To corrupt the famous words of Blaise Pascal: I didn’t have time to write a short story, so I wrote a novel instead. Ironically, I never enjoyed writing shorts until after I’d written a book. I’ve written plenty of short stores in school—no one wants to read (or write) a whole novel in a semester’s time, and one must have practice to write anything, especially fiction—but I always found it onerous. In the past, I would always much rather have written poetry if I was going for a short form. But once I started writing novels, my relationship to the characters changed.
Erica Jong once said: “A poem is a one-night stand; a short story is a love affair; and a novel is a marriage.” Like a marriage, suddenly, I was learning more about my characters than I ever wanted to know, far more than I could ever use to craft a chapter. And when finished writing a book, I always find it difficult to let go of the characters and worlds I’ve come to know and love.
In the case of my romance novels, I could always start a series, and keep playing in the same worlds as long as I’d like. This is how the two Sailing Home Regency novellas, Shipmate and ‘Tis Her Season (both based on Royal Regard), were born, and subsequently, the Victorian Wattpad novels, Never Kiss a Toad and Never Land the First Fish.
But in the case of Blind Tribute, a sequel seemed out of reach, for any number of reasons, not least, the original novel has a unique premise and structure. I see no way to deliver that same sort of reading experience and would rather not disappoint my readers’ expectations. (This is not to say I didn’t try. I have more than half a book written as a follow-on novel, based on the life of one of the secondary characters, but the core of it never worked.)
So, how can I stay connected to the characters without trying to emulate what I have done before? In short: a short.
I’ve now written two short stories associated with Blind Tribute. In the first, The Press Wrestles with the President, in the anthology Resist and Rejoice: Timely Tales of the Final Draft Tavern, Harry Wentworth, my original protagonist, has it out with Abraham Lincoln over the latter’s propensity to trample the First Amendment, using the American Civil War as an excuse to punish uncooperative newspaper editors.
In the second, Threadbare Linens, in the forthcoming anthology, Unlocked, I changed point-of-view entirely, placing Harry’s sister Ruthie, at the center of the action. Ruthie is a character I hadn’t gotten to know quite as well as some others, but in the initial draft of Blind Tribute, some twelve years and seven full drafts ago, she was a point-of-view character. This left me with a store of her stories to tell, but when I set out to write Threadbare Linens, the action always came back to Harry.
So, in this short story, we learn her part in Harry’s rescue, and the trials she endures as the South is slowly—but surely—defeated. While this short does not express or imply the direction she ultimately takes in Blind Tribute, her author was given the chance to understand her better, live in her world a little longer, and add context to the events of her brother’s book.
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Mari Anne Christie writes second chances for scarred souls. Her book, Blind Tribute, is a multi-award winner in American historical fiction, and she writes historical romance as Mariana Gabrielle. She lives in Denver, Colorado with her two cats.