“The Pen Never Rests”- 52 Pickup, #39

Question #39, 2/05/19

Carolyn McGill:
“Once you have finished a novel and sent it to the publisher what do you do next? – celebrate, take a vacation, keep working on it, get onto the next one, go out and fix the fence???? I guess I’m asking, do you give yourself a break between books?”


Hi Carolyn,

It’s an arduous task whenever I finish a book, not that I have a hard time finishing a novel, I just don’t want the book to end. I get emails from people who tell me they slow down when they get to the end of one of my books because they don’t want them to finish and I have to admit that I do the same thing when I’m writing them. It’s not as though I don’t know there’s another one coming, but each book is a segment in the character’s lives and once it’s done it’s done, and I have to move on.

I worry about the characters when I’m not writing them, almost as if they’re waiting for me, so I have to start the next book as soon as I finish one. The moment I type the ending, I open a new page and type the first sentence of the next book. I suppose it lets the characters know I’m there, but it also provides a continuity and allows me a certain amount of focus on the next novel as I finish the previous one. From that one sentence, I can establish place, character, pacing, and the tone of a book—perhaps the first signpost in what’s going to be a year-long endeavor.

There isn’t much celebration; generally, I walk down from the loft in the ranch where I write and announce, “Well, I just finished a book.” My wife usually gets more excited about the prospect than I because that means she gets to read it. Judy is my first reader, before anybody else. She’s extraordinarily intelligent and inciteful, she knows the books and the characters almost as well as I do, and something else she knows better than anybody else, me. She knows the voice I use in the novels, and I have to admit that one of my favorite things to do is listen to her read the newest book and laugh along the way.

Lately, I don’t take much time off, but with all the tours, library, and literary events I spend a fair amount of time on the road, so I try and stay home as much as possible. Sometimes we’ll celebrate by driving into Buffalo about twenty miles away and eating out, and then I’ll come home and pour a tumbler of the good stuff from the bar, but that’s about it.

I guess for me, the writing itself is a celebration of sorts but one that I have on a daily basis. When interviewed you always get asked what your favorite part of being a writer is, and I have to admit that it’s simply the writing, the time I spend in the chair with the characters. Maybe that’s why I don’t leave them alone for very long, but I think there’s also an immediacy in trying to get all the stories in my head down on paper. Folks ask if I ever worry about running out of ideas, but I worry more about not getting all the stories down before I’m finished.

Maybe that’s why I always write that first sentence of the next book as soon as I can.

All the best,




3 thoughts on ““The Pen Never Rests”- 52 Pickup, #39

  1. The books are so intelligently written, never condescending.. I like these little sessions, because it is “talking with you”. The only difference is I have a cup of hot coffee, and I can’t see yours. I hope it is there.


  2. Wow, I also had that question of what do you do when finishing a book.
    I liken it to tracking an animal. First sentence is identification of said track. Ends with(rarely for me) seeing the animal who made the track. Then…on to the next story!


  3. It was really interesting to hear that you still think and worry about the characters. I also think about the characters that you have written about, and can’t wait to read about them. I especially am impressed how you bring so many elements into your books, the Native legends and rituals, and Walt’s reading classics, and his sense of justice. Never lose that. I have enjoyed these over and over and still I find more details I don’t remember from reading it before. The best way I have enjoyed your books is through the audio books with George. What a great talent he has in bringing out the characters in your books. Love them and you keep writing. Will you bring back more Indian legends, like Virgil White Buffalo?


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