The release of Darkest Mercy has lead to a lot of people asking “How does it feel to be done with the series?” I suppose it’s the inevitable question: Darkest Mercy is the fifth novel in the series that also has three volumes of manga and a few short stories. The answer is a little more complicated than I’d like. The books have been well received. Every novel was greeted with kind accolades and has been a New York Times bestseller. The story I was telling is over though, so writing more books in the series isn’t logical. Unfortunately, we are not merely logical. It feels good to have the sense of completion, but not-so-good to realize that I’ll miss my characters.
A fair number of readers have already written to tell me that I could write this or that in the Wicked Lovely world. Their suggestions range from the exceedingly unlikely (my teen character having a baby) to the eerily accurate (the topic of one of the short stories I wrote immediately after finishing the novel). I understand the urge to spend more time with these characters—and I give in to it here and there.
Sometimes I write scenes or short stories because I’d like to “see” how my characters are doing. This started as a way to bridge the gap between novels for me. To understand what a character was doing, I’d write a scene that was just for my own purposes. I used to keep those snippets to myself, but when enough readers had asked about the fate of one of my characters after Ink Exchange, I answered them in such detail that they asked “Where is that written down?” I was forced to admit that it was only on my computer. They pointed out that they couldn’t read it from there, so the first Wicked Lovely short story became public.
As part of that process, I had to admit to a few people that I wrote these odd little texts about my characters. Now, some of those texts are being gathered into a collection (Faery Tales & Nightmares, 2012). I suspect I had thought I’d stop writing such pieces after the series ended, but I still scrawl them.
All of which leads to my feeling that “How does it feel to be done with the series?” is an odd question. Darkest Mercy was never meant to be a “the world is closed; no other stories happen here” kind of book. My characters continue to live on for me. I’ve written two post-Darkest Mercy short stories. I have others I’ve begun, but not finished. I wrote enough to see/know/watch what happened next for certain characters, and then I was appeased. If I start wondering more about those characters, I’ll open the files again to see what they’re doing.
So, there is a bittersweet feeling to ending the series. These people have been talking and living on the stage in my head since 2004. Yes, that’s where they really do live. That’s how I conceptualize my writing process: I don’t consciously create characters or plot trajectories; I sit in the auditorium inside my head (usually in the third row, not quite in the center) watching a stage where these people live their lives. I take notes. Those notes are then titled, labeled as “novels,” and put on shelves (or on e-readers) where people who don’t live in my head read them. It’s not so different than bartending or waiting tables. I listen. They tell me stories. Sometimes I laugh; sometimes I cry; and every so often, I step away and wonder what possessed them to do that. My feet don’t ache like they did when I was slinging drinks, but I’m still nocturnal and I’m still fascinated by the lives of strangers.
It’s been a little sad to see them start packing up, but there are other characters that want the stage now. I worry, of course, that I won’t love the next cast as much, or that they’ll be unruly and mutiny or any number of catastrophes, but fear isn’t the best reason to make a choice. People are eager to remind me that Aislinn and Donia and company could stay around, but I think they need to keep heading toward the stage door. They may wander back in time, and while they’re out on the road, I can check in on them—open the files and write a few snippets—but the next cast wanted the stage, and the folks for my next novel Graveminder (out in May) weren’t even patient enough to stay off the stage until the Wicked Lovelypeople were gone. I had to switch back-and-forth as it was, and of late, the cast of the book I’m working on right now, Carnival of Souls, is taking up residence too . . . I love my Wicked Lovely cast, but they finished the last act of this particular story in their world.
- Melissa Marr
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