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“I actually could not put the book down. It is well written and kept my interest. I want more from this author.”
Reader review of Maximilian and Carlotta Are Dead on Amazon.com 

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Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Imagining the Possibilities

Nearly ten months after Maximilian and Carlotta Are Dead was first released, I continue to have thrilling vicarious experiences of re-discovering it—through the eyes of other people.

It is a heck of a lot of fun to hear reactions from people who are only now reading it for the first time.

I think my favorite reaction so far was from the person who wrote a review on Amazon that said, “I could not finish this book. After about 3 or 4 chapters I was done. It felt like a very immature drunk teenager wrote the book. Sorry, didn’t like at all.” No, I’m not being facetious. I was actually delighted to read this for a couple of reasons. For one thing, the voice of a very immature drunk teenager was exactly what I was shooting for. Believe me, it is not easy to write convincingly like a drunk teenager when you are my age and (mostly) sober. For another thing, the fact that I got a one-star review meant that it is not only my personal friends who are reading the book.

What has been particularly interesting has been the questions I get from people after reading the book. Probably the most frequent query is, is it a true story? Did the things recounted in the book actually happen to you personally? That is a reasonable enough question coming from people know nothing about me other than what it says in my author bio. Or even from people who only met me years after I ceased to 18 years old—the age of my narrator/protagonist Dallas Green. But it does seem a bit strange when it comes from people who actually did know me when I was 18 or even from those who have known me since I was born. But then, why not? We all have stories that many of our own friends and families do not know about—especially from the years around our 18th birthdays. And a number of people who did know me then thought they perceived some definite similarities between Dallas’s wild best friend Lonnie and my own childhood best pal.

The answer to the question is that the story in the book is a work of fiction that I created in my own head. But I did include elements—and even some incidents—from my own life at the time, so it is not surprising that people who knew me then might have certain glimmers of recognition.

The other really common question that I get—and, frankly, one that at first surprised me—is whether there will be a sequel. Every time I get that question, I am pleased because it means that the reader got sufficiently invested in the characters to want to see their stories continued. I conceived the story as something complete and self-contained and never thought of it as the first of a series. I already had too many other books started and, honestly, Maximilian and Carlotta Are Dead 2 wasn’t one of them. Besides, after years of making snide jokes about sequels on my movie blog, I wasn’t particularly inclined to keep going back to the same well creatively. For one thing, I had promised myself that I would never again write a novel in the first person—especially when the narrator was an very immature drunk teenager.

But people wanted to know what happened to Dallas afterwards. And they wanted to know what happened to a couple of the other characters who disappeared from the story and whose fates were left a mystery—you know, like happens in real life. One friend even came up with a great idea for an opening scene for the sequel, which picks up Dallas’s story five years later. In fact, it was such a good scene that I immediately wanted to use it, if not in a novel, then in a movie or a TV series.

The funny thing is that the same thing happened to me as I was writing the last chapter of the book. I found myself wanting to know what would happen to the various characters. But, unlike my readers, I had the luxury of knowing what would happen to them. I could plot out their destinies and see where they would wind up. But my initial instinct that, for the reader, Maximilian and Carlotta Are Dead was actually a better story for not having those questions answered by me. After all, each reader could imagine the characters’ destinies for themselves, just as I had. Besides, while having one’s curiosity satisfied is a nice feeling, it can also be satisfying to leave characters frozen in a moment for all time—never to go grow old or, worse, to grow boring.

Given the way my brain is, though, I found I couldn’t stop thinking of plots for a possible sequel. Could I come up with a story that would not disappoint people who liked the first book but would be a worthwhile literary endeavor in its own right. I still do not have a definitive answer. Any time I have for plotting and writing has been used for the last while on another book, a fantasy story that is light years away from Max & Carly and yet is, in some ways, the same basic story reworked. And after that, the plan was to complete what was supposed to be my opus major, a sprawling story about people in Seattle in the 1980s. And my dozen years in Ireland have also caused me to come up with a story set in this country as well. And, as if that is not enough, I have lately become consumed with the idea of revising a gothic supernatural story, which I originally wrote in my teens, as a cockeyed homage to my beloved Dark Shadows. Both that one and the one I am currently finishing could easily be the first entries in their own series of books.

So where would Max & Carly 2 fit into all that, given that I am not exactly the fastest producer of prose on the planet? Who knows? So many ideas for books and so little time.

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