I was reminded by a thread over at the Terry Brooks message board that Melanie Rawn still has not started work on The Captal’s Tower, the third volume. I double checked Rawn’s own board and read through the most recent thread of folks whining that Rawn has moved on to the Spellbinder series. There was a little tidbit which I was not aware of before, namely that the long gap between The Mageborn Traitor and Spellbinder was due to Melanie dealing with some serious depression and writing Spellbinder was part of her therapy. Or something along those lines.
Now, I have to remind myself sometimes that writers are people too - complete with all the personal, emotional, physical, mental, and health issues that everybody else has and that life can really kick the ass of a person, no matter the best intentions. Being a reader is so much easier when the books magically appear in the bookstore and in my library and I don’t have to consider Author as Person. Thanks a lot, Maturity.
This means, of course, that the most important thing is that Melanie Rawn the Person is healing and doing what she needs to do to continue healing.
Do you hear a but here?
How about a “however”?
However, I do find myself coming back to something that Shawn Speakman has said from time to time on that same Terry Brooks message board. The author does have a obligation to write the book they have contracted with a publisher for. So, unless Rawn was writing without a contract, she was in breach of contract with her publisher. Now, Speakman was talking more about George R. R. Martin and the continual delays in A Song of Ice and Fire, and that Martin was not showing professionalism by not delivering work on time. This led to discussions about contracting art and timelines and putting out the best product possible. My personal opinion is that the author should take as much time as is reasonable to complete a work on time and that the contract should hopefully reflect the amount of time required to produce the product on time. Sometimes (ahemTerryBrooksahem) I would prefer if the author took a little bit more time to write a better book.
That last paragraph was a bit scattered, but rather than re-write the paragraph, what I am getting at is that if an author has contracted for a book or a series of books, that author should (my opinion) strive to complete that book or series of books. I have less of an issue with delays for personal / professional reasons. That’s...well, not fine, but understandable.
What bugs me, as a reader, as a potential book buyer, is that if I know a book is intended to be part of a series and that the conclusion is in the future, and I purchase Book 1 and I purchase Book 2, I feel I am entering into a trust with the author that the author fully intends and will strive to complete the series. If said author takes a 14 year break in the middle of a planned 3 volume series because he / she has to deal with personal stuff, that’s one thing. That’s...well, not fine, but understandable. But, if in the middle of this 14 year break between the publication of Book 2 of a 3 volume series the author writes several completely unrelated volumes and has made no announcement of when Book 3 will even be worked on, I would feel somewhat betrayed as a reader.
Life gets in the way, I know. Authors may not be able to complete a series for a variety of reasons. But, in the case of Melanie Rawn, she has since published Spellbinder, has announced Spellbinder 2 is on its way early 2009, and reportedly has suggested Spellbinder 3 is in the works...I think, as a reader, that’s crap. I did purchase The Ruins of Ambrai when it was first published. I have it on my bookshelf. I almost purchased The Mageborn Traitor.
This isn’t Rawn, Jennifer Roberson, and Kate Elliott not writing the spin off novels of a single volume complete story The Golden Key (excellent novel, by the way), this is Rawn choosing to not finish a series she started, promised an ending to, and betrayed the trust of the people who spent money to purchase her books and put a little bit of coin in her pockets.
Don’t start what you can’t finish, and don’t go on to the next project if you’re not still working on the first project.
In my mind this is different than George R. R. Martin working on Wild Cards and various anthologies while still working on A Dance with Dragons, or Elizabeth Bear having a variety of novels contracted in multiple series (for which she is meeting her obligations) and is certainly different than Robert Jordan’s health issues.
In the case of Melanie Rawn and The Captal’s Tower, I do feel betrayed and disappointed by Rawn.
There have to be other authors who have similarly betrayed their fanbases by completely stepping away from finishing a series. I know Glen Cook never wrote the last Dread Empire novel, but at least he had the courtesy to be robbed by a “fan” who stole the only copy of the manuscript.
Anyone know of other examples where the author moved on to other works in the middle of a series outside of publisher-driven reasons and never finished that series by choice?
If working in a series, what responsibility does the author have towards the reader?