yes, virginia, there is a sequel
February 24th, 2010
I’ve been a liar.
I have to get that out of the way first.
Because for months—no, years now—people have been asking me if there’s a sequel to If I Stay and I have been saying various degrees of “I’m not sure,” when in fact, even before the book ever came out, I’d written a sort of half version of a part two. But that version was mostly for me, because one night, a few weeks after I’d turned in the copy-edited version of If I Stay, I was lying in bed unable to sleep, thinking about (THERE ARE SPOILERS HERE IF YOU HAVE NOT READ IF I STAY) what a rough road Adam and Mia had ahead of them and then I started thinking about what life would be like for them. And then, even though I was supposed to be getting started on this completely other book, I suddenly knew where Adam and Mia wound up. And I NEEDED to write them there before I could find any peace. So I did. In a frenzy. A really lousy half-baked draft that I wasn’t sure was ever meant to see the light of day, but it was enough for me to breathe easy and work on an entirely different book. The post-If I Stay Adam-Mia book I’d scribbled took place several years in the future, so I figured if I ever did decide to make it into a real book, I had time.
So then I wrote the other book about a spoiled mean girl who finds a soul. Sort of Mean Girls meets Emma, social commentary/comedy. I revised it. I showed it to my agent, got her comments, revised it some more. I liked this book and the characters a lot, but all the while, I had this niggling little sense that it wasn’t right. Not that it was a bad book. I liked the book; I still do. But it wasn’t the right book for now. And as soon as I turned it in to my editor, I just knew. And suddenly, Adam and Mia came roaring back and where it hadn’t been the right time for them a year before, now it was. So I shelved the book I’d just spent eight months on and brought the draft back of the book I’d written the summer before (which had to be mostly trashed, btw, but piece by piece, which is far more painful than trashing something all at once).
All the while, people had been asking me: “Is there going to be a sequel?” At first, it was so easy to dodge the question. I just talked about the other book I was working on. I didn’t mention the skeletal draft sitting on my hard drive, but I didn’t lie either. But then, when I was actively working on the sequel again, I sort of lied. Okay, I didn’t sort of lie. You can’t sort of lie. It’s like being sort of pregnant. There’s a a little white line (or blue line) and you cross it.
So, I lied to you. Repeatedly. I’m sorry. There’s no justifying it, but here are some explanations:
- After the previous book, which I told everyone about, only to change my mind once my editor had read it, this time I wanted to wait.
- Mentioning that there is a sequel potentially spoils the ending of If I Stay.
- I don’t like announcing what I’m working on because I’m superstitious (see #1). So to avoid any uncomfortable lies, when asked what I’m working on, I will forthwith say that I am working on a rock opera about an epic battle between fleas and ants and we will all know that I am full of it. Deal?
- Aren’t sequels lame?
That last point I battled myself over. Because aren’t sequels always sucky compared to originals? If not sucky, a wee bit disappointing? It’s different for a series when you conceptualize the whole deal as a series and so the books play out over a grand arc (a la Harry Potter or Hunger Games). But when I first started writing If I Stay, I wasn’t even sure it was one book, let alone two.
But, sigh, at the end of the day, writers are slaves to the masters in their heads. And for whatever reason, I was not ready to let some of these characters go just yet. I really tried to talk myself out of it. Or put it off. But in the end, the characters won out. And it was also nice that every second reader seemed to beg for a sequel, but honestly, I don’t focus group what my next book should be; still I hope this will make some of you happy. And I know it will piss some of you off. To which I say: You’re welcome. And sorry.
But then, after J.D. Salinger died, I started to think a little different about sequels. My husband had this cool idea to read all the Glass family stories (Raise High The Roofbeams, Carpenters, A Perfect Day for Bananafish, Franny and Zooey, etc.) in chronological order (of the age of the Glass children, not of publication), an endeavor I’ve joined him in. It’s sort of made me feel a little less sheepish. It’s so clear reading this that Salinger became obsessed with his characters, that they became real to him, like family. Clearly, he had some issues letting them go (and it’s been suggested that when he went into seclusion and stopped publishing, he actually continued writing about the Glass family for years; time will tell if that rumor is true). I’m not comparing myself to Salinger, except that maybe a few of my characters got a little under my skin, so much so that one book could not contain where I needed to take them. I needed two. And seriously, two is it!
So, enough explaining. About that sequel:
It’s called WHERE SHE WENT. It takes place a little more than three years later and it’s told from Adam’s point of view. And that’s all I’m saying. It will come out in the spring of 2011 from Dutton.
Now, back to work on the rock opera FLEAING THE ANTHILL.