Racing To Conclusion: The Fine Art of Finishing A Novel

If you hang out with me on my Facebook reader page, then you know that yesterday I was in New York filming a promotional video with the delightful authorKatie Fforde, who writes romantic comedies and lives in–gasp–the Cotswolds of England.  In my next life I plan to live in the Cotswolds, too.  I’ve already put in my order.

The video was for German television channel ZDF, and Katie and I are the two authors whose novels have been chosen for Sunday night movies for that station.  Five of mine are now a reality, and two of Katie’s.  Ironically, Katie who lives in the UK is having her novels filmed in upstate NY.  I, who live in the US and have a summer cottage in NY, am having my novels filmed in New Zealand.  Katie and I assume this is because ZDF wants us to have the pleasures of visiting faraway places when we are invited to visit the sets.

I visited New Zealand this past winter and blogged extensively about the trip.  Katie is in the states now watching her movie being made, and so the sharp minds at ZDF saw a great promo opportunity.  Katie and I would meet in Manhattan and discuss our books on camera for the ZDF website.  What fun.  Once it’s posted, I’ll let you know.

Just a few minutes into our meeting Katie and I felt like old friends.  I was amazed at how similar we are in so many ways.  Did ZDF look for certain qualities when they were reviewing authors and their novels?  Coincidence?  Most likely, but after awhile we just marvelled that we work in such similar ways and have similar outlooks.  When she mentioned that she played “Spider Patience” when she needed to regroup during her writing day, I stopped the interview.  “Don’t tell me that’s the same thing as Spider Solitaire.  We can’t have that in common, too.”

It is, indeed.   After all, with so much attention to relationships and romance in our novels and solitaire on our computers,  Katie and I could both be dubbed the Queen of Hearts.

However, our  mutual admiration of Spider Solitaire (bless Bill Gates) did bring up one difference between us.  Katie is quite capable of putting a game on her computer and going back to it whenever she needs the break.  Emilie is SO not capable.  If I start a game, I almost always have to finish it right that moment.  And I play to win.  So this means, well, playing is not a tiny break, it’s a vacation.  Emilie needs a little more Katie in her soul.

Still, this obsessive streak in my psychological makeup has served me well.  Somehow, despite all the other attractions and obligations of my life, I’ve managed to turn out a number of books.  Part of this is my inability to stop writing when a story is finally careening to conclusion, usually in the last third of the novel.  By then, everything’s set up, and I’m anxious to keep moving.  At last I can reveal those surprises for which I’ve so carefully laid the groundwork.  And while I’m an inveterate outliner, and have a strong idea how my book will end, there’s always that little voice that says “But maybe it won’t turn out like that after all.”  And of course, Little Voice is sometimes quite right.  

Right now I’m nearing the end of Sunset Bridge, the final novel in the Happiness Key trilogy.  I’m in that final third, and I’m going strong.  But PR trips, and the beginning of vacation at our summer place, will wreak havoc with any writing schedule.  We have family galore who’ve signed up to visit us.  We have lectures and concerts and hours relaxing on the porch to look forward to.  Will the book be finished in time, even with all those interruptions?

You bet it will.  For the same reasons I must finish a game of Spider Solitaire before I move on to something else, I must finish Sunset Bridge.  I find myself looking forward to those hours at the computer no matter what else is going on.  Will I sacrifice everything else?  Wave away friends and forget those long walks along the lake?  No chance.  Because when a book is going well, I can write any time and any place. 

So picture me at my laptop computer in August, during the hottest part of the afternoon or during the hours just before midnight when the world is quiet and everyone else has gone to bed.  But don’t feel sorry for me.  I’ll have the best possible company.  Tracy, Wanda, Alice, Janya and Maggie will be right there with me.  After all Sunset Bridge is their story.  They’re as anxious to find out what happens as I am.


  1. Debbie Haupt on July 30, 2010 at 10:34 am

    I am also anxious to find out about that wonderfully different circle of friends. This summer when my mom visited I turned her on to all things Richards, she read everything from Whiskey Island to Fortunate Harbor and she’s out there right now searching her library and bookstores for Aggie’s series and then she’ll look for the Shenandoah series of books as well. So I think I did my job this summer to enrich another reader to the wonderful imaginative world of you Emilie. So no I won’t feel sorry for you at those times when you’re writing because I’m wondering what kind of adventure your characters will lead you on this time.

    • Emilie Richards on August 1, 2010 at 8:50 am

      Thanks so much for telling your mom about my books. Word of mouth is the best PR an author can have.

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