Release day for a book I vowed I’d never write, and I’m as nervous as when I put out my first novel!
You boys have no idea how much I love you, and how much I miss you. Already, I feel the tears breaking the proverbial dam and gently rolling over the eyelids and down my cheeks. There are so many emotions attached to this particular release day that I don’t even know where to start.
I remember it as clear as day, that Friday in the second half of January 2013. Like all “great” upcoming authors, I wanted to share something free, something amazing, something short, on my blog. I had just finished writing Family Ties, I was still six months away from publishing anything, and I had no idea what release day anxiety could be. In my mind, I had a couple of pictures taking shape. First, an image of a man sitting in front of his fire place, dog at his feet, alone, lonely even, I wasn’t sure. The house he was in, a cabin of sorts, was located deep in a forest. The second picture was that same man walking around a lake. That lake was within sight of the cabin. It was winter, bitter cold, everything frozen.
That is how it all began, and if you read the first lines of Jonathan’s Hope, you might recognize those pictures:
It was supposed to be a short story, really, I swear, but when my fingers typed the following words, about two thousand words into that “short story,” how could I have stopped?
“He didn’t hear the footsteps outside the house, he was too deep in his own thoughts. He didn’t even hear the first cautious knocks on the door, timid, trepidatious.”
Dan, tell me: how could I not have continued, pressed on to find out who had suddenly arrived, knocking on the door of your cabin?
I had no idea it would be Jonathan. And I certainly had no clue where you would take me, what you would share with me. But I kept going, and I wrote for two full weeks before I put down the “proverbial pen,” having completed my second novel in a month, the second novel in my life.
Yes, I cried. I cried a lot, not only when you, Jonathan, sat down on that bench at the bus stop (what did you think, huh?) and I had to stop writing for two full days, in shock, not knowing how to proceed.
To this day, I still have readers contact me about how that scene scares the shit out of them.
The ending of Jonathan’s Hope… Well, ain’t that a peach. I recall the first ever negative review I ever received. Poor Shannon:
“My advice to anyone reading this book….skip the fucking epilogue!!”
No, Shannon, you don’t get to skip it. The epilogue is the most important part of that story. It is hope realized, the reality of love, a happy relationship, a large, loving family. It was the very reason I wrote the book, the question: can two guys, twelve years apart in age (incidentally like me and my husband) be happy, start a family, a dynasty even? Without the epilogue, the book would’ve been just another story of “boy meets boy.” The epilogue makes Jonathan’s Hope into the very powerful novel it is. I’m sorry you didn’t understand that.
The epilogue accomplished something else. Set sixty years into the future, it ensured I’d never, ever, be tempted or asked to write more about the two of you, or so I thought. Don’t misunderstand this. I love both of you, dearly. But I had just stopped reading series, having given away more than one hundred Star Trek books to charity. I was sick and tired of reading them, of the decrease in quality, in storytelling, the out-of-control spiraling of events, bigger, grander, crazier, that accompanies all series, on TV or in books, over time. I was tired. I wanted fresh, new stories, with a set beginning and a finish. I don’t want to worry about missing out, only to be disappointed by “same old, same old” or “WTF?” scenes.
It’s become my trademark: stand-alone novels. And I am proud that even though families, children, and relationships are often recurring themes in my books, that each and every one of the people who have sprung to life are strong individuals, very different from each other:
- Raphael, the architect grieving the loss of his son, unable to return to a normal life.
- Micky, who has to distance himself from his overprotective mother, and who firmly believes in Raphael.
- Haakon, tender, naïve, and utterly Scandinavian. You had to work harder than anyone else for your redemption.
- Michel, so much life, so much to give, and I am so sorry that you were taken from us far too soon.
- Willem, I still wonder where the leadership qualities you display came from. Wow! I admire you so much.
- Hery, I am in awe of your beauty, your confidence, against insurmountable odds.
- Neil, you grew up so fast, a mature, strong young man, fighting for his family, come what may.
- Chris, with a heart of gold, and what a gentleman you are, a real dream partner, for any man.
- Ross, I don’t think I’ve done you justice. You’re a good man, and I am proud to know you.
But, and this is a rather big one, even the epilogue didn’t stop fans and readers from asking for more. Questions about the missing link, the sixty years, keep flooding my way, and even I wondered at times: what had become of the two of you? What happened when Jonathan was in college? How did your relationship survive such a delicate time? What did you do with the inheritance? What about Dan’s relatives, his family? ‑ a question initially raised by my husband when he read the first manuscript. All those questions kept brewing in the back of my mind, while I wrote the stories of the characters above. For three years, they remained unanswered. Until today.
Boys, it’s release day of the sequel, Jonathan’s Promise. I am afraid, terrified even, that the story you’ve told me isn’t novel enough, isn’t good enough, afraid of readers judging it “WTF?” I always am, no matter which of my books I am releasing, constantly wondering when the emperor’s new clothes will be revealed, when someone steps forward and tells me that I’m a fraud, a miserable writer. Lots of writers feel this way on release day… Knowing it doesn’t make it easier.
To revisit the two of you, listening to what you told me about how you started your family, the adoption of Rick, about Jeanette’s birth, how Jonathan failed when Jeanette brought home Paul, when we filled in the blanks about your past, Dan…
I feel privileged that you told me more, that I’ve learned about the details of your life, your struggle as a family, as a couple, your work with the foundation.
But I’m also glad I got to know Parker better, and Cody, and that they are following in your footsteps, proudly carrying on the legacy of the Jackson family.
One final memory, before I let you go. When I started writing the sequel, I was 100% sure it would be a single book, a sequel. I had absolutely NO intention to turn this into a trilogy. And you boys, of course, know why. I knew exactly how the story would end. In theory, there was really only one way it could end: I had to reunite you two. And given the epilogue of Jonathan’s Hope… Yeah, you get it, right?
However, writing it was entirely different from imagining it, and as I approached the end, as I wrote the final chapter, numbered twenty-four, my anxiety grew. When the story reached that second to last page, I was unable to even see what my fingers were typing. Not even the short “encore” made things better, even though the Queen of UHE made sure to end it on a note that would maintain Her Majesty’s solid reputation.
I, the author, however, your friend, your father of sorts, could not let it end there, because of Marc – you know what I mean. I had wronged him in the most horrific possible way, and I had no choice but to set it right. And that is where Jonathan’s Legacy comes in; that is why the sequel became the second novel of a trilogy. Unexpected, unplanned, but utterly, utterly necessary. Writing that story was difficult, compared to Jonathan’s Promise. I know you guys. I didn’t know Marc very well, and he seemed to be really upset with me, didn’t talk to me. He didn’t let me in easily, and it wasn’t until a key scene in Adam’s office that he finally saw it fit to forgive me. From then on, it was smooth sailing, to the first ever truly “happily ever after” in my writing career. Even Her Majesty approved, knowing it was thoroughly necessary to bring closure. I look forward to the release day of that book on September 29th with the same mixed emotions as I head into today.
Thank yous are also much needed here: Natasha Snow, for her cover designs, Debbie McGowan for her thoughtful editing, Beaten Track Publishing for believing in me, proof readers for their hard work, and to friends, fans & family for their encouragement! I keep saying it… It takes a village!
Jonathan, Dan, I must thank you again! Thank you for allowing me a glimpse into your lives, thank you for letting me share in your love, your despair, your adventures, your hope, your promise, and the amazing legacy you leave behind. I am forever in your debt.
I love you from the bottom of my heart!
Happy Release Day.