Thursday, December 17, 2015

Why I Did it--SPOILER ALERT!

If you haven't yet read Who Buries the Dead, STOP RIGHT NOW! Everyone else can follow me below the cover image for an explanation of a certain event that occurs near the end of that book.


Okay, everyone who hasn't read it stopped above, right? Right? Because you really don't want to spoil it. As the rest of you know, there is a death at the end of Who Buries the Dead; the death of one of my favorite characters. When I first handed in the proposal for this book to my editor, she didn't want me to do it (she really likes this character). But when I explained my reasons, she said, "Yes; you're right."

So what were my reasons?

I should begin by explaining that this character was not originally intended to be part of the continuing cast. I had intended to kill him off in When Maidens Mourn, the first book in which he appeared. But I kinda fell for the guy, and I couldn't do it. Plus I realized what a great and useful character he was, so I let him live. But I never intended for him to live forever. Why?

The main problem is that he is too much like Sebastian. He not only looks like Sebastian, but his character is quite similar, too. For an author, that causes issues. Hopefully those issues didn't show because I worked hard to minimize the effects, but believe me, it was hard.

A second reason is that, once a cast of characters gets too large, it becomes unwieldy. Different readers have their favorites and they tend to be disappointed when Hendon or Kat (yes, some readers do like her!) or whoever doesn't get much page time. For me, plot and pacing are always trumps, so I never bring on a character simply for the sake of spending some time with him or her. But the more characters there are, the harder it becomes to work them all into the plot. The longer this series goes on, the more characters we're adding. That meant some judicial pruning was in order.

I found that in many ways this particular character's scenes were in danger of always hitting the same note. Plus, the more we--and Sebastian--got to know him, the less enigmatic he became. I wanted him to remain something of a mystery; a vaguely ominous threat.

And while this character is gone in one sense, he is not in others. His death is an important catalyst that propels the story arc of Sebastian's personal quest forward. In the next book, When Falcons Fall, Hero and Sebastian travel to Shropshire where they meet Jamie's family and learn a lot more about him, the necklace, and a certain other mysterious figure from the past. I also have a complication involving a little boy that is coming up.

Another factor that influenced my decision, although it was far from the primary one, is the realization that with a series, it becomes increasingly difficult to convince readers that any of the continuing characters are really in danger. If a reader is thinking, "Oh, she wouldn't really kill off Gibson/Hero's mother/Tom," then suspense suffers. Admit it: from now on, you're going to worry more when someone is threatened; right?

I won't deny that I miss Jamie. Because the next book, #11, When Falcons Fall, takes place away from London and thus away from everyone except Sebastian, Hero, and Simon (and Tom, Calhoun, and Claire), I didn't really notice his absence. But I will admit that it pained me when I was writing book #12. And he continues to haunt me. In fact, he haunts me so much that I've been toying with the idea of writing a contemporary mystery series set in New Orleans (although it's hard to find the time, I firmly believe it's a good idea for a series writer to occasionally do other things to keep from getting stale). And I find myself more and more inclined to make the protagonist of that series the descendant of a nefarious London tavern-keeper named Knox....

31 comments:

Ali said...

candy - that was a great story. i am so glad you were able to share that with us. I loved Jamie and was so sad when he died but after reading all your very common sense reasons for his dying - i agree - it was the right thing to do. thanks. best, Ali

Willa said...

Ah and now it makes sense! Shall still miss him and would love a descendant of his to appear in contemporary times! 😊

Oh and don't you dare murder Paul Gibson - he is much loved and you would be pelted with virtual tomatoes after being locked in the stocks!

Many thanks for answering my question!

Essex said...

I liked your explanation, but I also really liked Jamie He was an awesome character who grew on me. RIP.

cs harris said...

Ali, yes, it was; I'm glad you understand.

Willa, I'll consider myself warned!

Essex, I can't let him go, either, which is why he is being reincarnated in my head in his descendant.

Lynne said...

Great explanation, Candy - I, too, wondered why Jamie had to go. Even though I never completely trusted him, I liked the character and the intrigue he provided. I'm really looking forward to the next book where the family will be away from the London distractions. And even though he's gone, I'll look forward to learning more about Jamie and his roots.

Rebecca Wetzel said...

The explanation makes sense. It is similar to one I heard/read from JK Rowling about why Sirius Black had to die. And despite our missing a great character these things do advance the story. That being said.....

Please, Please Please, don't kill off Tom! Please.

Rebecca

Charles Gramlich said...

not going to read the spoiler!

Anonymous said...

Little boy - Tom. Oh no, I'm with Rebecca. I would totally cry. And it better not be Simon. I would definitely NOT be happy with that. A book with Jamie's descendant sounds fantastic!!! It might fill the void left by Toby. I hope you have wonderful holidays. Sabena

cs harris said...

Lynne, he really was an intriguing character.

Rebecca, that's interesting about Rowling. and it is true that sometimes a bit of pain is necessary for a story's depth and advancement.

Charles, congratulations!

Sabena, I have my limits!

vp said...

I enjoyed reading your thoughts on this subject. It is always difficult when an author decides to kill off a favorite, but I have learned to roll with it, as long as I trust the writer. I think it was Karin Slaughter's excellent, but very dark, Grant County series that taught me that tough lesson.

And, on the contemporary series idea, please, please, please do this! I am always on the lookout for new mystery series to read and recommend.

Anonymous said...

I am shock when the death happened in the book but totally agree with you about his character. He was too much like Sebastain. So much that I do not see him as part of the character so the death did not harm me emotionally (but if that happened to Tom, I may not survive.

I would love to see you write a contemporaary series. I always love C.S. Graham books and would love to see a series in modern world.

Sue said...

While I understand your longing to write about a different place and time, please set your New Orleans series in the past. I read historical mysteries to escape from the chaos of the present time. How about New Orleans during and after the War of 1812, or maybe the Civil War. Lots of intrigue, action, what more does one need?

JustWingingIt said...

I totally understand your reasons and, while I will miss Jamie, I admit that you are right. Still, I would rather have kept him over Kat. She's the one note character in my humble opinion. *wink*

And I would absolutely read a series with Jamie's descendant.

Veronica

cs harris said...

vp, I must admit that I was hesitant because I have seen series suffer when a crucial character was lost. But I felt that he was not actually crucial, just a great character.

Anon, I so wish I had more time. hopefully next year. I traveled too much this year--four trips!

Sue, I did write a historical mystery set in New Orleans during the Civil War. I have the rights back and hope to get it up as an ebook next year.

Veronica, I kinda agree. Not sure what to do about it at this point.

Patricia Brimer said...

I was surprised and kinda sad when Jamie was killed. I understood the reason though as if his mystery were solved--so would a major plot line, As others have mentioned, there are other characters I would be very upset to see pass

vp said...

Oh Yay! Midnight Confessions is coming in e book format? That's wonderful! I have all my Proctor books, but I'd love to have them for my kindle. They are frequent re-reads for me.

And I was wondering what you were going to do with Kat? Where do you go with her character at this point?

cs harris said...

Patricia, yes, I think a lot of people are worried about Tom and Gibson and co!

vp, it is my plan to put them all up eventually. But the scans were beyond awful, so it's taking me forever. As for Kat, I do have plans for her. I think it'll be book #15 or 16.

paz said...

I was very sad to see him die, but completely made sense to me. The trouble his existence would have created for Sebastian and more importantly, Simon, would have been enormous. Even if we wanted to kill of Sebastian's sister, someone else would have ended up finding out about Jamie, and that constant threat in Sebastian's life would have become tiresome at best. Or else Jarvis might have decided to take matters into his own hands to save his nephew, and the rift that would have caused would have been unmeandable, and equally unwieldy. (Can you tell I have thought a leeetle bit about this since I read it?)

And BTW, whatsup with Sebastian's sister anyway? Doesn't her daughter show up in the next book, or the one after that?

Christina Hunt said...

I am hoping we hear more of Sebastian's mother at some point. I am guessing we will.

cs harris said...

Paz, it does sound as if you've given it a wee bit of thought! And yes, Amanda and Stephanie play a significant role in #12 (March 2017) and #14 (March 2019). And yikes, those sound so far away.

Christina, yes, we will!

paz said...

In my comment, I meant to write Jarvis would want to save his grandson (I actually don't think he would care about a nephew very much)... LOL
Also, re Kat (I somehow missed that comment)... I am fan of both Hero AND Kat. I think Sebastian has been overly preoccupied with his new home life (as well he should!) so Kat doesn't figure prominently in his life. But Kat has such great potential as a character. I am sure she will eventually re-emerge with her own story, and bring on some grey hairs to Sebastian, as a good friend that he still is. She is bound to become a much more "independent agent," so to speak, not being so constrained in her political and professional activities due to her ties with Sebastian. Just sayin'

Suzanne said...

It was a shock when I read the bit where Jamie dies but I understand that there are times in a series when that has to happen for the story to move forward. I like the sound of the contemporary series. I loved the Toby and Jax books and it would be great to read any more novels in any time you wish to set them.

cs harris said...

paz, Kat has been taking a year off to recover from the events surrounding Yates death, but she's back in London for the new season. The timing of her absence made things easier!

Suzanne, I just wish I could clone myself so I could write all the books buzzing around in my head.

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