As I finished a draft of Perceval almost 2 years ago, I couldn’t shake ideas that flooded into my mind for a sequel. Two ideas were particularly insistent, i.e. that Evan would have something to do with children, and snippets from Bela Bartok’s Concerto for Orchestra seemed related somehow to Evan. I hadn’t thought of the Bartok for a long time. Both possessed a crisp clarity that signals something I need to pay attention to. So, I began writing notes, writing down every idea that popped into my head to see where it might lead me.
Over the summer of 2006, I gave Perceval a ruthless line edit. One day as I worked, all the ideas for a sequel swirled together into a coherent plan. I was shocked. Evan Quinn definitely had more to say. And who am I to tell a conductor that he can’t talk? As I began outlining the second novel (Perceval’s Shadow) which involved a child and a composer like Bartok, and continued to write down my ideas, I had another shock: I began to see the sequel as four sequels, each with its own challenge for Evan to overcome and lesson to learn, but even more than that. The novels formed not really a series in my mind but five parts of one very long novel.
Evan’s character arc begins in Perceval, and he develops in each subsequent novel until the arc comes to a resolution at the end of the fifth part or novel. This felt familiar to me. When I began the first novel, I’d thought I was writing a short story until I’d written about 100 pages, at which point, I realized I was writing a novel. This time, I’d thought I was writing one novel, when in fact I’d written the first part of a much longer novel which would have four more parts or novels. Over the last year, I’ve worked on outlines for the other novels and continued to be surprised how different characters took on lives of their own. During a workout last June, the climax of the fifth part/novel came to me — I could visualize the whole thing up to the moment before someone makes a life-or-death decision. I still don’t know what the decision is and probably won’t until I write that book.
Fortunately, this is not without precedent. The example that comes to mind: When J.R.R. Tolkien wrote The Lord of the Rings, it was one long novel in three sections, each titled. For production and marketing purposes, his publisher, as I understand it, persuaded Tolkien to break the novel into three novels to be published separately. They called it a trilogy, but I suspect to Tolkien the three books always were one. And so it is with the Perceval novels — a quintet of novels, a pentology, a symphony in five movements — each novel to stand alone, but making up a greater whole.
It’s crazy. What if the first novel doesn’t sell well? I have faith that it will sell just fine, if given a chance. The more important consideration for me is to be faithful to the material, to Evan Quinn and his voice, his story, his tortured soul, and to write it all down the best I can.