Dispatches, thoughts, and miscellanea from writer Jon Konrath

Twenty Years Later

I just wrote a review for David S. Atkinson’s book Bones Buried in the Dirt (go read it here) and something I mentioned in response to it is actually an idea I had that I will probably never do.  His book is told from the point of view of a pre-teen kid, and I mentioned something that John Knowles did with A Separate Peace, which is to write a book that takes place a generation later.  With Knowles, he wrote the book Peace Breaks Out, which takes place after the main character returns to his old prep school to become a teacher.

Something I was obsessed with a bit ago was writing a sequel to Summer Rain, that would take place twenty years later.  I ultimately wasn’t fully happy with Summer Rain after it was published, for a few reasons.  The book wasn’t successful, but it was also a first book and suffered from extreme nostalgia a little too much.  If I wanted to make the book a commercial success (which I didn’t want to do) I probably should have killed off some of my angels and stripped out all of the death metal and replaced it with grunge rock or college radio music or whatever.  Anyway, the book never felt resolved to me, in a way that just a copyedit or a different cover could never solve, and I always wanted to either rewrite it completely, or do something else like it that had a better chance of working.

An idea that knocked around my head a bit ago was to take this Knowles approach, and write a book where the main character of Summer Rain had to go back to Bloomington twenty years later.  I wasn’t sure what plot device I’d use to get him back there, maybe the death of a friend, or just a reunion or an itch to drive back to 47404 and see who and what still remained of that summer.  It’s a problem I have in real life, as I never have a legitimate reason to go back, and when I do end up returning to Indiana to see my family, I’m on the other side of the state and it’s usually snowing and the roads there are barely paved as it is.  I never explored the end game of the character in the book, as he wasn’t graduated at the start of the fall 1992 semester, and I didn’t extrapolate that he’d end up moving to Seattle (or whatever) so a certain amount of the book’s start would be this backstory, the explanation of how the character made it out of Indiana alive, and what he did in the two decades following college.  There’s always a certain amount of fun in that kind of world-building, and it’s one of the things that got me hooked on this idea.

Another big part of it is just diving into that nostalgia again.  I barely remember what Bloomington was like to me, but I can spend way too much time digging around bloomingpedia or old books and notes, and it’s something that still has a sick appeal to me.  I thought that after the book and publishing The Necrokonicon would get it out of my system, but there’s still a part of me that perks up when I find a picture of an old VAX online, and I sometimes feel like there’s at least another book that could come out of that part of my life.  I’ve finished a few short stories about it, and I have a whole book that I never completed that’s just a collection of them, but I do have that occasional itch to do something bigger.

And as I thought about it, there’s a lot of character exploration that could be done.  I mean, there were people that I knew who were vegan anarchist punk rock terrorists in the early 90s that have fallen hard into yuppiedom in their later years.  Some of the people I knew who were very successful and seemed like they were destined for greatness have fallen into lives of mediocrity, divorce and middle-management blues.  Some friends who railed against The Man became The Man; some people who seemed like total losers made millions in the dot-com era.  Very few people remained on the path that I thought they were on back in 1992.  Some escaped Indiana for greater things, and many basically became their parents.  Some completely fell apart.  Some are dead.  And some truly achieved greatness.  There’s a lot of ground that could be covered.

The problem with that is, as I’ve mentioned before, I’m not that into “straight” writing anymore.  Another issue is that I fall into a heavy self-censorship mode when I write about reality, because I’m afraid of offending someone.  And the best stories that I could tell about reality are probably by the people who would be pissed off the most if I told them.  And every time I think I’ll get past it by changing names and hair colors and whatnot, I get some fuckwit who decides to get on my shit because I said US-33 between Dunlap and Goshen was a four-lane highway, when really it’s five lanes of interstate, or whatever the fuck.  When I try to write fiction, people give me too much shit because it’s not fiction.  It’s enough to distract me from finishing, at least.

If I had infinite time, I’d probably look into this.  But, I don’t.  I wrote a long set of notes about it, and filed them away, in a crate next to the arc of the covenant.  Maybe I’ll get to it eventually.