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.