Too Much of a Good Thing

Have you noticed how lately it seems like you can’t spit without hitting yet another Hollywood sequel or re-boot? There are 27 million Rambo, Superman, Spiderman and X-Men movies. I read last night that they are considering making a sequel to The Goonies and I was all like

nuh_uh_conan_obrien

I mean, re-doing The Craft is bad enough. Are they going to ruin my whole childhood too?

But the thing is, it’s not just Hollywood. The publishing industry is just as guilty. I started thinking about this because I’m four books into a five-book series. I loved the first book but my enthusiasm dimmed with each passing book. However, I still was interested enough to buy the book of companion novellas. But now that I’m nearly finished with book four, it feels very obvious it was originally meant to be a trilogy and then the author’s contract was extended for a two or three more books (not sure if the companion book counts) so she had to do something. Unfortunately, for me, what she did didn’t live up to what she started in the first books.

And this happens all the time. The most widely known example is the Mortal Instruments series by Cassandra Clare. It started as a trilogy and it would have been great if it was left there. But then three more books were added on. And then she went back in time with The Infernal Devices, and forward with this new Dark Artifices series, not to mention the Magnus Bane Chronicles and a companion novel. As a reader I’m going

you-have-to-stop

I want to see new worlds, new characters, new plot lines from Ms. Clare.  But apparently that’s not going to happen for a long while.

Don’t get me wrong; I’m not picking solely on her.  I’m going to commit heresy here by saying the same thing about J.K. Rowling. (I can see Shauna and Kristin cringing right now and getting ready to kick me out of the Spellbound Scribes.) I LOVED Harry Potter – every book, every movie – I even went to see the traveling exhibit in Chicago. I’m not opposed to the play or the amusement park. But, Pottermore put me over the edge and I have no desire to read Harry Potter and the Cursed Child or see Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. I know she’s doing other things as Robert Galbraith, but at some point, she has to let Harry’s stories be finished. I guess for me it’s one thing when you expand the reach of a series by using its intellectual property (movies, plays, etc) and another when you keep pushing at a series that needs to end. As they say in Frozen,

let_it_go__by_jan_jane-d73khqj

I understand that there are fans of both series (and many others that I didn’t name) who can’t ever get enough. But is that a reason to keep going back to the well until it’s beyond dry? I feel like our society no longer respects endings. We have to keep pushing, pushing, pushing until what once was beautiful is now a shadow of its former self. I think that’s what really scares me about adding to the Harry Potter world; it was complete and magnificent as it ended. Why gild the lily?

Non-book example: I LOVED the show Entourage. Ditto to Sex and the City. Did their sequel movies need to be made? Did they enrich the series in any way? Nope. They both (I only saw the first S&TC movie) kind of sucked. They dulled what were fantastic series.

And that is my biggest fear of all – that wanting too much will ruin the art. Gluttony is a deadly sin for a reason.

I’m frustrated at the publishing houses (and Hollywood studios) for encouraging stuff like this. They want the big money, guaranteed best-sellers, while I know authors who could be the next big thing if the houses would look beyond their wallets and see the talent in front of them (several of them happen to be my fellow Scribes).  Same goes for Hollywood. You can’t tell me there aren’t talented screenwriters out there writing fresh movies and TV shows. (Hell, I met one while I was at Spring Fling in Chicago. And look at Netflix and Amazon.)

I’m writing this knowing I may be viewed as hypocritical. I’ve already expanded my Arthurian books beyond what I originally intended (four books: three Guinevere, one Isolde) by toying with the idea of telling Morgan’s story as well. But I’m also producing other non-related works, so those who want to move on to other things, can, and I as an author can explore my range and try new things.

Maybe I’m just justifying myself and I’m guilty, too. It’s entirely possible. But I don’t want to be an author who was known only for one thing; I also don’t want to be remembered as one who ran a good series into the ground. And I don’t want that for any of my fellow authors, either, famous or not. So I guess what I’m asking is that we all think long and hard before writing yet another book/movie/etc. in an already complete world.

I know I’m probably going to regret asking this, but what do you think? Am I right or am I crazy? Are there books/movies/TV series that you feel like went on past their time? Why do you think this happens?

 

On Finishing a Trilogy

Last year I managed to start something like three trilogies where the third book had yet to be released. Let me tell you a little bit about how this played out.

Picking up Book #1: Hmm, this looks interesting. I’ll give it a try.

Finishing Book #1: OMG must read more. There’s a sequel?!? YES. PLEASE.

Reading Book #2: Leave me alone don’t talk to me can’t you see I’m reading?!?

Finishing Book #2: NO! Yes, but NO! I must find out what happens next!!!!!

Searching for Book #3: …WHAT DO YOU MEAN THERE’S NO BOOK #3??????

Basically, I’ve spent a lot of time this past year refreshing my Goodreads “to-read” list hoping that the release dates of these desperately awaited books has magically been pushed up. But now, a year later, the final books in these series are finally starting to come out. And as excited as I am about experiencing the conclusions to these wonderful stories, I can’t help also approaching these finales with some degree of trepidation.

Because finishing a series can be an emotional thing, especially after waiting months and months for the final book. As a reader, you’ve spent hours with these characters, investing your time, energy, and emotions into their stories and experiences. You’ve explored their worlds alongside them, faced trials by their sides, and celebrated victories with them. And now, eager as you are to discover how their stories end….you also have to find a way to say goodbye.

This past week I burned through the first on my list of trilogy conclusions. And let me just say, I loved it. The important plot arcs found their natural endings, and the characters all got the endings they deserved. The conclusion was thrilling, unexpected, and poignant.

And yet. Even though the writer and logical reader in me knew it was the perfect ending to a fantastic series, and how could I ask for more? ….I couldn’t help but feel a little bit sad. Even though the characters ended up where they ought to be, they didn’t get there without trials, and now, the story was over. As the pages counted down to that final sentence, I braced myself for the inevitable farewell.

It happens. I’ve said goodbye to more characters, worlds, and stories than I can count. And when I’m being honest, I’d tell you that the inevitable goodbye is part of the continuing joy of reading. Every character’s story has an ending…and every ending paves the way for a new story. I will read more books and fall in love with more characters; I will start new series and finish old series and begin all over again.

In fact, I think there’s another series conclusion coming out next month.

And maybe someday, I’ll get the chance to re-read this trilogy, and experience the joys, the sadnesses, and the inevitable goodbye once again.

Do you look forward to (or dread) finishing a trilogy? How do you manage to say goodbye? Leave your thoughts in the comment section below!