I want to talk to you of endings and saying good bye to beloved characters and series. I think we all know what this feels like as readers; I certainly do. But honestly, I’ve been surprised at how painful ending a series can be for a writer, at least this one. It’s is a special type of bittersweet.
That’s how I’m feeling about the seventh and finale book in the Nightrunner Series, Shards of Time, which hit the shelves on April first (mass market, e-book, and unabridged audio!) I’m really, really happy with this book, and I’m so grateful to have ended the series on my own terms in my own way, rather than having it dribble off into oblivion. A good actor knows when to leave the stage, and that’s how I feel bringing down the curtain on Seregil, Alec & Co. Always leave ‘em clapping.
But endings are good byes. I was blindsided by this for the first time when I finished Oracle’s Queen, the third book in the Tamír Triad, which came out in 2006. I’d told the story I’d set out to tell. I knew from the beginning that it was a trilogy. Period. And yet there I sat at my computer, typing the last lines and blubbing onto my keyboard. Characters are more than words on a page, you see. They become members of the family. You think about them all the time when you should be doing other things, take the on family vacations, dream about them, get angry at them when they won’t cooperate, and love them dearly, even the evil ones.
I made my first sale in 1995, a two-book contract that included the first two books of the Nightrunner series, Luck in the Shadows and Stalking Darkness. It had taken nearly ten years to write and sell those books, so that gives you an idea of how long I’d been working with Seregil and Alec and their friends already. Seriously, it amazes me to think that I’ve been with these guys since 1984. My characters are older than my own kids and certainly a lot of my readers. They were my first success and are my oldest literary friends/creations.
Readers (and relatives) have asked me: Why say good bye at all? Why not just keep writing them? There are several answers to that. The most important to me as a writer is that I knew on a gut level that it was time. That same instinct tells me when a sentence is right, or a chapter arc is finished, or the ending of a draft is nigh. I don’t use outlines—never have. I feel my way along with a pocket full of basic ideas and goals and see what happens. That same instinct has crept up on me over the past few books, a little voice in the back of my mind whispering It’s time. Wrap it up. Leave while the audience is still clapping. It’s not that I’m tired of these characters. Far from it. I shed more tears as I typed the last lines of Shards of Time, and even more as I wrote the Afterword. But it was time.
The true test of a work of fiction is whether it lasts in the minds of the readers after it ends, and draws them back to visit again with characters as old friends. I’ve lost count of how often I’ve reread the Sherlock Holmes canon (and yes, I adore BBC’s Sherlock!) We’ll see if the Nightrunner Series, and the Tamír Triad stand the test of time. I hope they do.
In each ending, however, are the seeds of the next beginning. New horizons are calling, new characters knocking at my back brain, anxious to audition, one of them a child who can read water. In other words, you haven’t heard the last of me.