word craft


Story Behind the Story #33: Poppy & Rye

Poppy & RyeThere are six books in the Pop­py series. That was nev­er the plan. Yes, the last chap­ter of Pop­py begins: “Almost thir­teen full moons to the night Ocax killed Rag­weed, Pop­py and her hus­band, Rye (how they met and mar­ried is anoth­er story) … ”

Though I had writ­ten just that I had no par­tic­u­lar plan to go for­ward and write the sto­ry. Indeed, Pop­py & Rye did not appear until three years later.

The rea­son it appeared at all was that the pub­lish­er of Pop­py was in all kinds of tur­moil, and it was not pos­si­ble to work with my reg­u­lar edi­tor, Richard Jackson.

As it hap­pened, in those days, Orchard Books did not issue its own paper­backs. That was giv­en over to Avon Books. They were just releas­ing the paper edi­tion of The True Con­fes­sions of Char­lotte Doyle when Avon had reor­ga­nized itself, in part by tak­ing on a new edi­tor, Elise Howard.

My first con­tact with her was when she sent me (not her work) the pro­posed cov­er of Char­lotte. It was ghast­ly. Elise, how­ev­er, was not ghast­ly. Far from it. We got along just fine. More­over, I had no pub­lish­er, no edi­tor. Dis­cus­sions ensued, and since Avon was sched­uled to pro­duce Pop­py in paper­back, it seemed log­i­cal and rea­son­able to me that I work with Elise and write that sto­ry about how Pop­py and Rye met. Per­haps Elise even sug­gest­ed the book. I don’t recall.

Thus Pop­py & Rye came to be, and Bri­an Flo­ca again agreed to do the art.

By the time that book was done, I real­ized how much I enjoyed the char­ac­ters, and that more would come. In terms of the series, Pop­py worked out as num­ber two. But it was Pop­py & Rye, num­ber three (Rag­weed, num­ber one, not yet writ­ten) that real­ly estab­lished the series in my head. Elise Howard would go on to edit the next five books in the series—and many more of my books.

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