November 9th, 2012 by Diana Peterfreund
The Tragedy (?) of an Unfinished Series

This theme week on Genreality is supposed to be about what we would write if we didn’t have money and contracts to worry about. I feel like in many respects this is a loaded question, because it presupposes that we are slogging through stuff we don’t love, you know, for the money.

This is not the case for me. I have been wildly passionate about every single book I have published. This is why my backlist is a bit on the eclectic side (I have published chick lit, YA contemporary fantasy, and post-apocalyptic sci-fi — and that’s not even counting the short stories.)

But I have been limited by contracts and market forces. I have not finished my “killer unicorn” trilogy yet because it makes better business sense for me right now to grow my audience. In the two years since my child was born, I haven’t been able to write more than one book a year, so I haven’t contracted for that either, and my adult mainstream career has been placed on a temporary hold.

If I was the kind of writer who could churn out five or six books a year, the market and contractual choices that have determined some of my publishing decisions would not exist. I would be able to keep mainstream contracts that would grow my audiences, and do mainstream (or not) books like the third unicorn book that would be in service to the dedicated fans of that series.

It’s been interesting to watch the way my readers have responded and, often, misinterpreted my limitations as a producer. I recently did an interview where I was asked why I “moved from adult to YA.” In actuality, I started writing my adult and YA books in the same year, but do to my quick publishing schedule in the adult market, the incredibly long lead times in the children’s market, and a worldwide recession that pushed release dates all over the industry, my first YA was not out until a few months after my fourth adult novel. For two years, I had two out at once. Then, in 2011, I had zero books out, because I was busy being very pregnant and very sick. Adjusting to life as a mother these past few years meant that two books a year were going to be off the table for a bit, and YA books were the ones I had under contract.

It’s also interesting to see the expectations that series have to come out one book a year, boom boom boom. Some of the most enduring and beloved YA series don’t work like that (the Eugenides series by Meghan Whalen Turner comes to mind), and some do and suffer for it (names withheld to protect the guilty). The fan backlash when authors deviate from this expected norm is astounding (George R.R. Martin is probably the most famous example). I’ve seen writers post big apologies and promises to continue with series when announcements are made about new/unrelated projects they have taken on.

As for me, all I can do is promise readers that the unicorns are alive and kicking. In fact, there were two new unicorn stories out in anthologies this year. I have not walked away from the project, and it is something I will be turning my attention to in the coming year. I don’t have any cool announcement to make or anything like that. But that’s okay. Because sometimes series don’t come one a year like clockwork. And that’s fine. I know readers are hungry for more, but from my perspective, it’s important to create the best story I can and publish it in the way that though it might not be the quickest, has the best chance of reaching as many readers as want to discover it.

And also to say that every single thing I write, I write with love. There are easier jobs than this one to have. I wouldn’t be doing this if I didn’t love it.

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