"I remember the moment when I said I’ve finished, and how I thought I had said goodbye to Precious Ramotswe and her little detective agency in Gaborone, Botswana."
Like many readers worldwide, I fell in love with Alexander McCall Smith's No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency series from the first page of the first book. The series’ newest edition, The Limpopo Academy of Private Detection, is every bit as charming as its predecessors. Since I already know what it's like to read
a long-running series, I was curious how it felt to write one. Today, Alexander McCall Smith stops by the NOOK Blog to give his perspective on sitting down one day to write a single book, and then realizing soon thereafter that you're brainstorming titles for the 14th in a series:
I suspect that not many authors who end up writing a multi-volume series of books do start by saying to themselves “I’m going to write a multi-volume series about …” Perhaps one or two do, but I certainly did not when I wrote the book in the No 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency series over ten years ago. As I recall, I sat down and thought How about a short story about a woman in Botswana who starts a small business? I remember where I was when I expanded that short story into a full book – I was in the south of France, staying for a while in a small village near Montpelier. I remember the desk at which I wrote and how the strong midday sunlight streamed in through the window of the study. I remember taking a break from my writing and walking out into the village square, which was dusty and somnolent under a high Mediterranean sky. And then I remember the moment when I said I’ve finished, and how I thought I had said goodbye to Precious Ramotswe and her little detective agency in Gaborone, Botswana.
How wrong one can be. I remember later handing the manuscript over to an editor in Edinburgh. I remember how the first Scottish publisher said that perhaps they could risk a reprint and would I be interested in doing a sequel? I discovered how rewarding it can be to create a character with whom one feels comfortable, and who lives in a world that one likes. It was no chore for me to return to Precious Ramotswe and her daily life in Botswana – quite the opposite, in fact, as I found that I relished my time with these characters. They became very real. I was an observer, of course, not part of their life, but they felt like friends to me and spending time with them was like sitting about with old friends. More volumes appeared.
The series became established in Scotland before it came to the United States. But it was in the United States that it really took off, and so I have always been able to say that it was American readers who discovered Mma Ramotswe and her world. That is something for which I am very grateful, as this triggered the widespread publication of the books elsewhere and in many languages.
Now we have reached the thirteenth volume, The Limpopo Academy of Private Detection. In homage to my readers in this country there is an American character in this book. It would be discourteous to disclose here who it is, but I can reveal that it is a man whom Mma Ramotswe and Mam Makutsi have long admired. He comes, it turns out, from Muncie, Indiana. Why did I choose Muncie? Because they have a mystery convention there every year and some years back they were kind enough to invite me to attend. I discovered then how nice the people in that part of the world are and how welcoming – but that is another story.
Will there be more books in the series? As far as I am concerned, yes there will be. I am enjoying my long literary conversation with Mma Ramotswe and I think it would be premature to break it off now. She still has a lot to say, I believe, and it is my job to act as her scribe. So there will be another one next year and I already have the title for it. I love making up titles, which is a task in which I am always very ably assisted by my editor at Pantheon, Edward Kastenmeier. A call comes in from New York each year and I know that it’s time for a title discussion to begin. Unusually, we have already come up with next year’s title: The Minor Adjustment Beauty Salon. Please stand by.
A free sample excerpt from this book is available for download on the product page now!
NOOK owners: go to shop and search for "Alexander McCall Smith” to download his many irresistibly charming books now.
You must be a registered user to add a comment here. If you've already registered, please log in. If you haven't registered yet, please register and log in.