Today my good friend Ann McMan has done me the honor of writing a guest blog about her new release, Goldenrod and her journey back to Jericho! What follows are her unedited words, so read on, but when you’re done, be sure to click one of the many links to take you to your own copy of Goldenrod.
Da Capo al Fine – Guest blog by Ann McMan
Many years ago, the great Joni Mitchell commented on one of the frustrations that dogged her throughout her career as a songwriter. She talked about how fans would clamor for her to keep telling the same stories or writing the same kinds of songs—and she marveled at how this repetitive feedback was absent from her work as an artist. “A painter does a painting and he does a painting,” she said. “Somebody buys it and hangs it on some wall someplace. Or maybe nobody buys it and it sits up in a loft until he dies . . . but nobody ever said to Van Gogh, ‘Paint a Starry Night again, man.’ He painted it. That was it.”
Six years ago, under cover of darkness, I stuck my toe into the world of writing and hammered out an ambitious and meandering work of fiction called Jericho. Never in my wildest dreams—and believe me, some of them were genuinely wild—could I have imagined the success of that first foray into lesbian literature. Jericho took flight and found a home in the hearts of many devoted readers. I was and am happy about this, of course—but that quirky success arrived all wrapped-up with a shiny new set of hopes and expectations—often expressed energetically—that the story of Maddie and Syd would go on. And on. Forever and ever. Amen.
It reminded me of that iconic Xerox copier commercial where a solitary monk painstakingly illuminates a manuscript. When it’s finished, he bundles it up and scurries along the cloister to deliver the prized original to the Abbot—who examines the beautifully crafted text before handing it back to the monk, saying, “I’d like 10,000 copies, please.”
Cue pique, umbrage and ennui—what Ursula Le Guin called the “French diseases of the soul.”
Did readers really want me to write another Jericho?
Yeppers. There might have been energetic disagreement about climate change—but the answer to this question was a big ole 10-4.
So, I wrote a sequel. Aftermath. And I attempted due diligence by crafting a story that took the characters deeper and wider (I paid attention during Sunday school) than the original narrative. I pushed them for greater depth—and I pushed myself to be a better steward of their stories. I paid attention to things like structure and pacing, and I routinely snapped my fingers or clapped my hands to keep us all focused on the roadmap of our journey together. At the end, we all arrived at our destination mostly unscathed. Or so I thought.
Enter the voices. Again.
“What happens to Henry?”
I got this question a lot.
It even cropped-up one night as I was en route to the restroom at one of our favorite restaurants in town, Sweet Potatoes (which provided the inspiration for Nadine Odell and the Midway Café). Imagine my surprise. I lead a pretty incognito existence here in The Tar Heel State.
If you’ve ever gone camping you know the hazards that exist if you start mucking around in the embers of a dying fire. Will it refuse to cooperate unless you douse it with a quart of Gulf-Lite? Or will it flare up and singe your eyebrows? Will it flash and take off, leaving broad swaths of scorched earth in its wake? Or, as my dour mother always warned, will messing with it just make you wet the bed?
These things matter.
Dire warnings aside, I took a deep breath and decided to take the plunge. I found a big stick and started mucking around in the embers of a place called Jericho. Enter Goldenrod, book three in the Jericho series. Was it terrifying? You bet it was. Would the characters be willing to sit up and start talking? Who knew? And if they did, would what they had to say be worth hearing?
You’ll have to be the judge of that.
Suffice it to say that after a bit of prodding, talk they did. And oh boy, did that little pastiche of pastoral protagonists have some grand stories to tell. It quickly became apparent that Maddie and Syd had been hoarding ideas. And we got to hear from some new voices, too—notably, Buddy and Dorothy—who, along with little Henry, now occupy the narrative epicenter of this writer’s heart. Is it wrong or arrogant for me to say I love them—and that I’m grateful they trusted me with their stories?
I hope not.
If you do me the honor of reading Goldenrod, I hope you’ll let me know . . .
Oh. And in case my mother asks—I haven’t wet the bed yet.