I’ve just finished reading a well-reviewed crime novel called Palm Beach, Finland by Antti Tuomainen. It’s the first book by him I’ve tried and I enjoyed it, though it’s less a crime caper and more of an offbeat tale of eccentric losers muddling through life in a holiday resort. It’s laced with dark Scandinavian humour, which took me a while to adjust to, though the silliness of what was happening carried me along.
I was glad to see that the author had written a short afterword, explaining his thinking on how he’d tackled the writing of his latest novel, which apparently is much lighter in tone than his previous work. I think that he may have done so, to pacify his fans who might have been expecting violent thrills.
Henning Mankell‘s An Event In Autumn, a Kurt Wallander thriller includes a 14-page afterword, in which the author reflects on how he came to start writing novels about a Swedish detective.
An afterword can be an effective way of communicating with readers, letting them into your world, making them a part of the process and fostering loyalty. In a way, they act like a self-interview, similar to how sports competitors, film stars and musicians talk about what they’ve just done.
Various features can appear after The End is typed in a work of fiction, including a taster of the next book in a series via the gripping first chapter, a list of thanks by the author to friends, family and publishing staff, and an afterword.
Epilogues are also called postscripts, but they’re different to an afterword, for they’re part of the story, a tidying-up of what happened after the main thrust of the story ended. I felt compelled to write an epilogue to my first Cornish Detective novel, as there were so many bodies lying around and my protagonist detective was in such a fragile mental state that I couldn’t just abandon him! EMOJI I have a feeling that the epilogue will be the first thing to be excised by a professional editor….
I’ve also written what could become afterwords to the stories in my series, though I penned them partly as an exercise to provide material for interviews, cover blurb and marketing bumph. They also served to cleanse my palate, as it were, as I sometimes found that I’d written about themes I hadn’t considered when I started out. As American playwright Edward Albee said: “I write to find out what I’m talking about.”
An afterword is a comment by the author, or even someone else, discussing aspects of the story. The same thing can be said of the difference between a prologue and a forward.
No doubt, publishers’ attitudes towards afterwords vary, and I have a feeling that they’d only allow them if the author had an existing track record of good sales with loyal fans. If you’re self-publishing and have interacted with your readers via social media, then an afterword continues this relationship.
Have any of you written afterwords?
Do you appreciate them in a book you’re reading?
Or, do you think they’re a waste of time…too self-indulgent and an unnecessary tearing down of the fourth wall?