Monday, February 2, 2015

Writing Act II for someone else

Sophie Hannah continued Poirot and Sebastian Faulks continued Bond. What character would you most like to write about, if the estate asked you?

by Meredith Cole

First of all, I would like to state for the record that I have never read a sequel written by a different author than the original one that I actually liked. But that isn't saying a lot, because most of the time I just avoid them. It was difficult not to be gleeful when the sequel to Gone with the Wind was a bust (which I did not read). Or others which I've now totally blocked out, because most of the time it's just simply a very bad idea.

A sequel presents an opportunity for the estate and the publishing company to make a boat load of money off an original idea of a now dead author. I get it. Who doesn't want to make a boat load of money? Yacht sized, not rowboat sized, of course. And in bills larger then ones, if you please. No change.

But here's the problem. The author who thought of the characters and created that whole world is now dead. And the next book is never going to be as good or authentic if they're not able to write it. And until they put typewriters in heaven or hell or whatever there's not going to be a sequel written by them. And the focus on giving CPR to dead writers and bestselling series characters by hiring someone else to write sequels allows publishing companies to avoid having to figure out what new writers will be creating the next beloved characters and paying them money to do create them.

So I'm against it. As much as anyone can be against anything who hasn't really been tested yet. And that being said, I was heartbroken as a teenager to find that there were only four books featuring Harriet Vane and Lord Peter Wimsey. It just didn't seem right. Not that I'm suggesting that I (or anyone else) do anything to remedy it... Because I'm sure someone already has.

8 comments:

Paul D. Marks said...

Couldn’t agree more, Meredith. The new writer might have a different vision of the character and story arc than the creator. And why not leave well enough alone? I know: money. But still. I also haven’t read those books. There’s one on Casablanca, my favorite movie, where I think Rick and Ilsa get together. But that’s not what the story is. Then it just becomes another romance.

The one semi-exception to my not reading this type of stuff is Poodle Springs by Raymond Chandler and Robert B. Parker. Chandler had started the book but died before completing it. So the estate hired Parker to do that. And, much to my surprise, it wasn’t bad. Maybe on its own merit and maybe because of lowered expectations. Because it doesn’t really matter how good the new writer is (Parker is good), they are not the original author with that author’s voice and vision.

Robin Spano said...

Hey neat question - and I love your strong answer. I've never read a sequel by another author either. I think the only way it could succeed would be if it were written more as a speculation than a continuation - i.e., if the author writing the sequel used her own voice to write her own story using the premise where the original writer left off.

Though that said, I never knew Nancy Drew was written by more than one author until one Bouchercon. And I was a satisfied reader for several childhood years.

Art Taylor said...

Hey, Meredith -- Interesting post... and I may take up/take on some of this in my own post later this week. But in the meantime, here's some either heart-warming or heart-breaking news about Lord Peter Wimsey and Harriet Vane: Jill Paton Walsh has written four books continuing the series, the first of which, 1998's Thrones, Domination, finished up a manuscript that Sayers had left unfinished....

Meredith Cole said...

I'm glad to hear there is a good example, Paul, of it done right. And I discovered the news about Jill Paton Walsh, Art, and then promptly buried my head back in the sand...

Meredith Cole said...

Robin--I admit that I suspected something was up with Nancy Drew when her hair color kept changing from book to book...

Catriona McPherson said...

Meredith, Like Art said, Jill Paton Walsh's Thrones, Dominations finished a DLS manuscript. I adore DLS and I'll vouch for it. The second one - A Presumption of Death - used DLS's wartime propaganda columns (hm, is it propaganda if it was our side?) as a springboard for a new story and is even better. Right up there with the canon. Maybe it helps that Jill herself is an Oxford blue-stocking and pretty much a modern version of Dorothy/Harriet.

J. F. Constantine said...

Amen, Amen and Amen again!!

Yanno, every time I read one of your posts I start thinking we are twins separated at birth. :)

Write on, Meredith, and right on!

Susan C Shea said...

Sorry I'm late to the party today. I have sampled a few and liked - not loved - them, but it's always a little sad because, as you say, Meredith, if the original authors didn't write it, it's not going to have the same mind creating it, and that's that.

There are lots of Austen wannabes and I'm guessing they have fun pretending to live in Jane's brain, though!