You didn’t ask, but I’ll tell you anyway… Baker’s Blues is different.
Consider the title. Baker’s Blues is not a warm fuzzy title because…well, blues. The cover image is a woman kneading dough…she looks strong. She’s working hard. She seems to be alone. Maybe she’s single. Or wishes she was. Maybe she’s married but her husband is gone a lot. Or they’re having problems. Or maybe she’s just working an early shift.
Baker’s Blues is the last installment in the Bread Alone trilogy. (Spoiler alert) I’ve never been the kind of writer who feels compelled to tie up all the loose ends. After all, lives are complicated and messy and have no neat endings, so why should a story based on those lives be any different? On the other hand, there has to be a certain resolution at the stopping point. So, since about 1995, when the whole three-part story was starting to take shape in my head, I’ve had a pretty clear idea where it was going and how I was going to leave it.
Sometimes when I go back and read my own books, they seem to have been written by someone else. This was not the case last year when I re-read both Bread Alone and The Baker’s Apprentice after finishing a rewrite of Baker’s Blues. This whole project has been kind of like designing and building a home. Now, it’s finished. Suddenly I can see lights on inside, people moving through the rooms. It’s an incredible feeling of completion, fulfillment.
After basking in that glow for a few minutes, I begin to think about all the readers who’ve written and emailed and posted on my blog, wanting to know when the next book would be out. Some were more specific. When would the next Bread Alone book be out?
Readers want the story to continue, which is a good thing…the catch is, each person envisions a different direction. With a series, there’s always that risk of disappointment. Suddenly I’m wondering if readers who liked the first two will like Baker’s Blues. Not just “like” it, but take it to heart, as they have with Bread Alone and The Baker’s Apprentice. As publication gets closer I find myself re-thinking dialogue, re-reading explanations and descriptions, hoping I’ve told enough backstory or worrying I’ve told too much.
Over the arc of years, these characters—like all of us—have changed. Wyn has gone from clueless young wife to skilled artisan baker to successful businesswoman. While she’s finding herself, the man she loves is losing himself. Mac’s always had a shadowed past and, now that he’s found success as a writer and contentment in a relationship, it’s come to claim him.
I don’t need to tell you that nobody lives happily ever after in fiction. If they did, readers would die of boredom. In fiction, there’s always an ache, a longing, a problem that can’t be solved or someone who’s gone away. Change, the one constant in life, is also the constant in fiction. In books that I read and even those that I’ve written I always wonder where the characters go after the end. What do they do? But they’re like children. At some point you have to let go of their hands and watch them walk away.
This being the last installment, the only way the “ever after” will change is in the mind of the reader. Which is perfectly fine with me.