Like, literally. Two months ago, I had a dream where I was in possession of an actual, 100% official sequel.
The first-person narrator in this dream-book was Ferris, like in the fic I’m writing. I can’t quite say if it was a normal book or an audiobook, but on waking I could recall his voice with dreadful and delightful clarity. It was a slow, melodic, pensive voice: the voice of a dreamer, of a poet.
Ferris was in his 30s now, with a new family: a wife and two sons. The older boy, aged about 7 or 8, was problematic, prone to fits of uncontrollable rage. Ferris remarked how this reminded him of Jacob, and the thought was troubling. The younger boy, aged about 5, was sickly. He and the mother were away in some other place, by the sea or in the hills, where the weather was purportedly good for convalescence. The marriage was far from a standard affair. For some reason, the wife was resentful of Ferris and they were alienated, spending as much time as possible apart, but when together, they put on a show of a normal family life for the sake of the children and the public image.
The story was set in England, but some part of it where there were numerous other members of the Ferris family, and they were even richer than Christopher’s aunt had been. The family owned mines and employed many workers. The part I read in the dream was about these workers, discussing or already commencing some sort of rebellion against their employers. I had a way of knowing, though it’s unclear if Ferris knew it at that point too, that Jacob was among the workers, but he kept his past involvement with Ferris a secret. The ringleader of the rebellion was a fierce, dark-haired and dark-eyed woman, who wore a black mask and had dangerous ideas, such as setting charges in the tunnels, should the negotiations with the Ferris family go awry. Someone, perhaps Jacob, said that Christopher is a just, gentle and generous person who could be trusted to mediate.
That… was it.
Most of all, I remember being impressed by Ferris’s voice, and I don’t mean just the auditory experience, but rather his words. He sounded very different from Jacob. He had the habit of trailing off… not so much in speech, but in thought. And the habit of uttering single words. Betrayal. Grief. Forgiveness.
In the dream, I actively considered these things: the voice, the word choices, the setting, the plot, which, like the Book itself, ran a while with Ferris as the sole character before turning into a story about them (but there was not doubt it would turn into a story about them). It was all so different from what I planned for my fic! On the one hand, I rejoiced at having a style sample to try and copy; and more importantly, the opportunity to learn more about Ferris himself. But on the other, as I realized near the end, having the official sequel rendered my own unnecessary.
All of this reflects my real concerns regarding the fic at the time of the dream quite accurately. Specifically, I was tormented a long time by the following dilemma: is the voice of AMLS the voice of Jacob, or the voice of the author? If it’s the voice of Jacob, than a story told by Ferris would have a different sound, even coming from the same writer. But if it’s the voice of the author, then I’d want to emulate it — and that would be a hopeless endeavor. Even if I were to learn AMLS by heart, I wouldn’t feel confident trying to mime it.
I have since read another book by M. McCann, The Wilding, and had the pleasure to meet another character of her making. His voice is entirely different from Jacob’s, with longer, complex sentences (of the sort I like myself) and a more roundabout mode of expression. Which resolved that dilemma.
The other question, of whether I’d prefer to read a real, official sequel, or go on writing my own, remains fuzzy. I don’t expect, I can’t even hope to reach the tier of excellence in my fic that I would hope for and indeed expect from a sequel written by the author herself. Yet at the same time, the act of writing has rewards of its own that can’t be had from reading alone. In setting up the fic, I found so many historical facts that fit so perfectly with the broad strokes of my initial ideas, and I’ve come a long way weaving it all into a story that I can develop and write with conviction. Planning and writing it has brought me so much pleasure, both thanks to and despite of the challenges, and I hope my interest will see me though to the end of it. Basically, I wouldn’t want a sequel to appear before my fic is finished. But if it did appear, nothing could keep me from reading it.
A dream is a wish your heart makes
When you’re fast to sleep.