Guest Post: Julie Czerneda on Saying Goodbye [plus giveaway!]

Cover art by Matthew Stawicki

Over the past few years I’ve been fortunate enough to have Julie Czerneda visit my blog as part of her tours for her latest releases. Today she is back with another one, but one that is a true milestone: the release of the final book in her Clan Chronicles. With To Guard Against The Dark, book three in the Reunification trilogy, she brings to an end a series that she started twenty years ago. I wondered how you say goodbye to characters you’ve lived with for so long. Julie wrote me the following beautiful post. Warning: tissues required! If you want to be in with a chance to win a hardcover of the book check the giveaway details at the end of the post. 

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Saying Goodbye

Our Offspring know the rule. I say goodbye, and they hang up. First.

I wasn’t that way until they each left home. I wasn’t that way when I did either. At some unnoticed moment between the two, I’d changed. Grew soft, I suppose. Couldn’t bring myself to end a moment of contact with someone I loved so much.

Couldn’t be the one to let go.

The other day I heedlessly applied this habit of mine to our dear daughter-in-love who kindly, if rather amused, did as I asked. Immediately afterwards, she emailed to tell me she understood now why I’d insisted with our son, because it felt horrible to be the one who had to end the call. (We have a wonderful daughter-in-love, as you can tell.)

So now we do it together, on the count of three, which is only fair and feels—better. As better as “goodbye” gets.

When my host, Mieneke, asked me to talk about saying goodbye to my characters in the Clan Chronicles, I agreed. I’d already heard from readers, curious to know themselves, so I’ve let their questions help me through what proved a tough post to write.

Questions About the Series’ Arc:

Jana – “This time around, the end is really ‘the end’ – what mattered most to you when it came to writing this last book – not just in this trilogy but from the whole arc perspective.”

Kim – “When you wrote “Thousand…”, did you already know the overall arc for the series? How did the arc develop for you?”

Cyn – “Building on Kim, did you realize at first how much you would actually have to write to tell the whole story?”

What mattered most to me will sound odd until you’ve read To Guard Against the Dark. I adamantly refused to “hang up” first, to be the one to lockdown and throw away the key on a story—and characters–readers had grown to love as much as I. If you finish this book, put it down then can’t help but start to daydream about what could happen next? That’s all I want. My full intention. Those are the books I love myself. I want to believe there are always…possibilities.

As well, I wanted to stuff in as much as I could of whatever readers told me they loved from the series in the first place. I’d a list. (You may not think now you want painted toenails, but you do, urgently. Trust me.) In that sense, Guard is the most like A Thousand Words for Stranger of all the others. You’ll find echoes throughout—likely not on the first read through, but when you go back, knowing how it ends, you’ll notice.

As for when I knew how all of this, the series, would play out? When I committed to write Ties of Power (original title, btw, was After Destiny–folder XB), I realized almost at once the story couldn’t wrap in one sequel. I had to show how the Clan arrived in the Trade Pact, for one thing. To uncover what kinds of beings could have the reproductive system—and Power—they have and why.

And the scenario, as I called it, had to play through to conclusion. To that end, I signed the contracts for Stratification in November of 2002, before starting Species Imperative. That’s why there are so many threads begun in To Trade the Stars. I already knew where I’d go next: into the Clan’s past. Reunification was contracted in 2004, as I started Stratification #1, so I could write to that goal, those books. My notes and outlines for Rift in the Sky in particular contain links to This Gulf of Time and Stars and that trilogy. In a sense, I created all four books, Rift plus Reunification, at the same time, knowing how everything would play out. (As mentioned in an earlier post, that’s when I went off to write toads for a while.)

Questions About What Isn’t There:

Elizabeth H – “While this is the end, is there anything that will still niggle at you… If so what will you do?”

Donald – “Are there any particular topics or experiences you wanted to explore with your characters that didn’t make it into the novels?”

Nathan – “While this is the end of the story arc, are there aspects of the setting that you’d like to come back and play with in the future? What sort of stories do you think the Trade Pact has left to tell?”

Michelle – “Will there perhaps be a short story in this world someday? Besides the collaboration volume currently in the works.” (Author’s note: Michelle refers to my anthology of original stories: Tales from Plexis, out Fall of 2018)

Kathy – “Will you be doing any spin-off books in this universe? Would LOVE to see more! ”

There’s so much packed in here, I can’t imagine what I might have left out. That doesn’t mean there isn’t more I could have written, but it would have been—indulgent. The pacing of Reunification is brutally quick for a reason: the series’ story has hit its climax and everything is in play. I set myself strict word count targets—checking every 10K–to avoid the temptation to linger in the Claws & Jaws, or make an unnecessary but cool extra planet stop. If I had, the pace would have faltered. My poor editor. I gave her a first draft without any of the sidebars-to-let-you-breathe of the final, because that’s how I had to write to get to the end I wanted. Yes, I found it grueling, at times, to write with that level of drive, but it helped to know I’d be writing Esen  next—my posterchild character for lengthy digression and unanticipated fun.

Are there stories left in the Clan Chronicles? Hell yes. It’s a big universe.

Will I be the one telling them? I honestly don’t know. I’ve been in this series for a long, intense period and right now, if I had to give an answer, it’d be no. It’s not just because I need and want a change. Nor because I’m looking forward to more fantasy and will probably do that for at least a couple of years after Esen.

Mostly, it’s because I love a thumping good ending and I’ve done my best to write one. I hope you’ll think so too.

What’s Next:

Deirdre – “Can you give us some hints about what you’ll be writing next?”

No need to hint. I can tell you almost everything—though I’ve a couple of unannounced extra things yet to reveal. My new Esen novel, Search Image, is scheduled for release fall 2018. Yay! That’s what I’m writing now: the dear little Blob, and her story picks up right after Hidden in Sight. Tales from Plexis, the anthology of stories set in the Trade Pact, written by its fans, comes out next year too, which would be what I’m editing now. (Busy times, but that’s how I like it.)

After that, the order is still a matter to discuss with my editor-dear, Sheila Gilbert at DAW, but suffice to say I’ve three more Night’s Edge books under contract, plus a standalone fantasy, Gossamer Mage. All excite me. Plus I’m mid-research on something quite different. (How I like it too.)

Back to the Point of This Post

Julie P – “How do you personally feel when you say “goodbye” to a beloved character?”

As though I didn’t get to hang up first.

I suspected it’d be hard to let go, but couldn’t know it would be so visceral. When I first held a copy of Guard, knowing this is the final book, it was a jolt to my system. I took the rest of the day off. Roger and I obtained our favourite scotch so we could toast Sira and Morgan. A few times since, he’s caught me looking a bit sad and we talk about it. I think that’ll happen for a while. I’m happy and satisfied with the books, don’t get me wrong, but it’s—it’s like jet lag and the day after Xmas. Now and next has indeed become after and done.

What helps? I don’t usually reread myself, once in print, unless researching for a sequel. This past week, I’ve plucked this or that title from the series off the shelf, to read a passage or page. I find it’s like visiting an old friend. You don’t need a recap to slip back into your last conversation.

The thrill of writing something new will take over again soon. Esen had consumed my head before this tour, to the point where I had to wrestle myself back into the Clan Chronicles to write these posts. By now, I’m so back into it I’m a little sad again at this moment.

But that’s okay. If I didn’t love these characters and this story, I couldn’t have written it. I couldn’t expect anyone else to love them either. I tweeted before I finished this post and can’t say it any better. “If it doesn’t make you sniffle, you didn’t give enough.”

Oort fungus and beer. The Silver Fox and Claws & Jaws. The Oud and Tikitik. Plexis and Big Bob’s and Cersi. Brightfall. The adventures and the big ideas. The giggles and, oh yes, the tears. Bowman and Terk. Aryl and Enris. Barac and Ruti. Huido.

Sira and Morgan.

Yours, now, dear readers.

Goodbye.

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Photo ©Roger Czerneda

Bio: For twenty years, Canadian author/ former biologist Julie E. Czerneda has shared her curiosity about living things through her science fiction, published by DAW Books, NY. Julie’s also written fantasy, the first installments of her Night’s Edge series (DAW) A Turn of Light and A Play of Shadow, winning consecutive Aurora Awards (Canada’s Hugo) for Best English Novel. Julie’s edited/co-edited sixteen anthologies of SF/F, two Aurora winners, the latest being SFWA’s 2017 Nebula Award Showcase. Next out will be an anthology of original stories set in her Clan Chronicles series: Tales from Plexis, out in 2018. Her new SF novel, finale to that series, To Guard Against the Dark, lands in stores October 2017. When not jumping between wonderful blogs, Julie’s at work on something very special: her highly anticipated new Esen novel, Search Image (Fall 2018). Visit www.czerneda.com for more.

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About the series

The Clan Chronicles is set in a far future where a mutual Trade Pact encourages peaceful commerce among a multitude of alien and Human worlds. The alien Clan, humanoid in appearance, have been living in secrecy and wealth on Human worlds, relying on their innate ability to move through the M’hir and bypass normal space. The Clan bred to increase that power, only to learn its terrible price: females who can’t help but kill prospective mates. Sira di Sarc is the first female of her kind facing that reality. With the help of a Human starship captain, Jason Morgan, himself a talented telepath, Sira must find a morally acceptable solution before it’s too late. But with the Clan exposed, her time is running out. The Stratification trilogy follows Sira’s ancestor, Aryl Sarc, and shows how their power first came to be as well as how the Clan came to live in the Trade Pact. The Trade Pact trilogy is the story of Sira and Morgan, and the trouble facing the Clan. Reunification concludes the series, answering these question at last. Who are the Clan?
And what will be the fate of all?

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#againstthedark Giveaway Details

Enter your comment below to be entered to win latest book in hardcover, To Guard Against the Dark, plus a mass market of The Gulf of Time and Stars.  (US and Canada only please). The giveaway will be open to enter until October 15th midnight CET.

To enter the tour-wide giveaway of the entire nine-book series, click here:  https://sweeps.penguinrandomhouse.com/preview/vg5pud

Good Luck!

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