I promised myself that I would write something different after I finished the latest Anita Blake book, Dead Ice, coming out June 9, about a month away. So, I wrote a short story set in a new world with brand new characters. It was wonderful, exhilarating, and strangely exhausting. I’d forgotten how tiring it is to forge my way through a brand new creation. It made me hesitate to do the novel that I’d thought I would do next because its also a new world with a brand new main character, magic system, and everything. The story I just finished has made me rethink, so I decided I’d do the next Anita Blake novel, but which one?
I wrote a list of Anita plots that I’d been thinking about for a while. When I got to “Q” I stopped. I had more ideas to write down, but seventeen seemed like plenty to choose from. From the very beginning, Anita had a large list of potential book plots; I think I started with thirteen mysteries. When I wrote that initial list I didn’t know I’d ever get a chance to pursue them all. The fact that my initial Anita contract with Penguin/Putnam (now Penguin Random House) was for three novels had thrilled me, because I knew there would be at least that many in my series. My first novel, Nightseer, had been planned to be part of a four book series, but my first publisher, ROC, had only purchased one book. When that one didn’t sell well, like most first novels, they weren’t interested in me continuing the series. Three books was a luxury after that.
So, why did I make a list of future plots when I didn’t know I’d ever get a chance to write them? I’m not sure, but the ideas came to me and I’d learned years ago to write down all my ideas. You think you’ll remember them, because they’re so great, but you won’t. Write the ideas down, all the ideas, so you don’t lose them. Maybe that’s why I did it, and that would make sense, but in retrospect it seemed terribly optimistic.
I’ve actually used all the original thirteen ideas that I wrote down, except for a couple. Those plots went away because of character growth, or just the logic of Anita’s world, and my magic system. By the time I got that far into the list I knew that certain creatures of legend just didn’t exist in her world, so some ideas went away on that basis alone.
Yet, here I am with seventeen new book plots, and more I could have listed. Some of the list is just intriguing as hell. Example – Olaf’s return. That’s all, but those two words are enough to make me wonder what a fan favorite serial killer will do when he’s next on stage. There’s The British book, set in England; The Irish book, set in Ireland, where Damian’s maker is waiting; Nathaniel’s book, which is going to be a long, complex mystery; Jean-Claude’s story, but so many ways to structure this one that I haven’t even started an outline; Nicky’s book, where he goes home for his mother’s parole hearing and asks Anita to go with him; New Mexico and Edward’s Wedding, will he actually walk down the aisle; Peter’s first hunt, three bland words with so much pain and possibility; and so many other ideas and characters that want more of their stories told. I know other writers that struggle for ideas, even novelists with their own successful book series that have fallen out of love with their main character/s. I find that idea leads onto idea and that a finished book will often give me ideas for new books. I feel about Anita, and all the people in her life and in her world, the way I feel about my real life marriage – more in love now than when we started.