Ah, and here we are. The final SBTS for the final book in the series of adventures of Grace & Witherbloom. As with all of these, if you haven’t read The Forgotten Fair, not a lot of this is going to make sense and it’s going to be very spoiler-filled. So beware!
Plenty of time to turn back (or go to Amazon and get The Forgotten Fair!)…
All right, for those of you who are left, it’s time to talk about the final adventure in the series. This one was an odd one for me. You see, I had in my mind a general idea about what I wanted to happen in the final adventure. For one thing, I’d written the premonition (or vision of the future via Bradford’s psychochronal projector) that Wilhelmina had years before, as part of writing The Girl Who Died Backwards. So I knew that had to happen.
I also knew I wanted a walloping great big machine for the finale. Maybe that’s cliche, but it also just felt right. After all of Ashmore’s devices, I wanted the final device to be his most ambitious and daring. In the years between writing the first book and the last book, a thought had begun to form in my mind that the final book should take place during a World’s Fair. I liked the symmetry of it. The first book would take place during the Great Exhibition and the final book would take place at a World’s Fair. Now, the next event of that type would have been the Exposition Universelle in Paris, France in 1855. Now, a good amount of time passes between the first book and the last book, but not that much time. I could have extended the time that Helen was lost in the Emperor’s universe, but I didn’t want to stretch that too far, to be honest. Plus, I have to admit… I wanted the finale to take place in New York. In the new world. It just felt right for Ashmore to make that sort of dramatic gesture.
But, the World’s Fair didn’t take place in New York until 1939. But, that’s easy to remedy, really, when you have a time-changing anachroanarchist like Ashmore around, right? Oh, and you know anachroanarchist? That was a term I had thought about refering to Ashmore as in the book. It doesn’t exactly slip off the tongue, does it though? I think it’s best I didn’t go through with that. 🙂 Alternate titles for the series at one point, by the way included “The Anachronica” or “The Anachroanarchist Devices” all of which would have been a bit silly and wordy. But, maybe there’s some alternate universe out there where these books are called that.
But, I digress. I knew that I wanted Ashmore to go to New York. I knew I wanted a World’s Fair to be taking place. And, it seemed natural that the big device be at the center of the fair. Everything began to take shape, and with it so did Ashmore’s grand plan. Now, I just had to get them there.
Originally, Helen was going to tell Josiah her “origin” on the ship ride over to America. It was actually a real problem figuring out where to put her story, actually. Once I thought of the opening with Josiah disguising his identity and confronting Ashmore face to face, I knew that’s how the story had to open. And I didn’t think opening the story with a bit of exposition from Helen would work. Originally, her origin would have been a separate short story (like Josiah’s was planned to be, originally) that would have been bundled with “The Other Key.” But, I didn’t really think Helen’s story could stand on it’s own as a complete tale, to be honest. Not for lack of interest in what is going on, but just that it didn’t have enough meat to it. I could have gone in and filled in a lot of detail there and made it more of a separate story… but I liked the idea of not filling in too many of the details. And I also didn’t want to kill any of the momentum of the story by going into the sidebar of back story for Helen.
I also had the issue that I wanted Ashmore to tell Allisa about who he was, too. So, essentially, Ashmore and Helen had the same thing to tell two different people. I really liked the idea of interspersing their stories together, and originally there was MUCH more back and forth between Helen telling Josiah her story and Ashmore telling Alissa his story. But it just became too much of a confusing jumble. And I think it robbed both moments of their power. I’m really happy with the way it turned out. It avoided being repetitive, and it gave both groups a quiet moment before the finale.
Of course, at this point we begin to really see who Ashmore is. There have been hints along the way that he isn’t quite the villain we thought at first. And here we see the true measure of who he is. Arrogant, yes. But not unkind. Just very, very reckless. Which leads us to the major twist in the story. Hopefully, if people have been reading carefully this shouldn’t be a complete surprise, or at least it hopefully doesn’t come out of left field. Hints were certainly dropped, and Wilhelmina’s actions will actually make more sense in previous books. It’s no fun to explain a book, so I won’t. But if you look back at how easily Wilhelmina (seemed) to adjust to G&W’s life, you might find that suspicious now. And Wilhelmina being upset when Helen returned wasn’t jealousy, really. She really thought she’d escaped her fate and her mission, which she didn’t really want to do any more… and Helen’s return changed all that. I really liked Wilhelmina. My friend Laura, who was a beta reader for me, hated her. And I can see that. She’s the sort of character in a book that you can come to hate. She starts off so awkward and she’s not a good adventurer and she’s getting in-between the main duo. But I hope that a lot of readers liked her and felt as betrayed by her actions as G&W did. That was hard to write, her ending. Which, to me, meant it was the right thing.
And I hope people didn’t find it TOO cut and dried. Because, in the end, putting aside Wilhelmina’s religious motivations, she might have a point. Should anyone wield as much power over events as Helen, Josiah and Ashmore now do? I think it’s a valid question, and one I hope the reader thinks about.
I’m not going to say a great deal about the end, because I’d like for it to stand on it’s own, for the most part. All in all, I’m really proud of these books. Even months later after the final book was published, I remain happy that they were (hopefully) fun adventure books that also explored some important (to me) themes, if more in the background. The final moments of the book, and the final choices that the characters make are really important to me, not just in the book but in real life as well. It’s always so hard to know, when you’re writing something, how others will perceive your work. That’s why I like to read the reviews people write about them. There are times I’m a bit perplexed by what people have said, but it’s always interesting. And I’m so happy that thousands of people have given the book a chance. I hope we can pick up some more, too.
One of the main themes of the book is the concept of time as a spiral. When the thought came to me (independent of the book) all those years ago, I really loved the idea. I doubt it’s very scientific. But, the spiral is everywhere in our universe. And there was something so romantically appealing about even the end of everything not really being the end. I’d heard of the theory that the beginning and end of the universe might be the same moment. But a loop sounded so boring. But a spiral, where even time itself can evolve, where the sequence of our lives can grow, and possibly even get better… well, it appealed to me, anyway.
So, is this the end? Perhaps. Or maybe it’s the beginning.