Mel's Shopping Diary
Mel Answers Why So Long for Gates of Paradise?February 10, 2012
Chelsea asked, Why did you wait so long for the final book to come out?
Hoo boy! I chose to answer this one because I’ve seen this in other places, a sort of overall groan that the book is not coming out for another year, and it’s not that I waited to release the final book, since I’m working as fast and as thoroughly as I can, but because I think what you are asking is “Why do we have to wait so long for the final book Gates of Paradise to come out?”
Authors don’t set the publishing schedule, our publishers do. I know it seems like it is a very long time from a reader’s point of view, and I apologize for that, but writing a book a year in a series is pretty “fast” for an author. Of course, these days, with many authors writing multiple series with books that come out twice a year, a book a year seems very long in comparison.
Usually after a book is written and turned in to our publishers, it takes a year until they are on the shelves. That is the traditional publishing schedule. So for instance, for Gates of Paradise to make the January 2013 pub date, it means that the book should have been done by last month. It’s not and I’ve been very very lucky that my publishers have been so understanding in giving me as much time as possible--sometimes my books are turned in to them merely months before their pub date and everyone--my editor, copyeditor, marketing, sales, publicity, art design, have to work incredibly fast to make my books happen on the dates that we have announced.
Publishers also have to decide when is the best time to publish a book, and since we had reserved the September slot for Wolf Pact, Gates of Paradise had to be moved to the next publishing season.
For instance, it took me a year and a half to write the first Blue Bloods book and I probably could have taken another year and a half more. Books take time, I like to think about them, to plot them, to understand my characters’ motivations, and then I like to rewrite the book several times to get it right. Rewriting does not mean simply polishing the grammar and making the prose pretty. Rewriting means huge structural changes--moving scenes, chapters, cutting them, figuring out WHERE new chapters have to be written, until the book is the best reading experience I can create.
I was very late for my second book, Masquerade, as the one-year-for-the-book schedule was incredibly draining for me. I do write other books during the year, mostly because I also need time to recover and recuperate from the Blue Bloods books. While I can create new worlds and new books, I find that taking some time AFTER I turn in a Blue Bloods book to do something else is part of my creative process. I can’t simply go from one Blue Bloods book to the next. I don’t have it in me to think that way, to create that way. I like to leave the books, and then come back to it when my mind is fresh and renewed again.
When I began writing the Blue Bloods series my ambition was to ape Stephen King’s Dark Tower schedule--a series that he wrote (and is still writing) over the course of thirty years. That seemed reasonable. I did not realize that publishing a series in the young adult space meant expectations of a very different nature. I’ve been writing Blue Bloods for ten years now, and since 2006 when they launched they have come out every year, whereas Stephen King sometimes took as much as seven years between Dark Tower books.
Authors aren’t machines, stories are worth waiting for, and the creative process is not simply one where you can push a button and a book comes out the other end. I’m still writing Gates of Paradise, and it’s a fantastic experience--I am really enjoying letting all the revelations slowly unwind after so many years of keeping all my characters’ secrets. For me, January is very short. I would love another year to work on the book. But there are other considerations--other books my publisher has on the schedule, among them. So much of life is trying to get the best job done in the time allotted us.
For instance, I understand many of you also think the wait for Wolf Pact has been too long already and I agree, but there is nothing I can do about it. I worked on that book, I worked and worked and worked and I missed all the deadlines---I believe I blew through six deadlines and three different publication dates for the book. (Because when you don’t get it turned in on time, the schedule has to move back along with your failure.) I tried my best but sometimes it’s like wrestling an alligator, you’ve got to pummel him and beat him down, but sometimes the alligator eats you. That’s what happened with Wolf Pact, I got eaten by the alligator. But I’m happy to report that I finally wrestled Wolf Pact to the ground, and we will have some fun news about its publication very soon!
How do people create art and write books after big life changes? When my daughter was born I had to adapt my writing to that of mothering, and then when my dad died in 2009, I had to find a way to find joy in my work again after experiencing so much loss. To be honest, it’s still a struggle sometimes.
But why are some books hard and some books easy? I have no idea. All I know is that I love writing the books and I hope it is as much fun for you to read as it was for me to write. Now I need to go back to work!