I've spent most of the month of May vacillating between two very different story ideas for my next writing project. Should I venture off on a new tangent, leaving the Civil War behind and experimenting with a little cozy mystery/romance genre? Or should I respond to the request of a few readers of "Henrietta's Legacy" for Book Three, rounding out the story of what happens to the three Beauchene sisters?
I confess to being tired of South Carolina and the Civil War. I've been writing about them since 2005, and I'm running out of new ideas. There's safety in the familiar theme, of course, but also a risk of repeating myself and boring the daylights out of my readers. I have a good idea of what happens to the Beauchene family and their business after the war. I've covered most of the build-up and collapse of Reconstruction already in the Grenville Chronicles. The impact of Rachel's decision to stay in England will take her off on a different, though not happier, trajectory. Neither her desire to connect with a newly-located mother nor England's ventures as an imperial power promise successful resolutions. The over-riding problem with a "Book Three," however, is that I cannot see a way to weave a coherent and unified storyline out of those separate historical strands.
The much more tempting idea is one that I've been shoving to the back of my imagination for several years. If it is true that an author should write about what she knows, then I have a rich store of memories of what goes on within the walls of a graduate department or behind the fences of a small college campus. Oh, and the characters are so tempting! Graduate students and their professors tend to have certain quirky characteristics in common. Most are highly intelligent, more than slightly compulsive, and ambitious over-achievers. Toss in just a touch of jealousy, paranoia, and irrationality, along with a phobia or two. Put those characters together in a small space, add a bit of pressure, and they are likely to implode all over one another. Delusions, sabotage, and attempted murder are not out of the question.
I guess it's pretty obvious which way I'm leaning.