While I finished what is technically my fourth novel a year ago, more and more I am thinking of The Book Of Lost Doors as one big story in four acts. I didn’t set out for it to be that, but that’s how it turned out. So I think it’s fair to call what I am going through now a “sophomore slump”.
Part of it–a big part of it–is that I have serious doubts as to if I can do it again. BOLD brought together ideas that had been germinating for decades. I started out with a lot to say, about life and love and madness and the universe and what it means to be a small thing in a night that is large and full of wonders.
Lately, though, I have been wondering if I have said it all. I mean, maybe all that I have to say has already been said, and BOLD is my last word on the subject. Any subject.
I put a lot of work in the cosmology of the series. I drew on sources from William Burroughs to Charles Fort to Robert Anson Wilson to H P Lovecraft. I put a lot of myself in James & Catskinner. His story is, in so many ways, my story.
And maybe it’s the only story I have to tell.
I won’t say that I haven’t done any writing over the past year. I’ve written a number of short stories, two of which are damned good and the rest are at least fair.
But I have tried to start a half dozen or so novel projects, and every one of them has just… died. I started off strong, but after a chapter or two I lost interest. And if a story can’t hold my interest, then how can I expect a reader to slog through it?
I do realize that a lot of this is depression. I have had a very rough year, for reasons that I don’t really want to go into here. I’m exhausted.
But I have managed to work through exhaustion before. Much of Cannibal Hearts was written during some very low points in my life (you can tell which parts–the funny bits. I only laugh when I am trying to keep from crying.) Heck, depression hit me during all of my prior novels. It’s a cyclic thing with me. I get depressed during those months that have weeks in them.
It’s more than just my brain chemistry. I’ve lost my faith. With BOLD I was driven. I was like one of those ragged people you see standing in bus shelters in bad neighborhoods, who need to tell everybody how the Illuminati stole their tinfoil hats.
I don’t feel like that any more. And I miss it. I miss James & Catskinner, Samuel and Russwin, Agony and AJ and Nancy and Suzie. I can understand why authors will stretch out a series to dozens of novels. I won’t do that, though. Those characters were part of something that is over, done with, finished. I owe it to them to let them leave the stage while they are still.. pure. I can’t put it any better than that, the feeling–no, the certainty–that if I tried to force them into any more stories they would end becoming caricatures of themselves, like the Universal Studios monsters. I’m not going to write Abbot & Costello Meet Catskinner.
So what now? I don’t know. I know myself well enough to know that I’ll keep writing, here, elsewhere on the internet, to friends, for the occasional story collection or magazine. I have the skill and I enjoy utilizing it. But I don’t know if I continue to try to be a Writer.
I think perhaps I’m done with that. To those who read and enjoyed The Book Of Lost Doors, thank you. It means a lot to me, I put my heart and soul into those books. And I wish I could give you more, but I don’t think I can.