Releasing a new book is a nervy business. Will it be loved or loathed? Or worse, ignored...
When it's a first book the set of worries are somewhat different. Will anyone care? Will you be able to make a living at this? Will the people who have gambled on you make their money back?
Once you've had a successful book there are new worries. What will my readers think of this one? The more successful the first book/s the brighter that spotlight, the more palpable the tension.
I have been lucky enough to have had my trilogies written before the first book hit the shelves. This has meant I haven't ever been in the position of writing the next book while readers react to the first, or while they look my way and start tapping their feet and checking their watches.
When Red Sister comes out in April I won't have anyone who has been waiting for it for years or who has strong opinions about what will or should happen between the two covers. I won't have to write Grey Sister while the internet forums reverberate with whispers and then howls of "Hurry up!"
So I have considerable sympathy for the incredibly successful authors of two books that are high on my "waiting for" list.
Sure, they have their millions of dollars and their legions of adoring fans to console them and they don't really need my sympathy, but I know what I would be feeling in their place.
Writing is a private business. You do it in your own head. It drops from your brain into a file via the medium of a keyboard. Sure, after you finish you share it and then you would like people to read it in their thousands. But you don't want them standing at your shoulder when you type.
More than that though ... if you do something special ... in writing terms a book that captures the imagination of millions ... on a small scale it's like shooting a basket ball through the hoop from the centre line ... and an audience gathers ... "Do it again!" they say. Suddenly it's a lot harder.
George RR Martin and Patrick Rothfuss have both written books that have set them squarely in the spotlight's glare. A vast number of people *love* what they have written so far. The story that each has crafted has become part of popular culture. They have almost inadvertently taken on the responsibility for satisfying the demands of their readers' imaginations, and they're now having to do it with everyone "watching".
If you look at the ire which some fans hurl their way for the length of the wait for the next book it makes you wonder what their outcry might be if when the book does eventually show it fails to satisfy. If the characters take different paths from those the readers want or expect...
I guess JK Rowling experienced the same thing, but her readers were not (in the main) grownups with loud internet-driven voices. She didn't meet them en masse at conventions or in the spaces were she hung out.
And as the wait stretches out it seems it must ratchet up the tension in every aspect of this reader-author relationship. It increases the numbers waiting, the expectation, the impatience, the intensity.
It bears remembering that Martin and Rothfuss haven't published books (in the series that get all the focus) for longer than I've been in print. It's been a fair chunk of both their lives since they have had to offer up for re-inspection the characters to which they are tied in the public mind. Long enough for a man and woman to meet, fall in love, conceive a child, birth that child, have another, and another, send the first to school, then the second...
If it were me, and I had a story out there that was held in such high regard and whose next installment was so eagerly anticipated, and for which I would be so publicly held to account ... I think I'd be terrified, honestly. Writing brings many rewards but in such circumstances I think I would be tormented by a, perhaps misplaced, sense of responsibility and guilt. Another part of me would want to buy a yacht, sail off, and forget it all.
I have absolutely no insight into the particular circumstances or challenges either author is facing. I know every writer has a different experience. I've loved their work so far and I'm resolved to wait without complaint for the next installment. There are many fine authors to keep me entertained in the mean time. All I can say is that while I envy their success I also know that I don't envy the pressure I would feel in their shoes.
Even putting Red Sister onto the shelves is making me nervous and I hope I'm never in the position of having to write when people are waiting on me to finish.