Sequels and Why I Hate Them
When the news first came out that I had written a second book that would be released later this year, the automatic gleeful question from everyone I talked to was: “Ooooh — Is it a sequel to Interrupted?” I got a few crestfallen faces in reply when I reluctantly answered, “No, sorry. It’s not. It’s a totally different book with a whole new set of characters.”
“But whyyyyyyy???? Why can’t you write a sequel to Interrupted? I loved that book/those characters/that setting.”
This is always an awkward situation. It doesn’t make sense to a lot of my readers why I wouldn’t want to go back to Interrupted and continue writing the story. They sometimes jump to the conclusion that I hate that book or those characters or that setting. Obviously, that’s not true. I don’t hate anything about Interrupted. However, there is one plain and simple truth:
I’m sick and tired of that book.
But wait — I don’t mean that in the way you think I do! I absolutely love my first novel and I really enjoy talking about it with people. It never fails to put a smile on my face when someone emails me to say that they enjoyed it. My voice always grows slightly higher when I ramble on and on about the book and how I published it. I truthfully do enjoy discussing Interrupted and hearing from people who enjoyed it.
That being said, I also feel like that book represents a certain period in my life that is closed now. When I first started writing Interrupted back in 2009, I was a much different person than I am now. And so the book reflected everything that was going on in my life and personality at the time. When I re-read the book now, I can definitely see huge chunks of who I was and what I thought about life and the world at fourteen years old. However, a lot of that is much different from who I am now. I’m older, and (hopefully!) more mature, with many different ideas about who I am and what I want out of life.
When you’re as young as I am, so much about yourself can change in just a few short years. So it’s very difficult for me to even think about re-approaching Interrupted and continue working on that story. While I’ll always have an emotional attachment to those characters and that story, I don’t relate to it as much anymore. And it’s so, so hard to write about something that you’re not emotionally in tune with anymore. I love Allie, but I understand her less now than I did when I was fourteen.
It’s a sad thing to be a writer, in some ways. You get these characters into your head and think about them constantly for months and months on end. They’re a part of everything that you do and everywhere you go. When having a normal conversation with a friend, you’re constantly searching for ideas and inspiration for scenes. When brushing your teeth, you start wondering what your character sees in the mirror and whether she likes it or not. When going to bed, you wonder if your character’s bed is hard or soft and whether or not they care. It’s so much different than just picking up a book, reading it, and moving on to something else in a few hours. No, as an author you have to keep coming back and coming back again and again.
By the end of the six or seven months it takes to write that book, you’re very tired of it, in a way. Sure, you’ll always love talking about it, and promoting it, and hearing what everyone else thinks about it, but it always feels like a chapter of your life has just ended. You stop writing that book and start working on something else. And then, before you know it, you’ve detached yourself from that story. It isn’t yours anymore. Now it belongs to everyone, to read and judge and love or hate. And, as the author, all you can do is throw your hands up and say, “Well, I enjoyed it while it was mine.” And then you move on to something else.
That’s very much the way I feel about Interrupted. Once upon a time, those characters were everything to me. I lived, breathed, and slept them, in a totally non-creepy way. But that was years ago, and now I feel like they belong to everyone. I don’t understand Allie much better than a fifteen-year-old girl living in Ohio does. We can all enjoy her, and think about her, but none of us are really qualified to write her sequel.
I was talking about this with my uncle one day, and he made some really wise remarks on the subject. “You’re not ready or qualified to write her sequel right now, Rachel. You’re still too young to really understand what it would be like. But wait a few years, and write a few more books, and then one day, when you really know what it means to grow up, you can go back and write about her life again.”
So maybe I’ll do that, or maybe I won’t. I think only time will tell. What I do know is that I still love Interrupted, no matter how tired I am of being in the heads of those characters all the time. That book will always be a part of who I am. It was a chapter in my life that was unlike anything I’d ever experienced up until then, and it will always stick with me. I hope that all of you who have read the book sort of feel the same way.