When I was growing up, my mother said that to me every time I went out the door to visit a friend, whether it was to play Barbies for the afternoon, spend the night, or stay a few days. She couldn’t tell me in hours and minutes exactly what was the appropriate time to remain. I was supposed to be sensitive to my surrounding and just know. Also, I was supposed to know that, “Oh, don’t go yet!” didn’t mean a thing. But when you’re having fun, it’s easy to overstay.
And it’s easy for a writer to overstay in a series. As readers, we’ve all been there. We are on installment 463 in a series from a favorite author. It’s getting harder and harder to remember who’s married to who, who had twins, and who almost died three times. We keep reading because we are invested in the world but we are secretly thinking, Will this never end?
And then you get the book where the hero isn’t as good as the hero from book 129. You can tell that’s the one the author loved best. There will never be a hero who is better looking, smarter, can hold his liquor better, or earn as much money as hero number 129. We won’t even get into how many orgasms he can produce for his quivering heroine.
And all of a sudden you, the reader, hate hero 129. That’s when you know this foolishness should have been over a long time ago.
But I understand why writers hang on and think, Just one more. The world, whether an alternate universe or a contemporary small town, has already been built and it’s a happy comfortable place. The secondary characters are already there, ready to dish up a piece of pie at the diner with a side or wisdom or tune a piano and make a brokenhearted hero laugh for just a second. You can count on Friday night football games, Sunday morning services at the Episcopal Church, and a round of golf at the country club.
And if you are very, very lucky, the books are selling and you are getting messages from readers who don’t want to leave that world either. They want you write the stories of secondary characters who just don’t have stories. It would be easy to say yes but hard to live with.
So with the release of Secrets Gone South this week, we are saying goodbye to Merritt, Alabama, and the Gone South series. After four books and a novella, it’s time.
But saying goodbye is hard. I was not mentally prepared for writing that final epilogue. For sure, my husband was not mentally prepared to come home and find me sobbing into my keyboard.
But here’s the thing about goodbye. There’s always a hello around the corner. And we’re pretty excited about that hello!
As a reader or a writer, are you sad to see a series end?