Behind the Scenes: Back Matter
Several weeks ago, Jessica Tedder, the editor of Square Fish, the imprint at Macmillan which is putting out Birthmarked in paperback, sent me a friendly email about a bonus section for the back of the book. Such a bonus section, aptly called “Go Fish” for this imprint, typically includes an excerpt from an author’s upcoming book (in my case, Prized), a Q&A with the author, and some discussion questions. Extras! If you’re interested in production timing, the paperback of Birthmarked will be released in October, so we’re about six months out.
For starters, Jessica included 33 questions of this ilk, inviting me to answer as few or as many as I liked:
*What did you want to be when you grew up?
*What was your least favorite thing about school?
*What sparked your imagination for Birthmarked?
*What challenges do you face in the writing process, and how do you overcome them?
*Which of your characters is most like you?
*What’s your idea of fun?
*If you could travel in time, where would you go and what would you do?
*What would you do if you ever stopped writing?
While I’m sure many writers can whip off fascinating answers to such questions, my sorry little mind baulked. Instead of answering them, I started pondering how I could come up with back matter that was true to who I am. I wrote a little essay, then turned it into a list, then scrapped it, then salvaged a paragraph, then scrapped it again. In short, as usual, I had to write in order to discover what I thought.
I’ve always liked extras at the back of a book, because when I finish reading a good one, I don’t want it to be over. I want to stay with the writer a little longer and ponder some of the ideas behind the story. I long for a little insight into how the writer thinks in real life, not just in fiction. My favorite extras make me feel like the writer is my friend, because a person who can write a book I like would also, I hope, like me.
To create extras like that myself, I’d have to put some heart onto the page. So I circled back to questions. This time I chose ones that real people had asked me, ones that were innately interesting to me. Similarly, I drew on discussions I’ve had with real people as I came up with my ten pondering questions, and I kept those in the first person, too. I tried to put in new things that haven’t been covered here in the blog or in interviews, and I wrote like I talk to my friends. I relaxed. I assumed my reader would understand my humor. I wanted to know what a reader, one who’d come that far, thought.
In the end, I’m pleased with my Go Fish back matter. There’s a bit of tinkering still to do, but it’s good. It’s extra.