Aunt Rosie is 85 and lives with her second husband, Jim, in Erie, Pennsylvania. She is my mother's younger sister and she and her first husband, my dearly departed Uncle Buddy, are my god-parents. I love to talk to Aunt Rosie and call her from time to time just to hear what she has to say. She and Jim lead pretty active lives and are always full of interesting news.
Whenever I publish a new paperback I send a copy of it to her. She is not an avid reader by any means but she likes my books and always reads them. Even the ones with steamy scenes in them. She told me that when she finished Each AngelBurns (which probably wins the prize for my steamiest love scenes) Jim said he wanted to read it and she told him he wasn't old enough.
So, of course, when the paperback of The Whiskey Bottle in the Wall was published, I sent a copy to Aunt Rosie. The thing that distinguishes that book from my other books is that it is both a novel and a collection of short stories. Each of the stories, there are eleven of them, is complete all by itself but, if you read them consecutively, they build to a conclusion – at least for four of the main characters, Oliver, Gretchen, Lola, and Henry. The entire project came about because of The Reluctant Belsnickel of Opelt's Wood, a novelette that I published for Christmas 2011. It was so wildly poplar and so many people loved the characters and the setting, that I kept writing and ended up with eleven stories of which the Belsnickel story which is the ninth in the series.
When I talked to Aunt Rosie yesterday she told me that she thinks this is the way all books should be. “I'm at the age where I don't remember what I've read from day to day,” she said, “so it's nice to be able to finish a story but know there is still more to read.” That's a good point, I hadn't thought of that. She said she has ad a hard time getting the book away from Jim. He loves the stories and keeps re-reading them.
“I've only gotten it long enough to read one, so far,” she said.
“Which one did you read?” I asked.
“The last one,” she said.
“Aunt Rosie!” I said, “you're supposed to read them order so the end will be a surprise.”
“Well,” she said, “at my age and the way Jim is hogging the book I can't take any chances.”
She cracks me up. But she makes a good point. People today are very busy and, while I still love a long luxurious novel that I can spend days and days reading, I've noticed that my best sellers are all my novellas and novelettes. I have also noticed that many of the bestsellers these days are a combination of fairly short novels that are part of a series. Many readers seem to think like Aunt Rosie, they want something they can read in a short period of time but they also want to know more about these characters.
I am almost finished with The Monday Night Needlework & Murder Guild which will be a novella of about 30k words. I have also started work on The Crazy Old Lady's Revenge and I have a third story started for my Halcyon Beach Ghost stories so I guess I'm being influenced by this trend is only by accident. I'm happy that Aunt Rosie straightened me out. But I still have a new, long novel in the works. For readers like me.
Thanks for reading.