Into Thin Air (figuratively speaking)
I remember thinking, naively, when I was writing ‘Disfigured’, how freeing it would be for me when I finished and could move ahead, into uncharted territory. I had always planned on it being a series, and there were all sorts of ideas running around in my head. Ha! Easier said than done, as it turns out.
As anyone who has read it knows, ‘Disfigured’ begins prior to the events that take place in Phantom of the Opera, and ends some time after. The story is narrated by my heroine, Sylvie Bessette, and it is her story that we read and discover. Of course, her life becomes dangerously intertwined with that of Erik, the Phantom, but the story is always told from Sylvie’s point of view.
Since I always knew it would be the first in a series, I was looking forward to taking Erik and Sylvie on to new adventures and adversities together. I began to piece together a plot, and to create other characters who would populate this second book, tentatively titled ‘About-Face’.
I had the idea at first that I would change from Sylvie’s first person narration to third person, in order to tell some of the story from Erik’s side as well. It seemed necessary because in the second book they end up spending several months apart. Erik is in New York, and Sylvie is at home in France recovering from a serious illness.
But when I began going over what I’d already written, I knew a third person narration would never work. The story had to be first person. I decided to get around the problem of Erik and Sylvie being separated and still telling their individual stories by adding Erik in to the mix in first person, too. Gah! Not so easy, to put myself into his head! This is where it began to get complicated.
As I began the arduous task of creating a book derived completely out of my own head, without the framework of the original POTO story to guide me in my work, I began to look back nostalgically at what used to make me chafe under its strictures. And I began to see how totally scary it is! I feel like I have jumped out of an airplane and am waiting to see if my parachute opens. I am about half-way along, almost to the point where Erik departs for New York in company with his new acquaintances, a Civil War surgeon and his appallingly forward daughter. Cue endless research on New York in the 1870s, on steamer travel across the ocean, on how messages were sent back and forth and how long it took. Also, what did American girls wear as opposed to French girls?
Some days, I feel lucky if I can write two pages. It is a struggle. This writing project seems so much harder than the first one. The good thing, in my opinion, is that my characters come to life on their own, and I don’t try to force them into doing or saying things that are not natural for them. So, sometimes we go off in different directions than expected, but that’s ok. It’s part of the adventure.
Oddly enough (or not, perhaps), it has become apparent to me as I go along that the Phantom is going to be force-fed some of his own medicine, and it is bitter indeed. The shoe is going to be on the other foot.
Bear with me, Reader! Soon I will post another excerpt from ‘About-Face’, and it may contain a spoiler or two, but I’ll warn you if so.