Are you under contract to write x number of books for the Alice series? Did you decide way in advance how many books you would be writing and then make a deal to follow through? Do you ever feel like you’re writing about Alice because you have to and that you really would like to stop or take a break for awhile, but can’t, due to prearranged deadlines? Basically, what I’m asking has to do with obligation versus desire. I’ve always been interested in how writers focus a series around a pivotal character for an extended length of time. I know so many who do and it’s something I’ve thought about myself, yet I’ve wondered if I could sustain an interesting plot and character development for all those pages. I respect and admire you and your books have been invaluable not just to my childhood, but to my life as a reader.
When my editor and I decided many years ago that I would extend the first Alice book into a series, it was all very much up in the air. I agreed to do it as long as I did not have to write more than one book per year, and that Alice could get older in each book, so I wouldn’t feel as though I were stuck in a sitcom. Somewhere along the way I told my readers that there would be 28 books (about three books for every year of Alice’s life up until age 18. And the final book would take her from 18 to 60). The publisher gave me a contract for about three or five Alice books at a time. Usually I felt quite excited when it was time to start another book, and had a general idea of what would be in it. As she grew older, of course, her interests became more sophisticated, and some people (usually parents) tried to ban one or more of the Alice books in their children’s school. Once in a while they succeeded, but usually schools and libraries went to bat for me. The more books I wrote, however, the more letters I received. Most readers loved the series just as they were, but some readers wanted Alice to live in another country for awhile; some wanted to know why she and her friends never tried drugs; wanted her to do more community service projects; wanted her to learn Spanish, to have more pets, play an instrument, play sports, etc. etc. and I simply had to focus on the girl I had created and try my best to keep it honest.