Unlike Julius Caesar, I had little to fear from the Ides of March. That was the day I officially finished my first draft of the Maximilian and Carlotta Are Dead sequel. And just in the nick of time too, since two days later came St. Patrick’s Day, and that is when all the brain cells that had been holding all my pent-up prose for the final chapters were subsequently and tragically destroyed.
I am still keeping the book’s title to myself, but I can confirm that it definitely will not be Julius and Calpurnia Are Dead—at least not unless the manuscript undergoes some serious rewriting and thematic changes.
The story turned out to require 32 chapters and, at more than 116,000 words, the page count for the paper edition should be in the neighborhood of 350, making it the longest of my three tomes to date. Of course, all these statistics—as well as the title—are still subject to change, but I tend to resist too many major changes once I get to this point. Much, much work remains, but the book feels complete to me in terms of how it reads in my head if not actually on virtual paper. With a bit of ruthless editing, it could well shrink back down to the 100,000 words that had been my original target.
I have actually done this enough times now that the stages I go through mentally are very familiar to me. With the creative work of plotting pretty much over—and weeks of crafting and polishing ahead—the imaginative part of my brain has already skipped ahead. My brain is thinking about everything from what would make a nice book cover to how the story might continue in an eventual third volume. (It’s good to be thinking about that while there is still time to drop some foreshadowing into the second book.) I am also now free to develop ideas for my next project which, if I heed the reader feedback I have gotten thus far on Facebook and other places, will turn out to be the supernatural gothic tale that has been knocking around in my head since high school. (Yeah, another one of those.)
As I think I have mentioned before, I had not really intended to write a sequel to my debut novel. I thought the story of Dallas and Lonnie’s ill-advised foray into Mexico stood on its own and was complete on its own terms. After getting much prodding and continual inquiries about a follow-up, though, I began to think what kind of story might flow out of Dallas’s future life and, lo and behold, the story ended up writing itself. (Well, I can only wish it had written itself. That would have been a whole lot easier.) I hoped the effort would, in the end, feel worthwhile artistically and not end up as a mere completionist exercise. Happily, by the time I got to the end, I had a similar emotional involvement and investment as I had when I got to the end of Dallas and Lonnie’s original story. (“Of course, you would say that,” says you. “What else could you say after all?” Fair point.) Hopefully, it strikes the right balance between reproducing what readers may have liked about the first book while offering something new and different.
Do you need to have read Max & Carly in order to understand and/or enjoy the new book? All I can say is that I wrote it as if the reader had not perused the previous novel. Strangely, in fact, there were times when I thought this new book would actually be more enjoyable if you had not read the first one. After all, what you need to know gets filled in along the way. On the other hand, there are references back to the first story that will be best appreciated by those who have indeed read it.
As with the first book, the story involves a journey that is both geographical and trascendent—not to mention an inordinate amount of alcohol consumption. Dallas grew in the course of his adventures in Mexico, and the same is also meant to be true about his experiences in Europe. Just as the first book gave me an opportunity to visit places I had never been as well as to revisit places where I had been, the new book has provided me the chance to revisit places like San Francisco and Bordeaux as well as, through research and imagination, do things I had not done, like attend a film festival in Deauville and experience Berlin as it was during the Cold War.
I hope the people who pestered me into writing the book will be happy. They will definitely get the answer to some of their lingering questions. Some answers, though, they may still be pestering me to provide—in the prospective third book.