Q and A – show me the money

Here’s the latest in my series of Q and A sessions, with a question from Rani who recently read Song of the Sea God – she posted her review of the book on Amazon to see it click here. And many thanks to her for the kind review and for the question! If you have anything to ask me about my book, writing generally, publishing, or indeed anything else I might be able to help with then please ask in the comments below or let me know on Facebook or Twitter.

At the end of Song of the Sea God, what happened to the piles of money in Bes’s van?

Rani from London.

It’s funny, when you write a book – sometimes there are loose ends, and I suppose this is one. Money’s important isn’t it? Many of us base our lives on it – and this is a question about what happens to a lot of money in my book.

I think this question is a great example of the point at which a writer’s work ends and the reader’s begins.

Dr Johnson said “A writer only begins a book. A reader finishes it.”

And that’s a sentiment which rings true to me both as a writer and a reader.

I believe any book you read will leave unanswered questions – some within the text, some beyond the end of the book, some before it even began. Good books should do this I think. They should respect and nurture the imagination of the reader.

So I would honestly say that Rani’s answer to this question, or the answer of any reader who has read the book, would be as valid as mine. Still, since I have been asked the question I will do my best to answer it.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAFor those who’ve not read Song of the Sea God I’d better quickly explain the background. John Love, the main character who’s a charismatic shaman, or con-man or cult-leader or whatever the reader wants to think about him, sells cures and miracles to the people of the island where the story is set. His disciple, Bes, the narrator of the book, collects up the money and keeps it in his static caravan (Trailer, American friends) where the pair live for the duration of the book.

Who knows how much money there is by the end of the story? A lot. It is described as lying around, piled in drifts, being crammed into cupboards. I think I got the image for all the money lying around from the years I spent as a newspaper crime reporter. Often drug-dealers were described in this way – police busts discovered them surrounded by piles of cash. It was almost as though the money had overwhelmed them, or that it no-longer mattered to them.

I think I chose the image because I believed two things. One was that John Love could be compared to a drug dealer. He was pedalling something people really wanted, and could easily become addicted to.

The second thing I believed was that neither John Love, nor Bes really cared about money. Like the drug dealers they left it lying around in piles, like so much rubbish, because they didn’t honestly know what to do with it.

US_Dollar_banknotesBes never had a use for money. The descriptions in Sea God of how the character subsists involve low-level wheeling and dealing – getting by and feeding the vice of buying books.

John Love certainly doesn’t care about money. He has one aim – pure and clear and simple – he wants to be a god. Money is for mortals.

So, while many books, most thrillers for example, make the acquisition of money their main and central point, in Sea God it is an irrelevance, some scraps of paper left lying around a modest home. Perhaps that’s why I forgot to tidy up the loose end of what happens to the cash when the book ends.

There are much bigger loose ends too of course – like what happens to the legend, the gospel, the message of John Love? Does his star rise – does he get to become a god?

Here’s what I hope happened to the money. I hope it made Bes happy. By which I mean, more comfortable and able to create a decent life. Bes is a character I have great affection for – albeit a character who is flawed, fooled, and pulled into making some awful decisions. I hope Bes found a use for the money.

And I hope that answered the question Rani!

Song of the Sea God visualDon’t forget if you get a moment to take a look at my book Song of the Sea God.

You can look inside to read the first few pages free and download a free Kindle sample for UK readers here. And for readers in the USA here.

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12 thoughts on “Q and A – show me the money

  1. Interesting question, Chris. I like the fact that endings leave a sort of “I wonder” question. The story then really lives in people’s imaginations. If there is none of that, it might be that the book never comes alive for the reader. Your wish for Bes sounds good 🙂

    • Thanks Val – I think it’s an important aspect of storytelling to try to make the reader care about what happens when the book ends. Look forward to reading your interview on Carol Hedges’ blog today too.

  2. Hi Chris. I have to confess I haven’t read your book yet, but it’s on my ‘to read’ list and this post makes it sound very intriguing indeed. It’s an interesting question about tying up the loose ends of a plot. I think many readers like a neat ending because in most people’s complex lives, this rarely happens, so perhaps fiction can satisfy this fantasy. But, most importantly, what does happen to John Love? I want to know too and I haven’t read the book yet! The fact that readers are curious to know more is always a good thing. And is there a sequel there perhaps?

    • Thank you Marjory 🙂 it might be a little too much of a spoiler for me to talk about the end of the book but it does indeed leave the reader to make up their mind what happens next. The question of sequels is an interesting one – and probably worth a blog post of its own. I suppose I would say they are not for me – and instead there are new worlds to create!

      • I was really being rhetorical asking what happens to John Love? I didn’t want you to do a spoiler since that would spoil the ending for me too when I read your book. Certainly a blog post on sequels would be useful.

  3. I didn’t mean a sequel as such, more a case of other books featuring the same character in different situations, like Patricia Highsmith’s Ripley series which is one of my favourites. But I am taking this too far in terms of your book. I can see you’re looking for fresh new creations. Good luck with everything.

  4. Chris, I was so floored by the news about Bes at the end that I didn’t even think of the money– but it’s a good point! Were the other characters changed enough by the whole experience to not want ‘their’ money back? Or did they return to previous form?

    That people are thinking about the details and wondering what’s next sure seems to say something about “Song!” But enough celebrating, where are those short stories you mentioned previously? Best, L.R.

    • There are all sorts of alternatives aren’t there? I love it that people care enough about the book to wonder about these details.
      As far as the stories go I’m still working on them. But even if I had them ready now and, in the unlikely event that my current publisher or some other accepted them right away I would still be waiting a year or longer until a book came out. Nothing moves quickly in the world of publishing it seems!

      • Believe me, I know how slowly the wheels turn. That was more of a jest than anything else. With networking and marketing thrown into the mix, it’s hard to find time to write, let alone get the book (or script) into the right hands. But I do look forward to reading your next book whenever that might be. Thanks, L.R.

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