By John Gilstrap
As part of our larger plan to carpet bomb the planet with Gilstrap fiction, NATHAN’S RUN, my first novel, originally published in 1996, is once again available–first as an eBook, and then next year as a mass market paperback.
My publisher, Kensington, is trying a few cool marketing gimmicks for this release. Most notable is the fact that it will be exclusive to Barnes and Noble’s Nook for the first five months–through the end of 2011. Then, in January, it will be available on all eBook formats. I guess this is a way to gain favor with the world’s only remaining behemoth bookstore.
When the Kensington team and I were discussing the plans for the rerelease, we came up with another idea that I thought was exceptionally cool: the alternative ending. My original ending for NATHAN’S RUN was significantly different than the ending in the published book. Readers of the new version will be directed to a site where they can read my original version. It will be interesting to see what kind of response I get.
Truth be told, I’m not one hundred percent comfortable doing this. A printed book lives forever locked in the version that was printed and distributed. There is no alternative version, and part of me thinks that’s the way it should be, with the artist’s vision locked down and reflecting his or her world view at the time.
On the other hand, I’ve always been fascinated with the process that produces art. I love, for example, reading the line edited works of the masters to see how their thoughts evolved over time.
What do you think? Is it intriguing to see what “might have been” in a work of fiction, or would you prefer that the original version stand alone forever?
Well if Nathan’s Run doesn’t release to Kindle till next year, that will give me time to get to Threat Warning which is sitting in my digital to-be-read pile.
RE: Alternative ending. Hmmm…it’s kind of hard to imagine such a thing because I’ve never read a book that did that. But my instinctual inclination is to shy away from alternatives. I think the concept of doing an alternative has the potential to be disappointing, just as sequels are frequently disappointing.
But who knows? For every person like me who thinks a sequel would have been better off never done, there’s someone else who thought it was awesome. Six of one, half dozen of another. 😎
Alternative endings can be fascinating.
Also, seeing the edits other writers make as their work progresses is interesting. For one thing, it lets me know that other writers actually do make changes as they work. As I write, rewrite, edit, and reedit, I sometimes worry I am the only writer who struggles with getting it right. I am concerned that everyone else can create perfection with their first draft, but I take dozens, and that might indicate I have chosen the wrong life’s path.
I love the alternate ending idea, John. It’s a great promo tool and so much better than a publisher merely reprinting the same material. I dislike buying a reissued book, not noticing the copyright date, and find the content is dated. Simple things like cell phone use & certain spy craft/surveillance gear can have great influence on a plot, depending on how old the original work is. And in this digital world, extra content can be added. I love that Kensington is doing something different.
Loved THREAT WARNING btw. It’s on my kindle. Great, compelling cast of characters, good guys & bad. Well done!
I’m always wanting to re-write the endings of movies (well, some movies).
That’s my creative spirit speaking up (and I realize that’s a double edged sword).
It was like a special little treat when DVD’s first allowed that sort of thing…
One thing’s for sure…
An alternate ending for a book will generate conversation, and some of it may sting, but I see it as a creative jump that will spark imagination.
Isn’t that why we do this to start with?
I say go for it John. Shake ’em up!
I can only relate the alternate ending idea to movies. Many times, I’ve watched DVDs with alternative endings or “director’s cut” versions. Deleted scenes are another common feature on many DVDs. I’ve found that once I watch the theatrical release, that version is what’s planted in my head. Seeing an alternative rarely works. And the deleted scenes always seem to have been deleted for a good reason: they added little or nothing to the story.
John, I admire you for being innovative and breathing new life into a story from the past. I’ll be interested in hearing the reaction of your previous readers to the new version. Good luck.
John, I’ve told you this before, but I count NATHAN’S RUN as one of my all-time favorite books. It has helped inspire me in my own writing. I think I’ll stick with the ending I remember, though. Now, maybe in the movie version…
I’m with Joe on the alternate ending stuff. I wonder why this is so.
Is it generational? Do younger readers not share the same hesitation? That well may be. Maybe Pomos are much less interested in finished products as in being part of the product, and alt endings are one way to approach that.
It depends on why there was an alternate ending. Was the original ending something you really loved, but the publisher said “no way” and insisted you change it (in which case it could be interesting)? Or did you decide it didn’t work and changed it yourself (and maybe it still doesn’t work so why bring it back)? Or is it different just to be different (sigh)? Unless it was some sort of censorship issue one it’s out there it’s done. As Joe Moore stated the reason a lot of stuff that winds up on the cutting room floor (and later back in the “special” DVD) winds up there because it didn’t work, it didn’t advance the plot or develop the characters. Ditto for books: if it doesn’t work, get it out of there and may it never return.
Unlike JD I always look at the copyright date. If I were to read a book originally written in, say, the 70s and it were updated and the characters were all talking on cell phones that would bug me. OTOH sometimes I’m watching a movie set in a long ago time period (a Western, for example) and I just wish the characters would pick up the dang phone and get it over with!
I guess I believe that an author makes choices and any number of scenarios can be chosen by scene or by major plot movements. It does take guts however for you to rethink the ending. This is no minor thing.
I suppose avid readers love being in the minds of their favorite authors too, so they might relish a well-crafted alternative. For me, the book is always a product of the creative mind of the author–and for authors I love, I trust where they take me.
Robert Ludlum was the first author who lit a fire under me with regard to writing. I saw the craft behind his work and how he made a real page turner. That experience was intellectually stimulating beyond just where the book took me. Very unexpected. A life changer.
I’m not sure this is an age thing or just a mindset, Jim.
I am one who enjoys alternate endings and would even re-read a book, or at least the changed parts, to get a different story out of it. One of my favourite movies, “Brazil”, had two endings forced upon it but Hollywood. The British version ends in a dark and scary place, but Hollywood said Americans demand a ‘happy ending’ and therefore cut the movie differently. The ending came out significantly different.
With books, I was one of those kids who enjoyed the “Choose Your Own Adventure” stories. When the local library ran out of new ones I ended up making my own based on TV characters and shows. Steve Austin, Charlie’s Angels and Columbo all had very different endings in my world.
I like alternate endings when it is the writer’s vision and not a third-party’s thought about how things should end. That’s the reason I hate most big screen novel adaptations. I always think that if the writer wanted it to end that way, he’d have written it that way.
However, this new version of Nathan’s Run intrigues me and I think it is a great way to reintroduce your backlist to ebook. Kudos to having such an innovative publisher.
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Me? I love choices. I like your plan.
Remember the book, French Lieutenant’s Woman? That book had two endings. You could pick the one you wanted.
I loved that book’s twist to the plot so much, that I threw the book across the room when I finished it.
I was angry at the ending, but I LOVED it!
Then he added another version to mollify folks like me who became angry. Go figure. Never read that version, but it was nice to know I had a choice! LOL!!
Go for it, John!