Authors tell you what inspired their work
Melanie Lynne Hauser, author of "Confessions of Super Mom"
When I wrote Confessions of Super Mom, I wrote it as a stand alone book. Meaning I had no thought of continuing the story further. I was not a reader of series books; women's fiction, at least at that time, didn't really put out many series. They were mainly single titles, and that was what I read, and it was what I thought I'd written.
It's an odd thing, as a writer, to find out that no, no -- that's not what you've written at all. Because when my agent sold the book, suddenly everyone was talking about a sequel. It turned into a two book deal and I was left wondering what had happened to my little stand alone book -- a book that began and, more importantly, ended when I thought it should. Only all of a sudden I was being told that it shouldn't. That the story should continue. And I was filled with all sorts of conflicting thoughts and emotions.
First of all, I wasn't sure I had the attention span to write another book with the same cast of characters. I'm one of those authors -- rare, maybe -- who doesn't get all that attached to her work once it's finished. I'm pretty good about sending it out the door to find its way in the world; meanwhile, I'm eager to open up a new Word Document. So writing "Chapter One" in the same place I'd just typed "The End" was a little strange to me. Frustrating, actually. I had to fight off the feeling that I wasn't moving forward at all -- which is one of those quirks in my nature. Forward motion, at all times. Never look back.
But fighting with this feeling of spinning my wheels was the equally strong feeling of love that I had for my characters. In a way, I loved them too much. So much that I was afraid to mess with their minds and lives again! I'd left them in a happy place at the end of the first book, a place they'd earned and deserved. Suddenly, faced with the task of continuing their story, I panicked, feeling a huge responsibility toward them. I didn't know -- still don't -- if there would be further books in the series. I didn't want to experience these same feelings of frustration if I had to write a third book, but what if this was the last one? Where, then, should I leave Super Mom and company? In a happy place where everything's tied up, neat and happy -- again, an ending they'd deserved and earned? Or in an uncertain place, which would help me, the writer, in the future?
It was a dilemma, one that I fretted and moaned over, passionately discussing with my husband night and day. "I want them to be happy," I kept saying. "I need to leave them in a happy place, just in case that's where they remain, forever. I owe them that."
And that's the point when my husband looked at me -- rubbing his eyes like a cranky toddler -- and said, "You know, they're not real people."
Fortunately for him, I didn't have anything really heavy in my hand. Because I couldn't believe that he didn't get it; that this was the very thing that was torturing me. They are real people -- made even more real by the fact that I was spending a lot more time with them than I'd ever planned. I got to know them in ways I'd never gotten to know other characters on the page before. I lived with them longer -- and more fully.
So to me, writing a sequel was a much bigger responsibility than writing the first book had been. Not because, for the first time in my writing career, I knew there would be readers anxiously awaiting my book. Not because -- again, for the first time -- I had an editor reading over my shoulder as I wrote.
But because of these wonderful characters, who had been entrusted to me, unexpectedly, for more of their lives. And in the end, that was the gift of the sequel. Eventually I learned to look at it as an opportunity, not a responsibility. An opportunity to explore the next step in their lives in a way many authors only dream of.
Did I succeed? I hope so. I think so. I discovered so many wonderful things about these people I thought I knew so intimately. I discovered hidden flaws; I saw the younger characters grow up a bit, and the older characters, at times, regress to unexpected levels of childishness that both tickled and appalled me. They made me laugh, they made me cry; they made me learn more about the nature of forgiveness. And I don't worry about them so much, anymore. They're a lot tougher than I thought they were.
In other words, they surprised me. Just like old friends sometimes do.
I hope they surprise you, too.
Melanie Lynne Hauser's Confessions of Super Mom, is available in paperback, and her latest book, Super Mom Saves the World, is out right now. Learn more about Melanie by visiting her blog and website.