Fresh from the success of In the Mission, I decided to start working on the novel’s successor. There were so many loose ends in the first installment, it almost felt like the first Matrix movie – the story and the plot made sense on their own, but you just wanted to know what happened after that.
It’s funny how every reader seems to pick up on a different “loose end:” There is the story of the Archbishop who proposes an exchange because he thinks the kidnappers are really after him – one reader wanted to know what happened with that before any other comment. Another reader was wondering why the storms happened three days ahead of the lady’s death, and how she would have known to cause them, or them to need to be caused. My copy editor’s last comment was that she wanted to know who gave Paul the riddles.
I admit to two things here in this post: first of all, those questions are all plants; I planted them because I wanted to write a continuation, because the story was too big as it is, and because I was afraid that 500 pages would tax the patience of my readers (so far, so good). After that first confession, I also admit that it was incredible fun to find places to plant things and hints. The questions unresolved, as The Matrix shows, contribute to the suspense: you will never really know which of the things you are told end up being important in the plot.
Did I really know what the second novel was going to be about? To a certain extent, yes. I knew what kinds of things I needed to say that I hadn’t been able to say in In the Mission; also, I knew who my main characters would be, where the story would play out, who would participate, and what they all wanted to accomplish.
There were lots of things I didn’t know, though, and the past few months have all been about detail. Finding out about the locations of the plot, making sure I know the basics of the things that people will do (hint: guitar playing and surfing are involved). Find a musical theme, since I loved the way music held In the Mission together.
But work is about to start on the new novel. I won’t tell the working title just yet, because it’s likely to change. I can tell you that it’s going to be about a time much closer to our present, a troubled time just as 1989 was for the character in the first novel.
I am excited. Particularly because those to whom I told outlines of the plot told me they thought, at first, that I had gone insane.