Let me tell you the two most common questions I’ve heard in the three weeks since Fierce Kingdom was released: 1) What’s the deal with the movie? 2) What happens at the end of the story?
So here goes: First of all, as for the movie, it is not an actual thing yet. There have been movie rights sold, and there’s a screenplay in process, but that does not equate to a real, buy-your-tickets movie. There are lots of steps still to go in the process. We’ll see.
But about the ending. Endings are, of course, hard to talk about in a public way. Spoilers and all. But it’s been really interesting to me that what was an intentionally open-ended, multi-layered ending has driven some people crazy. It’s a matter of perspective, I guess. As a reader, it drives ME crazy when writers overstate their themes and act as if I’m not smart enough to make my own conclusions…to fill in the gaps myself. I do assume that a reader is smart and thoughtful, and I’ve always loved the idea that the reader comes to a book and joins with the author, and between the two of them, they make this new thing. The book is different for every reader. (For all you English majors out there, it’s reader response theory in action.)
So I like that the reader can decide for themselves what happens. There are two (I think ) different ways you can read the ending of Fierce Kingdom. Joan either _______ or ___________ . (I’m not sure if my code is too obvious there or not.) In ways I didn’t intend, I think the ending has turned out as a litmus test for how people view the world. My husband read the first draft of the book and stalked into the room saying, “I can’t believe you_________!” And I said, “I didn’t!”
I might say that he’s a pessimist and I’m an optimist, and that’s the difference in the way we see the ending. I like that he can have a different ending than I did. That you can have a different ending than I did. So that’s one reason for the content of the last few pages. The other is that, in as much as the book is about parenting, the truth is that–in the best of circumstances–you leave your child behind. You go and they stay. So the ending can’t be all smiley faces and rainbows. That’s not life.
And another thing about life: we don’t get everything tied up neatly. We don’t KNOW how our actions effect everyone down the line. Joan can’t know the end result for everyone at the end of the night.
But, for what it’s worth, I always veer towards light instead of dark. Good does not always triumph in real life, but if this is my story, I want good to conquer.