The gap between a book being released and the first reader reviews coming in is a strange and nerve-wracking time. In one sense you exist, as a writer, in a state of grace. You did it. The book is out. Achievement unlocked, level up. In another, very real, sense you are now about to find out what people in the real world think of your book. Will it be One Up or Game Over?
Working with Candy Jar on Lethbridge-Stewart books, spun off from the world of Doctor Who, you can guarantee that your first readers will not just be discerning, but also hard core fans of both the genre and of this particular universe. I once referred to working on this universe as like being given a large and elaborate grandfather clock to service with utterly no idea how to do it. Well, now the clock has been well and truly given “the business” and the owners are coming back to inspect your work.
This is probably my number one rule of writing spin-offs or “associated media”. You don’t own the characters.
More importantly, neither does the publisher or the licensor or anyone else. Once a creation, or a franchise, or a universe gets big enough, the only people it belongs to are the fans.
I’ve always believed that writing is a privilege. When someone sits down and decides that they will read your story they are giving you a tremendous gift, permission to write your thoughts directly into their brain. They’ll imagine the things you wrote down, breath life into the characters, give them a voice and a world to walk around in. That’s a rather special thing, in my humble opinion.
And when it comes to working in an established universe, those same people are also giving you the ability to re-write the things they already know. Their “head canon” will be irrevocably changed by your story, so it’s your responsibility to do a good job and not poison the well either for them or for whoever comes behind you.
What, you still want to write stories? You must be crazy…
Anyway, I’m happy to say that we’ve broken the review dam when it comes to the George Kostinen mystery. The first review, a very respectable 4 out of 5 from one of Amazon’s Top Reviewers and a prolific critic of Doctor Who related items in particular, is in. I’m happy. I’m relieved. And, it seems, I’m still allowed into the clubhouse.
Yes, I still want to write stories. But then, I was already crazy.