At’s Amore – the sequel that nearly wasn’t

At’s Amore is the sequel that very nearly never got written.  Paul was diagnosed with Kidney Cancer shortly after The Bicycle Waltz was published.  The surgery was successful in removing the tumor, but Paul was left in a state of chronic nausea that the doctors could not explain – for a year and a half.  This nausea was made worse by any form of reading; and worse still by computer use.

Treatment began to provide some relief from the nausea around the middle of 2016.  But the computer trouble persisted.  Paul tried just “gutting it out” and worked all the way up to 50 minutes on the computer at a stretch before nausea overwhelmed him.  And he could do this 2-3 times a day – max.

Still, it’s something.  With Paul feeling better when away from the computer. we began to work on the storyline of “the sequel”.  By February of 2017, Paul could handle a little more computer time, and began to devote 1 hour a day of his precious computer time to writing.

Thus, At’s Amore was an entirely different writing experience from The Bicycle Waltz.  Although computer time gradually increased, Paul mostly stuck with the 1-2 hour-a-day writing model.  So, in contrast to the wild frenzy of writing The Bicycle Waltz, At’s Amore was written slowly, carefully, over a long period of time (more than a year), and from beginning to end.  No longer concerned with “can I write an entire novel?”, Paul had no need to jump around.  He started from the beginning and wrote to the end.

And he’s glad he did.  Lots of things happened along the way that were not foreseen in the story outline.  Shelly’s “biological clock”, for example.  The original story outline called for them to go to Wisconsin for Christmas.  “Happy and in love” was the name of that section.  Shelly’s reaction, while predictable in hindsight, was a surprise at the time.  I put her into that situation, and she reacted as described in the book.  This evolved, naturally, into New Shelly / Old Shelly and became a major theme in the book.

“Geeta and Ray” was another surprise.  As described elsewhere (see “A rose is a rose” under “Fun Stuff”), Geeta was originally a bit character, and it never crossed our minds that she’d become Ray’s love interest.  But, once she had a name and a personality, the two of them just clicked.  BTW, I think Ray may have found his match.  Geeta won’t leave him if he “falls off the wagon”, but she’ll make sure there’s hell to pay!  That’s something Ray can deal with.  And, he’s learned something from losing Shelly.  He really will try.  I wish them all the best.

I was also surprised how hard it was to get Shelly to blow up at Alan.  The story outline called for a “sorta-kinda, maybe/maybe not” breakup scene, but Shelly was having none of it.  I kept going back and pushing more and more of her buttons.  Jackie, for example.  Alyssa and Ray.  Alan’s failure to impress her friends.  The crash at the end of the day.  At one point, I actually said, “Poor Shelly!” out loud while I was writing.  I was really pushing all her buttons.  I finally pushed her over the edge, but it wasn’t easy.

Alan was easier to push over the edge.  I know, I know, sainted Alan loses his way.  How could you?  But it didn’t take that much persuading.  All that rock star stuff at ICBDA, combined with lovely, sexy Nichole, was enough to send him spinning off in the wrong direction.  And he was happy to keep pretending he didn’t know – until I made him face it.  Funny, but Nichole and Tiffany were a single character in the original story outline, but I realized at some point that it was two different personalities at work, and let it be two separate characters.

Breakfast at Tiffany’s was another surprise.  All that stuff about a man’s dress indicating respect – where did that come from?  Seriously, I had never thought of it that way.  But I put Tiffany into that situation, and that’s what she said.  Another of those moments when it felt like the story was coming from a parallel universe, not just from my head.  I couldn’t make this stuff up!

Travis was like that, too.  I was filling in Alan’s family tree, and kept running siblings by him.  Nah, nah, nah,… bingo!  I proposed Travis and got that goose-pimple reaction I sometimes get when it feels like I’m discovering the story rather than inventing it.  Somewhere in a parallel universe, Alan exists – and he has a brother named Travis.

And, no, I don’t know what’s between Travis and Kay.  I’m really curious, but Travis is a quiet guy.  I keep poking around, but, so far, nothing.

I didn’t understand the backpack at first either.  Pops left Alan the backpack.  OK.  To remind him of the fishing trip?  OK.  So, I put it in, although it felt a little weak.  There was something else there, but I could quite put my finger on it.  Then it came to me in the wee hours – the angel logo.  That’s why the backpack is in the story!

Was that angel logo always on that backpack?  I don’t know…  you decide.

Jean wanted a more dramatic, all-is-forgiven, isn’t-it-wonderful moment at the end.  But that’s not how Shelly feels.  And I can’t make the characters do things they don’t want to do.  Seriously, I can’t.  Alan’s on probation.  And he’s definitely sleeping on the couch that night.  There’s an interesting scene when she hands him the pillows that never got written…