AQATSA status: 243K words. I am on Chapter 40, and to try to discipline myself (and push myself to the end, at least of the first draft), my outline says: 44 chapters. I've even named the next four chapters.
PhoebeCaulfield wrote a very nice review of the Alexandra Quick series, and pointed out what some other people have said, which is that I do not have the same dynamic going between Alexandra and her friends that Rowling established with Harry, Ron, and Hermione. There are various reasons for this -- my crew is bigger, Alexandra is more independent, I'm probably not as good a writer as Rowling, and also I tend to carve stories out of a big chunk of clay with a rough idea of what I want it to look like in the end, and while I also have certain subplots and character arcs in mind as I go, a lot of it is improvised in the editing and so, for example, I tend to fit Anna and David and the Pritchards into the story where they will fit, rather than saying, "What can I do to make the story more about them?"
In AQATSA I have deliberately highlighted all of Alex's friends a bit more. There are some major subplots involving all of them, and even David, probably my most neglected primary secondary character, gets some more development than he did in the first three books. I am not sure if this will make up for the many chapters in which Alexandra is once again running off on her own, but both the author and Alexandra herself are making a deliberate effort to include her friends more in her adventures.
So, below I have two rambles/questions in which I actually am soliciting feedback and would like to know your thoughts.
Is Alexandra Quick AU? Is it going AU?
Right now, the story really is kind of all over the place, because I have refrained from doing as much editing as I have in the past before finishing a first draft. There are characters who have virtually disappeared who I might decide need to be in the story after all. There are new characters I may have to erase. There are some major happenings in which AQ threatens to really push the canon envelope. I have always considered Alexandra Quick "canon-compliant," which means while it is obviously not canon, and people may have issues with a few liberties I have taken with Rowling's setting and magical rules, I have always imagined that it could take place in Rowling's universe, since she pretty much left the world outside of Britain a big blank area.
There are certain things you can do and still remain canon-compliant, and certain things you can't. For example, the Lands Below, the Lands Beyond, and the Most Deathly Power are, at most, hinted at in Rowling's universe, but she hasn't written anything that would absolutely exclude them, or make them incompatible with her setting. On the other hand, if I were to have wizards openly taking over America -- well, I guess you could theoretically say that that's just not something Harry and Ginny thought worth mentioning while they were seeing their kids off to Hogwarts in the Epilogue, but still... Likewise having Greek gods show up, or revealing that wizards get their magical powers from midichlorians. Did Rowling specifically say "No Greek gods, no midichlorians"? No, but clearly elements like that don't really fit in the Potterverse.
All this is to say, in AQATSA I may be pushing that envelope a bit more, and I'm still deciding how far canon might get chucked out the window by the end of the series. Originally my plan was definitely to stay canon-compliant all the way to the end. There are pros and cons of constraining myself this way. The pros are that canon purists can still enjoy the story without feeling like I totally abandoned the spirit of Rowling's work, and it's also good discipline and keeps me from completely going off the rails into crack!fic land. The cons are that it constrains me, and maybe I want to do something Rowling just wouldn't.
(Don't worry, I am not entertaining thoughts of midichlorians.)
Actually, I find fourteen-year-olds pretty annoying even if they aren't like Alexandra.
Alexandra is not a typical fourteen-year-old girl. She's got a combination of traits both positive and negative that set her apart, even aside from being a witch. That's what makes a main character and a heroine, is being different from her peers. And Alexandra has been through experiences that would toughen up and change any teenager.
At the same time, I wonder if she is not a little too unlike a normal fourteen-year-old.
I went lurking a few blogs and boards where tweens and teens post (I really wish there was a way that that doesn't sound creepy :\) to get a feel for what actual kids Alexandra's age sound like. And... boy, do Alexandra and her friends not sound like any fourteen and fifteen-year-olds I found. Now granted, an online presentation is different from a face-to-face personality, and also Alexandra and her friends are part of a distinct subculture -- even in the few years Alexandra has been going to Charmbridge, she's been largely cut off from Muggle teen culture, which has only made her even more of an odd duck when she goes home to Larkin Mills.
But, my impression, and it could be an erroneous one, is that the average fourteen-year-old is pretty immature and unserious compared to Alexandra, Anna, the Pritchards, and even David (who remains the most Muggle-acculturated of their group).
This is complicated by the fact that the topic of S-E-X is going to rear its head in book four. So the teenage girl being written by a very-much-older-than-a-teenage male author just makes it even more complicated
I can handle Alexandra being a bit atypical, but I hope actual teenagers won't read AQ and think: "Those kids sound like the way my Dad talks." :P