said...

Good evening Anonymous AZ and Another (and better) Susan and Anonymous Santa Fe and Anonymous-

I hope my publisher gives me the go ahead also. It would be a sad sad thing to have expended so many brain cells for naught!

tigerlily* said...


I really do enjoy logging onto your blog almost everyday. It's interesting to here what you have to say, and to get to know you more and more.

On the topic of your 4th book (possible), I really hope it works out. Your books are so different, and are such a joy to read. They are the perfect summer reads, where you can waste the whole day away reading.

Again, good luck, and I look forward to your next post!

Liz Hamblyn said...

I have to say I enjoyed the first and third book. I haven't been able to find a copy of the second book. A bit difficult as I live in New Zealand. I read the first book because my son brought it home from school. I'd look forward to reading a fourth book. Regards Liz

Susan Beth Pfeffer said...

Hi tigerlily* and Liz Hamblyn-

Thank you for your comments and apologies for taking so long to respond. It's been crazy time around here.

There's still no word about whether my publisher wants a fourth book. I'm having a great time plotting one out though, so I hope the answer will be yes, and I hope I'll hear it fairly soon!