[Caroline Leavitt’s guest post was orginallyb published on The Divining Wand January 25, 2011 and offers a fascinating insight into how one novelist lets go of her characters and moves forward to create new ones.]
[Last spring or early summer The Divining Wand asked its authors, “how do you say goodbye to your characters?” In today’s guest post, Caroline Leavtitt (Girls in Trouble, Coming Back to Me, the rest in Bibliography) details how it feels to promote/love her latest novel Pictures of You and still move on to write yet another novel.]
Six months before its publication, I started promoting my new novel, Pictures of You. It’s a truly heady thing, to be flown to new cities, to talk to booksellers (I love, love booksellers), to meet readers (I love, love, love readers), and to speak in front of audiences that genuinely want to hear you.) I admit I love it all. I can’t wait to go on tour across the country, and I’m thrilled to talk on the radio and read in stores. Part of this is because after the four years it took me to write this book, I know the characters as well as I know anyone in my life. I care about them, I worry about them. I still hear their voices whispering in my head. Want to ask me any questions about them? I’m thrilled to spill their beans and push them into the limelight.
But wait! While all this is going on, what about that other novel? The one I sold to Algonquin on the basis of a detailed synopsis and 70 pages, the one that’s due by 2012? The one that right now is called The Missing One, but most likely will get a new title? I’m like that old song, “torn between two lovers,” because the honest truth is I love both of these novels with a passion, and while Pictures of You is like an old, wonderful marriage, this new novel is like the first heady flush of romance.
Dealing with two novels at once means I have become an expert juggler. I sit at my desk four to five hours a day and do nothing but write, especially since I know that by the end of January, I’m going to be on the road and carving out the time I need won’t be so easy. I have learned that I have to turn off all social network and all email accounts, because if I keep waiting to hear what’s happening with Pictures of You, now. What did I miss? What do I need to do? I’ve also discovered—me, who has never had a cup of coffee in her life—the wonders of coffee. To my surprise, not only does it boost my mood into the stratosphere, it hones my concentration and zooms up my energy. Why didn’t anyone ever tell me this before?
I know how important it is to keep love alive, especially a new one, so I have started carrying a notebook with me everywhere (I’ve never been the notebook type) so I can fan the flames of my new novel. I’m always thinking of my new novel, like any besotted person, and I write notes, or scenes when and where I can, just to make sure our relationship is still viable and growing. Sometimes, I feel like the universe is sending me signs, like when I read something about the 1950s, where my novel is set, in today’s New York Times, and that sparks me even more.
There’s always a moment, in writing the next novel, when it begins to be so powerful, it shuts out the old ones. The old characters begin to fade and the new ones become so powerful, they are all you can think about. It’s bittersweet, this goodbye, but it’s also quite wonderful. And hey, it means that after I finish this next one, I can move on to another.