Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Reader's Diary #188- Shannon Patrick Sullivan: The Dying Days (FINISHED)

In the afterword, Sullivan reveals that the Dying Days came out of a break-up, just as Christopher was going through one in the book. Just as Sullivan is working on his math doctorate, so is Christopher. So some elements were not a big stretch from reality. Who cares? The book was great. It's hardly the first cathartic piece to be created out of a failed relationship. And while I doubt there'll be any comparisons to the Rumours album, the idea of creating a fantasy world to escape the crud going on in the real one is still intriguing.

My suggestion to Sullivan is to keep a journal. Already a published author, game show contestant (much more of a rarity in Canada), and maybe a doctor of mathematics- I'd say he already has a few great chapters for a future memoir. And if he keeps writing (and I sincerely hope he does), it could only get more interesting.

True, I'm getting away from the book at hand but I've very little left to say. I enjoyed it immensely. I had a few minor problems as I've delved into earlier. The ending- what doesn't happen to Christopher- is a bit of let down for me, but reading was never supposed to be like eating at Burger King. The burger was great, even without the dill pickle.

All in all, a solid piece of work, but keep in mind, this is coming from a guy who rarely reads fantasy...

8 comments:

Shannon Patrick Sullivan said...

Well, thanks so much for reading The Dying Days, John -- especially considering that it's not your usual fare. I'm absolutely delighted that you enjoyed it, and I very much appreciate your review and the calibre of thought you've invested in my novel.

I definitely have every intention of staying with the writing. The reaction to The Dying Days so far has been pretty encouraging, and I've got plenty of ideas percolating around my imagination. I need to put my thesis to bed first, but as soon as I do, a second novel is my highest priority. I'll be sure to keep you posted.

And now for some possible spoilers regarding the ending...

I'm guessing, based on your comments, that you would have preferred that I not bring Christopher back to life? That was in fact my intent for a very long time. Although the events of the final few chapters only started to crystallise midway through the writing process (around the sequence set in the Forgotten Cemetery), I knew all along that I would end up with a situation where I'd be faced with the climactic choice of whether or not to kill Christopher, and I was largely leaning toward having him die.

But as I neared the conclusion, I realised that there's a fundamentally optimistic undercurrent running through The Dying Days -- one of its themes is that, no matter how foul life becomes, there's still magic hidden beneath the muck. And while I could have had Christopher die and still been consistent with that theme, I found that the prospect of having him survive -- of literally casting off the scurf of his old life and starting (in some ways) fresh -- was too attractive to avoid.

Or maybe, in the end, I'm just an incurable old romantic! My next novel -- and I know roughly what it'll be about now, although very few of the details, which is kind of how I like it -- will be very different in many respects, without completely diverging from The Dying Days, so perhaps that'll be the truest evidence one way or the other...

John Mutford said...

Thank-you for writing it!

I wish I was planning a trip to Newfoundland soon, I'd be looking for an autograph!

I was avoiding the spoiler, btw, but since you let the cat out of the bag, yes, I wish Christopher had died. As morbid as that sounds. A part of me felt that it may have been a little too convenient. Then seeing the parallels between the character and you, I thought maybe it was just too hard to do- sort of like suicide? That said, you pulled off the optimistic goal you were going for and redeemed it.

I will definitely buy and read your next book. I'm guessing it's still in the realm of fantasy, but will it be a sequel (or even a prequel to the Dying Days? I had suspected that was part of the reason why you kept Christopher alive.

Anonymous said...

This will be a bit of a let down after an actual comment from the actual author you reviewed. How cool is that! I'd frame it!

Anyhow, I saw your comment on barbara b's blog and thought I have to click on a guy with that kind of humour. Better be good to that cat of yours, I think he's armed and ready!

Shannon Patrick Sullivan said...

The parallels between Christopher and myself (and they're undeniably there -- if my Afterword doesn't make that clear, I hope the bio on the back cover does!) didn't really have much of an impact on my decision to whether to have him survive the end of the book. I was certainly all geared up to kill him off for a substantial portion of the writing phase! I think when personal concerns interfere with an author's freedom with a character, then that character has probably gone over the line and become a "Mary Sue". I was very eager to avoid that with Christopher... I can only hope that I've succeeded.

Nor did the possibility of a sequel have much bearing on it, either. My next novel will likely be just an indirect sequel to The Dying Days, chiefly picking up on the fallout from the end of the book and what's happened to St John's. If Christopher and Emma do appear -- and there's no guarantee of that -- it'll probably be in a supporting role this time around. They have more tales to tell (The Dying Days only barely touches on Emma's very dark past, for example) and will probably take the lead in a novel somewhere down the line, but I don't think that's the story I want to write next. Although I expect there will be connections with the first book beyond just the post-Dying Days setting...

(And of course, having said all that, I reserve the right to completely change my mind between now and when I start putting pen to paper again!)

Oh, and whenever you're next in St John's, let me know; I'd be more than delighted to sign your copy of The Dying Days.

John Mutford said...

Toccata, Not a let down at all! I love new voices here. And yes, it is very cool to have an author comment!

Shannon, I was intrigued by Emma's past. She'd make a good book for sure. What's the "Mary Sue" reference?

Shannon Patrick Sullivan said...

If I recall correctly, the term "Mary Sue" originated in "Star Trek" fandom. It's used to describe a writer inserting him/herself into a story as little more than an ego-boosting exercise. For instance, if you wrote a piece of "Trek" fanfic where "Ensign Ford Mutjohn" saved the Enterprise every other week and became Captain Kirk's favourite crewmember (etc etc) then that would be a "Mary Sue".

I've made no bones about the fact that Christopher is very much informed by my life, and especially by my break-up (although the circumstances of the break-up described in The Dying Days bear little resemblance to my own... rather, it's the emotions that are paralleled more than any actual event). But there are plenty of ways in which we differ, too, and I made every effort to treat Christopher exactly as I would any other character, imbuing him with flaws and frailties as well as more positive aspects.

Yeah, Emma was a treat to write. I was worried for a while that I wouldn't be able to do justice to a female protagonist. (Of the three leads -- Christopher, Emma and Chase -- Emma was the only one created specifically for The Dying Days rather than living in my head for years beforehand.) But once I got into the rhythm of the character, she quickly became one of my favourites to write for.

John Mutford said...

Shannon, Thanks for the info. As for the "Ensign Ford Mutjohn" I'm wondering if it's too late to start the NaNoWriMo...

Shannon Patrick Sullivan said...

Never too late! :-)

I'd love to do NaNo myself -- the 93,000 words of The Dying Days were written in five weeks, so I think I'm up to the challenge -- but my current duty is to finish my thesis. Maybe next year!