Thursday, July 23, 2009

Puking is Okay

In about thirty days another child of mine will be brought into this world. Or rather, launched upon the reading community. But this time it’s not an Odelia Grey novel, but Ghost à la Mode, the first book in my new Ghost of Granny Apples mystery series.

It was just over two years ago when this little idea I had for a short story took root as a novel and blossomed into a full-fledged series. I remember Barbara Moore, my then editor, saying to me: “How soon can you get us a manuscript?”

“Huh?” Quickly, I calculated how much time I needed to write the Odelia Grey novels under contract, how many hours had to be spent at the law firm, evenings and weekends promoting the novels already out, and how much time I would need to eat, sleep, clean the house, and play with the cats. (Forget having any sort of normal relationship or social outings.) In the end, my time looked a lot like my check book – precariously teetering in the red.

“How about September 1st [2008],” I replied with a confidence that shook in its socks.

I'm pleased to say the early reviews for Ghost à la Mode have been very good and my publisher tells me the orders are strong. But we authors know that the real proof in the pudding is in the final sales. Orders mean nothing if the books don’t ultimately get sold to readers. My 2nd series still has to prove itself, just as the Odelia Grey series did.

Years ago when I set out to be an author, it never occurred to me to write two series. And no where on my radar was there a book or books about ghosts! I had envisioned writing the Odelia Grey series and the occasional stand alone novel. I knew other authors juggled two series, but with my full-time career as a paralegal, writing, and promotion, one book a year was enough. Or so I thought.

I won’t lie. Some days I regret saying yes to writing the second series. Those are the days when I’m mentally and physically cremated. When the brain screams for a little downtime and my fingers beg for some Bengay. Those are the days when being a hamster in a wheel looks like a nice vacation. But if I had to drop one series and keep the other, it would feel a little like Sophie's Choice. They are both my children, with individual personalities, up sides and down sides. Each series brings me unique joy and provides me with specific challenges.

To keep the two series separate in my brain, I write the Odelia Grey books in first person and the Ghost of Granny Apples books in 3rd person. The protagonists are also very different. Odelia is a lot like me - a short, fat, middle-aged, mouthy paralegal. Emma Whitecastle, the protagonist of the Granny Apples books, is tall, blonde, willowy, divorced, and rich, which is definitely NOT like me. It was fun to write outside my comfort zone. More importantly, it was a challenge to see if I could.

In about thirty days, not only will Ghost à la Mode be launched, but I will be turning in the manuscript for the 2nd book in The Ghost of Granny Apples series. Its working title is Hot ‘n Haunting. I will take two weeks off, then it’s on to Body Bingo, book six in the Odelia Grey mystery series, which is due just after the New Year. It's a lot like running back-to-back marathons.

When training recently for the Camp Pendleton Mud Run, my dear friend Ashley Ream drummed into my head the following code of athletes:

“You can puke, but you can’t quit.”

Wadda ya know – it applies to writing, too.


Lisa Bork said...

Sue Ann, congrats on the new series, positive reviews, and meeting the challenge of writing two series simultaneously!

Elizabeth Spann Craig said...

Congratulations! Good ideas for handling writing two series simultaneously...

Mystery Writing is Murder

G.M. Malliet said...

I have a new motto! Thanks, Sue Ann! I still need a theme song.

Congratulations. You did it!!!

Terri Thayer said...

Congrats, Sue Ann. Just reading this leaves me a little breathless. Good job.

Jessica Lourey said...

Sue Ann, do you ever get a kernel of a great story idea where you're not sure which of the two series it would fit best in, or do all plot lines fall neatly into one or the other?

And congratulations! You're an amazing woman.

Ashley Ream said...

Amazing how much writing is like running, isn't it? Keep goin', girl.

Sue Ann Jaffarian said...

Jess, I think I'd have more trouble deciding which plot ideas go into which series if they were both straight up mysteries. But with one involving ghosts, it keeps it clearly defined. But lately I've had the idea of having Emma and Odelia meet. Maybe Odelia going to Emma to question her about a case. I think it would be fun to put the two of them on a few pages together.

And yes, Sensei Ream, it is amazing how running and writing are alike. But I don't twist my knee writing, nor do I burn many calories.

Jessica Lourey said...

That would be fun, Sue Ann! Can't wait to read it (the meeting of the two as well as your latest).

Cricket McRae said...

Wow. I'm in awe, Sue Ann. Congratulations on your impending delivery and the good reviews!

I read recently that thinking -- especially intense creative thought -- burns a lot of calories, which is why a long stint of writing can be so exhausting. Wouldn't it be wonderful if that were true?

Unknown said...

Amazing, girl! But hey you have shone that to all of us so many times! Good luck with the new series.

Jeanne @

Alan Orloff said...

Sue Ann, how are you going to fit in TV series consultation? I'm sure you'll find a way.

Congrats! (BTW, what type of energy drink do you use?)

Beth Solheim said...

You've given me something to aspire to, Sue Ann. I thank you for supporting me on my journey to publication and I plan to support you all the way to the book store.

Keith Raffel said...

Mazel tov, Sue Ann.

Ms. Ream's ability to turn a pithy phrase makes me all the more excited about her moderating for Libby Hellman and me on Halloween Eve.

Sue Ann Jaffarian said...

Keith, Ashley rocks as a moderator! In fact, she's moderating a panel I'm on next month with Bill Fitzhugh and Laura Levine.

Alan, I don't use energy drinks. I prefer chocolate.

Thank you, folks, for dropping by today. To clarify, so far, I haven't vomited from the stress of writing 2 series, but there's still time.

Sophie Littlefield said...

sue ann, so looking forward to reading the new one!