What I’m Writing
With gratitude to Hashem (and copious amounts of Duran Duran), I finally finished Journey Through a Dark Forest on 13 March, at 891,000 words. The final push was the hardest, both because I was kind of getting sick of these storylines and getting all emotional at finally being so close to the end. Now begins that strange feeling of not knowing what to do with myself, writing-wise, anymore, and coming down off this huge high. Two years, four months, one week, one day, 120 chapters plus the Epilogue, conceived of and originally planned and plotted in 2001. Now it’s finally over.
Throughout the last few chapters, I planted seeds for the future fourth book, like the expectation that Violetta will meet Igor and Ilya at NYU, and the questions of how Lyuba and Ivan will fare as middle-aged university students, if Darya and Andrey will ever have a child, and if Katrin might get in trouble for her radical newspaper op-eds under the shifting political climate. Giving all my characters happy endings made me happy, all these loose ends tied up before the Epilogue’s wedding renewals for Alina and Amiran in Isfahan and Lyuba and Ivan in Minnesota.
What Works for Me
As I’ve learnt the hard way, more than once, you never want to dive right into a sequel or the next book in a saga on the immediate heels of finishing the first or most recent one. The temptation is so strong, but it’s more than likely to result in fairly quick burnout. I experienced this with the short-lived, discontinued original first draft of The Twelfth Time in 2001, and again with Green Sunrise (still on hiatus) in 2011. As much as you might immediately miss these characters and want to continue telling their stories, you also need a break from their world. That time away builds inspiration, motivation, and even fresh ideas.
I do tend to go very quickly from one book to the next in my various Atlantic City series, but those books are a completely different breed because they’re so short and largely interlocking. Each book leads right into the next, so it’s not like I’m coming down from the huge high of completing a massive saga and emotional journey, only to immediately dive in all over again.
What I’m Reading
One of my library books is the now-outdated James Blair Lovell’s Anastasia: The Lost Princess. I’d been hoping to reread Peter Kurth’s The Riddle of Anna Anderson 19 years later and see if I came away with a completely different conclusion, but I didn’t find it among the stacks that day.
At age sixteen, one of the two research papers I wrote in my paper-writing class put forward the belief that Anna Anderson was indeed Grand Duchess Anastasiya. Keep in mind, this was the fall of ’96, before the final two bodies were found and identified. I truly believed, based on the evidence I’d found from numerous sources, that Anastasiya had survived and there was no way she could be some Polish factory-worker. But honestly, given some of the wild, historically-implausible stories in this book, and evidence I’ve found from other sources, I’m willing to finally give up this conspiracy theory I staunchly believed in and defended since age fifteen. As an adult, I know more about vetting my sources and not gullibly accepting any old story without checking for corroborating evidence.
It’s hard to admit you’ve been wrong, particularly when you’ve believed something for years, but when new, better evidence comes along, you have to admit you’ve been wrong and come to terms with the new information. I’d be no better than an anti-vaxxer if I kept clinging to a debunked conspiracy theory. (And btw, if you do want to read a bio of Anna Anderson, go with Peter Kurth’s book. It’s at least well-written, based on solid sources, and not riddled with wild stories he later admitted to making up.)
What Else I’ve Been Up To
On Monday, I got a very nice visitor raising money for Redemption Christian Academy, which services underprivileged youth who desperately need an education so they can break the cycle of generational poverty and all which comes with it. It’s related to Redemption Church. I normally don’t give to solicitors, but since this is a legit thing and a really good cause, I bought one of her packages of baked goods. We had a very nice, long conversation. My parents taught me to never give money to everyone who asks, particularly unsolicited, but you should have a few special groups or causes you give to a few times a year. I don’t care what religion you are, so long as you’re a good person. I will never be one of those people who uses insulting euphemisms for other religions, holidays, and holy figures.