I think most of my fellow authors will appreciate the anecdote I’m about to share. As writers, the Normal Ship left port without us long ago (attributed to Terri Main). We who spend countless hours imprisoned by our obsession – researching, writing, editing, proofing, re-writing, submitting to agents, and submitting, and submitting again – do what we do because we must. We have no choice in the matter. Our characters are the voices in our heads. As long as we are able to put their words in writing, we control the voices instead of the voices controlling us.
While we do not necessarily write to be rewarded in some way, we love it when we are. For me, such tribute can come in three forms; recognition, praise, and profit. While I have received varying degrees of all three, I never tire of receiving sincere praise for my work, especially from readers I don’t know. While it’s nice, of course, to receive compliments from friends and family, it’s totally different when you are applauded by people with whom you have no ties. Writers know what I mean.
Since publishing Black Hearts White Bones, I have had a good many people tell me, “I couldn’t put it down!” High praise, indeed, and greatly appreciated. Writers take that to mean that they hit a literary bullseye and makes all that hard work become recognizable as what it was meant to be – a labor of love.
But as sweet a sound as such words make, there is another comment that is sweeter still. It is any variation of, “I didn’t want it to end!” The distinction between these two forms of praise is similar to the difference between winning the state championship and winning a gold medal in the Olympics. Both are wonderful achievements but the latter is in a class by itself. Beyond being a compelling story, such a comment tells the author that the readers accepted the world that she or he has created and were so invested in the characters that they wanted the story to go on. Not because there was an unsatisfying or open ending, but because the characters captured their imaginations and took them on a ride so compelling any finish would leave them wanting more – to know what happened the next day, the next year, and beyond.
I get it. As the person who wrote Black Hearts White Bones, a part of me didn’t want to stop writing it. Together, Anne Bonny and Mary Read were a force of nature. As historical figures, I often felt as though they stood behind me as I wrote, willing me to make their story go this way or that way – but always the right way. Given their fierce reputations, how could I refuse their demands?
And the reward for our collaboration? About a week ago I was given the most glorious admonishment a writer can receive from a reader. Her name is Brenda Woodington and she graciously allowed me to use her name and her comment.
It is with very mixed emotions I must tell you that... I am finished. What am I supposed to do now Bill?!?!? I want more. I NEED more. It can't end like this... please tell me it doesn't end like this! I'm confused. I'm devastated. I'm heartbroken. Black Hearts White Bones the sequel?
If there is a brass ring for writers to grab, then this compliment must surely be it. Thank you, Brenda! Reading these words is both gratifying and inspiring. I hope you will enjoy my next novel just as much.
So, will there be a Black Hearts White Bones sequel? Eventually, perhaps. All I can say for now is, I hear New Orleans calling out to me. (Those who have read BHWB will know what this means.)
For more reviews, profiles, and interesting tidbits on writing, check out www.billfurney.com.