Spoilers for the entire BOATK series, so read at your own risk.
First thing: if you follow me on Facebook, you'll probably notice I've been posting less and less. Part of it has to do with the fact that I've been busy as of late, trying to finish one book so I can get to another, and editing two full novels.
But it's also because I've been mostly posting in a new reader group called Klunatics that some awesome people created. In a short time, it's grown to over 500 members, and is a positive place for me to post, and for people to talk about my books, or other books/authors in MM. We have contests, group reading, and a bunch of stuff for people to interact with. Right now, there is a contest going on where I'm giving away a Kindle Paperwhite. I will be posting there more from this point on, so if you want the latest news, I recommend joining. No one should be automatically added to the group (I hate it when that happens from others), so I'll post periodic reminders the group exists in case you'd like to join. Link is below.
Now, on to the rest.
I could write more about Bear, Otter and the Kid. I really could. If I sat down and pushed myself, I could probably come up with a handful of plots for what would happen next. Hell, the ending of The Long and Winding Road is the perfect setup, right? Lily and Noah as teenagers, Noah coming out and has a crush on a friend of his who probably likes him back.
I'm not going to, though.
I know that's not what people want to hear. Even with me definitively saying that this is the end, I've been asked if I meant it, and how easy it would be for me to write another book. Especially since I've now caved and decided to write a sequel to another book I said I'd never do: How to Be a Normal Person.
But this really is the end. And this is going to be the last full post I do on these books.
(Unless, of course, in the year 2061, I decide to write a retrospective on the 50th anniversary of Bear Otter and the Kid. Weirder things have happened, right?)
I love these characters more than you could ever know. They have been with me for a long time. With them, as in my own life, I have lived and loved and lost. Six years ago, the first book was published. It was longer than that that I started actually writing them. And since it all began, I have experienced the highest of highs and the lowest of lows. No matter what happens in the future, my journey in this weird, wonderful world of publishing started with them.
But it also needed to end.
Look. The Long and Winding Road is mostly self-indulgent. Let's be frank about that and get it out of the way up front. I wrote it because I wanted to, because I could. If life hadn't gotten so terribly skewed, it probably would have come out a year or two ago. But life is different now than it was when The Art of Breathing was released 2014. It took me a long time to find my footing with any story again, much less this one.
But make no mistake, this book exists because I could write it. I was in a position to know it would most likely sell well, and that people were clamoring for it. I am very fortunate in that regard, and don't take that notion lightly.
That doesn't mean I took the story any less seriously. Regardless of what else I write, people will most likely associate these books with me first for the rest of my career. And just because I could be self-indulgent about it didn't mean I wasn't still going to write the best story I knew how. Having a lackluster finale could potentially spoil an entire series.
Still, you can't please everyone. Some people hate the first book, and like the others. Some people only like book 3. Still others liked the original covers and tweeted me how they didn't like that I'd had them updated.
(Side note for aspiring authors: you can't win with everyone ever. Seriously. Get that thought out of your head right now.)
I wrote The Long and Winding Road for me. I told the story I wanted to tell. Sometimes, I think we often forget ourselves as authors and try to write what we think people want to read. I know I've done that before. Pandering can make for lazy writing.
And since I was writing for me, I thought about the level of angst I was going for in the book. As I've said previously, it was going to be hardcore, man. Creed and Anna divorcing! Pregnancy complications! Bear and Otter relationship issues as Otter was going to be the stay at home dad and Bear would later resent him for it!
And I started writing with this intent. Part I (Past) has a good amount of angst, and it was only going to escalate from there.
But by the time I finished Part I, I was exhausted, and I asked myself why. Why do their lives always have to be hard? Why do I keep flinging shit at them? Why do they need to hurt for me to think it's good writing?
The truth is they don't.
So I didn't. I revamped plans, and took away some of what I thought was just overkill. Creed and Anna didn't need to divorce to be relevant. Bear and Otter don't need to argue about who gets to be the person that stays home to make a good story.
And there doesn't need to be pregnancy complications. Shortly before I made that decision, a friend of mine had a miscarriage. She was forthright and frank about how it affected her and her family. While thinking to myself how unfair it is that these things happen to such wonderful people, I wondered why I was going to try and put something similar in my own book. There is already so much hurt in the world right now. Why did I need to add that specific thing to it?
I'm a different person now than I was when I first starting writing these books. Sure, I still know how to do over the top like the back of my hand (see: role playing dates in a hotel bar), but I think that I've grown as a writer. A decision to heap angst I might have made years ago now gives me pause. What does it add to the story? Is it absolutely necessary?
I wanted them to be happy. This journey they were on should be a happy one. Bear and Otter were finally focusing on themselves, and I needed them to have a happy ending, even if sometimes real life doesn't give us our own.
A few other things:
--Paul and Bear meeting: yes, I always planned to include it here. Yes, I always planned to write it the exact way it happened. Yes, I am a dick, and I regret nothing. (Seriously, though, I guarantee not one of you expected it to go that way when you figured out what was about to happen. The climax was about how anti-climactic it was, and I laughed for days.)
--A certain website that Bear visits when trying to find ideas on his relationship should be familiar to those readers of another book of mine. Yes, it's the same site. Yes, I know who wrote the entire website. No, I'm not going to tell you. At least not yet. It will come later.
--This story wasn't about Lilly or Noah or the surprise third addition at the end. It was about the road to get to that point. Could I have written about the immediate aftermath of the birth? Sure. But then it would have taken away from the journey, I think. And then also made the book six million words long. There was never any plan for the kids other than what I wrote.
--Noah will fall in love. Maybe it will be with the friend mentioned at the end. Maybe it won't. Maybe someone else will come along. But he will be happy. (Secret: you want to know how I know I won't write a book about him? I purposefully picked the name Noah, as that is my nephew's name. Writing that character into his own romance would weird me out too much.)
--We may or may not see this family again, at least in part, in a one specific story. I still have Corey/Kori's book to write, and I can't imagine Tyson not being a part of it, at least a little bit. That being said, Corey/Kori's book will take place shortly after Until You, which will be in the summer before Lily and Noah are born in September. That book too will be the end of a series.
There is a lot of happiness here. I have put my blood, sweat and tears into these books. The road, though rocky as it got sometimes, was long and winding. But I've finally reached the end of it, at least where this specific family is concerned. They will be happy. There will be joy. And yeah, maybe there will be some hardships, but I know with all of my heart they'll make it through. They always do.
I said once in a blog shortly after Who We Are that I know they aren't real people, but that they're real to me. That hasn't changed, even after all this time. I walked with them on the beach to the spot not very many people know about. I hurt with them when the world was unfair. I felt such indescribable joy when their family was finally made whole.
They aren't real.
But they're real to me.
And I'll remember them always.
Thanks for sticking with me on this journey.
You've made it worth it.