Were you waiting with bated breath for a second sequel to Margaret Mitchell‘s iconic novel (and debut at that) GONE WITH THE WIND? Did Alexandra Ripley‘s SCARLETT heighten your anticipation sooooo much that there had to be more? Well if so, you’ll be interested in Motoko Rich‘s piece on the trials and tribulations of bringing that second sequel to print. It’s aken 12 years, three authors and one rejected manuscript, but tomorrow will be another day when RHETT BUTLER’S PEOPLE is published by St. Martin’s Press this fall. The new book, more a retelling from Rhett’s point of view, is written by Donald McCaig, a former advertising copywriter turned Virginia sheep farmer who has written well-reviewed novels about the Civil War.
When Ripley’s book did so well, a second sequel seemed a slam-dunk and St. Martin’s originally commissioned Emma Tennant to write it in 1995 with the caveat that she stay true to Mitchell’s tone, vision and characters. But her finished manuscript was rejected on the grounds it was “too British in tone”, so she was fired and legally prohibited from ever publishing her manuscript. Talks then began with Pat Conroy but his quest for editorial freedom clashed with the estate and publisher’s ideas. Four years had passed and nothing had happened until editor Hope Dellon walked into a bookstore and found one of McCaig’s novels.
Following up on a follow-up inevitably has its challenges. “I’m almost certain that there’s going to be people who really have a bone to pick with GONE WITH THE WIND who are going to take it out on this,” McCaig said. “There’s going to be adoring fans who find places where I distorted the true meaning of the original. And there’s going to be some people who think it’s a pretty good book.”