Last Friday night, I finished writing Up From The Grave, Night Huntress book seven. Usually typing “The End” brings me nothing but joy because it’s the literary equivalent of crossing the finish line in a marathon, but this time, my joy was tinged with a little sadness. Why?
Up From The Grave will be the last Cat and Bones novel.
Short reason why: I’m mostly an organic writer, as I detailed here, so several years ago when I plotted the skeletal outline for the series, I estimated that it would take a total of nine books to finish Cat and Bones’s story arc. Turns out, I finished it sooner.
For those of you who want the long reason, keep reading.
I started writing Cat and Bones’s story with no specific number of books in mind because I was unpublished and thus writing them only for me. The idea for one book turned into two, then two books turned into three, and then boom! In 2006, my dream came true by landing a publishing contract. At that time, my publisher only committed to two books, but I didn’t care. I had more stories to tell, so I kept writing them. Later, reader support meant my publisher kept buying them, but still, I didn’t have a specific number of books planned. I only had a story in my head that wasn’t finished yet.
Publishing is a business, so that sort of vagueness didn’t work :). Contracts required written outlines and readers very reasonably wanted to know how long of a series they were getting into. Back in early 2010, based on remaining plot points that I’d written down, I estimated that it would take a total of nine Cat and Bones books to tell their complete story. This is what I announced to readers.
Then, later in 2010, my publisher invited me to do an extended Cat and Bones novella for an anthology with Lynsay Sands. I’m a big fan of Sands, so I said yes. Once I’d finished writing Home For The Holidays, however, I realized because it was so long (nearly half a book!) and it contained a major series revelation, I would no longer need to write a ninth Cat and Bones book. The novella took care of that part of my story arc, and so when it came out in late 2011, I told readers that Cat and Bones’s story would now end at book eight.
Honestly, if I had to do it all over again, I would have written a different story instead of using a plot line from my overall series arc. Many of my readers skipped the anthology because, as they told me later, they preferred full-length novels to novellas. Because of that, I expect a lot of “Huh?!” responses to that plot-point recap in Up From The Grave. It was my mistake to include a significant reveal for the Night Huntress series in a novella, and I am sorry for that. If it’s any consolation, Home For The Holidays will be available this November as a single title for $1.99, so interested readers will soon be able to get it at a very low rate.
Let’s fast forward to 2013, when it was time to get back to Cat and Bones after spinning off two books in the Night Prince series. About halfway through writing Up From The Grave, I was stunned to realize that I was already done with all the plot points in book seven’s outline. At that moment, I had a decision to make: write “filler” plot to finish book seven without dipping into book eight’s story line, or continue on into the planned ending of the Night Huntress series.
I called my editor and told her that I was continuing on, which probably meant that Cat and Bones’s story was ending in Up From The Grave. She gave her blessing because, like me, she agreed that it was better to end their series early with the story I always wanted to tell, than to stretch it out into another book by writing insincere filler. Just to be sure that I did fit in everything, we agreed not to announce this to readers until I was done writing the book.
And here we are.
At this point, some of you may be thinking “Good, I never want to read a story that represents a halfhearted effort by the author.” Or some may be thinking “Good, I was getting sick of Cat and Bones anyway.” In case any of you are thinking “Wait a minute, you promised more Cat and Bones books, so you need to live up to your word!” please know that I’m trying to do best by you, and all my readers, by ending their story here.
It’s difficult emotionally for me to say goodbye to Cat and Bones. They’ve lived in my head for over a decade, and closing the chapter on them feels like bidding farewell to very old, very good friends. In addition to the emotional angle, there’s a financial one. Each new book in the Night Huntress series has a built-in fan base that nets me damn good money, and I like money. A lot. But not enough to milk my readers over a story I don’t believe in. As an author, I have no control over whether readers love my books, like them, feel ambivalent, or hate them, but I do have control over choosing to only write stories that I love. To me, that’s a far more important promise to keep.
I apologize for previously overestimating the total number of books in the Night Huntress series. It wasn’t my intention to mislead or disappoint readers. It was truly an honest mistake.
Does this mean you’ll never see Cat and Bones again after Up From The Grave? Well, not in a full novel with them as the main characters. They may show up as side characters in spin-off novels, as they did in First Drop of Crimson, Eternal Kiss of Darkness, Once Burned and Twice Tempted. I’m also not completely ruling out a future short story with them, but that’s a big maybe. It’s nothing I’m planning on at this time.
If you have other questions, feel free to ask them below. If you want to rant at me over my decision, you can, but it won’t change my mind. Also, emailing me story ideas won’t result in another Cat and Bones novel. This isn’t a case of writer’s block or me being out of ideas: I’m done with the story I set out to tell, which means Cat and Bones are at the place I always intended them to be. Any sadness I feel over that is overshadowed by my happiness at getting to take them there.
I hope readers enjoy the final leg of their journey, but whether you continue on to the end or you got off years ago, let me give a huge, heartfelt thanks to everyone who joined Cat and Bones along the way. I know for me, it’s been an amazing ride, and I thank God for giving me the opportunity to share it with you :).