Sherry, here. We are so happy to have Michele Dorsey visit us on her book birthday! If you haven’t read No Virgin Island add it to your TBR pile immediately! And then grab a copy of her second book Permanent Sunset. Michele is giving away a copy of Permanent Sunset to someone who leaves a comment by midnight tonight!
Michele: About a year ago, I blogged about “birthing a book” (http://cmicheledorsey.com/blog/131727) and predicted that No Virgin Island, my first mystery, would have siblings. Today, Permanent Sunset joins the Sabrina Salter family. I had no idea how difficult writing that second book would be, although there were many colleagues who tried to warn me. But I wouldn’t listen. For those of you who have gone through the adventures of pregnancy, followed by the agony of labor and delivery, you may recall that once you see that beautiful little creature you’ve birthed, all memories of the pain you suffered bringing it into the world are instantly erased. So it is with birthing a book, it seems.
Books are never written in vacuums. Permanent Sunset was created, written, edited, and re-edited while my husband and I excavated layers of debris from the 33 years we had lived in our home, which we were now selling in an effort to downsize our lives and our possessions. Anyone who has gone through this exercise can tell you that it is not as simple as sorting into three piles: sell, throw, or keep. There are emotions attached to so many items. What was I supposed to do with my mother’s wedding gown? The rock painted green by my son who insisted in nursery school that his mother was going to have a real sham-ROCK for St. Patrick’s Day? My father’s formal Navy cap and epaulets?
I became a little unhinged with the rush of emotions flowing on my daily trips to donate stuff at Savers. What I hadn’t expected was that there would be a collision with the feelings I was experiencing while simultaneously writing my second book.
Who was Sabrina Salter? She certainly wasn’t satisfied to be merely the person through whom the story was told about a lavish island villa and the family that is nearly destroyed because of it. Sure, she had a life and had experiences in No Virgin Island that defined her at the time, but she now faced new circumstances, which were revealing an emerging Sabrina. Sabrina refused to be stagnant. The woman was becoming a handful for me.
When Sabrina resisted pressure from her business partner, Henry, to add an opulent villa to their management company, I found myself cheering for her. When she caved, I was disappointed and ready to scold her. I endured her smug satisfaction when it turned out she was right and Henry had been deadly wrong, but was a little disappointed in her.
Sabrina’s tragic motherless childhood had her questioning everything she did, for without role models or a library full of self-help manuals, she was ill equipped to handle the challenges that a powerful and wealthy family present when one of their own has been murdered. She agonized over every decision, doubting herself while trying to muster the courage to figure out what is “normal.” I was having enough trouble trying to make decisions in my own life and now Sabrina was asking me to make hers.
I hadn’t planned on my second baby being so difficult. I thought I knew Sabrina and Henry, and even Neil Perry, her sort-of boyfriend, pretty well. When even Neil began to surprise me with his secrets, I knew this second baby would be no more predictable that the first.
Once we’d nearly emptied our house and had a signed purchase and sales agreement, my husband faced a serious health challenge. Again, ripples of fear and doubt raced through me, while I continued to resist being drawn in by the perils of my second baby. I had enough on my plate.
But it turns out, that’s not how writing goes. Until I learned to stop fighting my characters efforts to draw me in because I was trying to deal with what was going on in my own real world, I would never be able to tell their story. I began to tell my husband I was “going on in” when I set off to write. What I meant was that I was surrendering to Sabrina, Henry, and Neil and shutting out the rest of the world. They could give me what they had. I would feel their pain, joy, confusion, and anything else they would give me. I was ready to accept them all as gifts and birth this second baby.
Once I yielded, the story flowed. The house sold. The husband was okay.
“Most of us have two lives. The life we live, and the unlived life within us. Between the two stands Resistance.”
― Steven Pressfield
C. “Michele” Dorsey is the author of No Virgin Island, a Sabrina Salter mystery published in 2015 by Crooked Lane Books set on the island of St. John in the US Virgin Islands. She is also a lawyer, mediator and adjunct professor of law. Michele finds inspiration and serenity on St. John and on Cape Cod. Permanent Sunset, the second in the series, will be published in October, 2016.
Readers: How do you feel when you are ready to read a second in a series book? Writers: Did you feel the way Michele did about your second book?
A perfect tale for me this week, Michele. I don’t have the other life stuff going on, but boy, am I in the sludge right now. Thank you – and happy book birthday! Can’t wait to have you sign my copy at Crime Bake.
Thanks, Edith. It seems so simple now. Until you feel the pain of your characters, you cannot breathe life into them. But at the time, while in the “sludge,” I couldn’t see this.
I love reading that second book because I know we are going to learn more about our favorite characters and the bond between them and me will grow. Also we get to see how they handle their next murder involvement. It’s always a murder. I’m reading it right now and I’m enjoying the new discoveries.
I’m glad it all worked out for you.
Thanks so much for the encouragement!
What a challenge, Michele! I’m always scared when a book is coming out and during the process want to write a better book than the last one. It can be paralyzing at times.
That reminds me of a quote from Julia Cameron I posted yesterday, Sherry. “Procrastination isn’t about laziness. Procrastination is fear.” And fear can be so paralyzing!
Interesting post! Resistance is exactly what I feel when life is more than I can handle and characters are clambering to get on with the story. Your insight is just what I needed today!
grumble… auto correct is not my friend! that was “clamoring” to get on with he story!
Hope it helps. We’re all in this together!
I look forward to the next book in the series to she what the author has in store for the characters and they have done a good job keeping their characters going.
I look forward to reading the second book to see what happens to the main characters and how they deal with another mystery (usually a murder).
I think I’ve been lucky, because in each of my series I’ve finished a book and found I wanted to see what happened to the characters after that–I wanted to see more of them, and to watch them grow. On the flip side, I stop reading a series if the main character never seems to learn anything from her own experiences
I hear you on watching a character never grow or learn from their experiences.
I agree, Sheila. Cardboard characters kill a story, even if the plot is decent. I find it amusing that our make-believe characters can become so real to us that they start to encroach on our own lives.
Michele–welcome back to the Wicked Cozys. I loved, loved No Virgin Island, and can’t wait to read Permanent Sunset.
Thanks, Barb. That’s a high compliment from such an accomplished writer!
I think it is time for me to play catch up with this series..how did I miss the first one…I love St. John, although I haven’t been back since my friend Eileen moved away. Now I can go back in a book. Congratulation on your book, your cleanout – been there, done that – and probably best of all on your husband’s good health.
Gram, not to plug the series, but I set it on St. John just for people like you, who know and love the island. I tried to fill it with lots of familiar and quirky details. I hope you enjoy it. And thanks for your comment on my husband. We just returned from a trip to Italy to celebrate his good health. Let the Bucket List begin!
When I know that the next book is not published yet, I try to slow down. I don’t want to finish the current book too fast, because then there will be a giant lag between me and my character friends. I don’t write- only read- but have a huge admiration for those who can do what I cannot. Thanks for sharing the joy.
I know that feeling, Jennifer. And thank you for being a reader. Without you, well what would we writers do?
I am so impatient waiting for the next book. I need to know what is happening to characters that I have found & really like.
Thanks, Michele, for sharing your experiences. They really hit home with me since I am faced with writing a second book and find myself paralyzed creatively. Congratulations on giving birth to a second book, especially with all you’ve been facing.
It is hard parting with things that you cherish. Keep the most important ones to you and photograph the others.
Great idea about photographing things, Grace. Maybe a few more Steven Pressfield quotes might help with the paralysis.
Julie, Grace, and Doward, I know what you mean about looking forward to second and subsequent books in series. Sometime I want to pick up the phone and call Tana French or Elizabeth George, and say, “Hey, where’s that new book?” but I think that might be called stalking. : )
Or Julia Spencer-Fleming!
If the first book really enthralled me, I immediately want to read the second. If I’m lucky, it’s available for pre-order or I’ll save it on my wish list. I, too, look for growth in the main characters and/or more revealing of the back story. I cherish those authors who make me, the reader, feel as if I’m on the same journey as the characters.
I agree, Kimberly! The journey is essential!
I love reading second books in series. Writing them is always a challenge. Every choice made in the first book rules out some possibilities in the second. Not only that, you are a more experienced writer with each book you complete so you try to push yourself to create something even better. It can be daunting. On the other hand, it is a delight to spend more time with characters you have grown to love. Best of luck with all of it, Michele!
You are so right about those choices we make early on in a series. That could be a whole new blog titled, “Regrets, I’ve Made a Few.”
It’s always fun to read the second in a series and get to know characters I met and liked better. It’s interesting reading everything that you went through, and I’m sorry it was so hard for you. But I have to say this book is excellent!
Thanks, Mark. I hate to say this because I’m don’t like to think I’m inviting disaster, but I think pain can make for a better book. It forces you to press down past your comfort zone.
As a reader, I am always a bit apprehensive about reading that second book in a new series, especially if I loved the first book.
Great post, Michelle, and can’t wait to read book two! BTW, your house is/was GORGEOUS.
Thanks, Ellen. Wait till I start posting about the tindominium* I down-sized into! (*term blatanlty stolen from Barb Ross).
Hi Michele, I love reading a book in a series. It feels comfortable to me like a little reunion of friends. It brings the other books right back with all their twists and turns and I get a chance to enjoy them again. I especially love getting to know the characters. I imagine their future just as you mentioned wanting to cheer Sabrina on to add the opulent villa or wishing one would find a true love, or perhaps dump the unworthy boyfriend.
Much congratulations on your new book. I can’t wait to read it! I’m most excited to see what’s in store for them this time.
Suzanne, wonderful to see you here with the Wicked Cozies! I hope you enjoy Permanent Sunset and that maybe Jackie might as well?
I’m sure she will.
OK: so I will have to swing by the library tomorrow and ask for both No Virgin Island and Permanent Sunset. Not that any of the others I have asked for have ever shown up, but if no one asks they won’t even consider buying them.
Wow.. what great timing as I’m considering spending a portion of my winter in St John or one of the islands. I will place these both on my next purchase list. Yes, we give birth to our children and the pain becomes a distant memory. Well….at least until adolescence begins. 😉
Michele, I love this post. Such a great story. And congrats on that second baby!
Happy Book Birthday my friend!!
Congratulations on the birth of the Second! I now know I need to look for both books. They sound like stories I could happily get lost in!
If I am reading the second book in a series it means I loved the first book and I look forward to a reunion with the characters. After I finish reading the second and any additional books in a series, I know it was a good book if I’m restless and can’t quite concentrate on another book for a couple of days. Last night I finished reading a book in a series I started reading years and years ago. It was so good! All day long at work today I couldn’t wait to get home to continue reading it, and then I would remember that I finished it yesterday. As a reader I get so restless waiting for that next reunion with the characters that the author has brought to life!
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