Queen of Swords in paperback

On September 25, 2007, the paperback edition of Queen of Swords will be released. That is one month minus two days.

I never did open things up for questions about Queen of Swords. For a long time after I wrote it, I was too unsettled to have anwered them, anyway. It’s hard to do bad things to your characters, even when the story demands it. For example, I know many people were sad or even upset with me when a character died in Fire Along the Sky. I was pretty upset with me too, to tell the truth.

But it was important to the greater flow of the story, and in fact it was the right way for that particular character’s story to end. Someplace I remember seeing a post or an essay called When Bad Things Happen to Good Characters. I didn’t actually read it, but I remember thinking that it says a great deal about the power of storytelling, if readers can be so emotionally invested in fictional characters. It’s the real test of a good story. Stephen King says that people still come up to him and ask how Frannie and Stu are doing — two central characters from The Stand. As if he sat down and visited with them every week and had news, but wouldn’t share it. He knows, and the reader who loves Frannie and Stu does not.

This is, of course, where fanfiction comes in. If there’s enough of a fan base who just can’t let go of the characters, they will fill in the blanks. It’s the greatest compliment of all.

I have some characters that I am absolutely unwilling to let go of, which is why I re-read the books they live in so often. A few of them: Melanthe (Laura Kinsale’s For My Lady’s Heart), Christabel La Motte (A.S. Byatt’s Possession), Niccolo de Fleury (Dorothy Dunnett’s Niccolo Rising series), Frannie (Charles McCarthy’s Bride of the Wilderness), Sebastien de Saint Villier (Judy Cueva’s / Judith Ivory’s Dance).

My own characters I don’t put into this list because they live in my head, and I couldn’t be shut of them if I wanted to.