How did Diana end up taking over the Avalon series?
After the publication of The Mists of Avalon, Marion’s health began to decline. Already diabetic, she had a major stroke while she was writing The Forest House, based on the opera Norma , which Marion had loved since she was in her teens. She managed to finish a first draft, but the stroke had affected her ability to focus, and the result was not publishable. Her husband suggested that she ask Diana, who had already provided research help and moral support during the writing of The Mists of Avalon, to rewrite it. Diana consolidated and clarified what Marion had written and filled in the historical background. She also suggested that instead of killing everyone off in the end, as happens in the opera, Caillean be spared to save Eilan’s son and re-establish the priestesses on Avalon. The result worked so well that the publishers asked for a sequel, which was Lady of Avalon.
It’s clear that some of the characters in the series are reincarnations of each other. How did that happen, and who’s who?
When Diana was working on The Forest House, Marion mentioned that she thought Caillean and Eilan were reincarnations of Domaris and Deoris in Web of Light and Web of Darkness (later re-issued as The Fall of Atlantis). By the time Lady of Avalon was written, Marion was only able to write short pieces, so the book was planned as a trilogy of novelettes, united by the fact that all the major characters were reincarnations. In Mists, Marion had already included a scene in which Igraine dreams that she and Uther were a priestess and priest of Atlantis, watching the building of Stonehenge. Clearly these were Mikhail and Tiriki from the Web/Atlantis books, and Ancestors of Avalon tells their story.
For a chart of the relationships, see Reincarnations.
How many Avalon books will there be?
The Mists of Avalon will always remain the culmination and completion of the series. Marion did not leave a sheaf of notes on the evolution of Avalon, but she did leave the myth of a sacred community with an ancient history. The story of that community from the coming of the Romans to the time of Arthur has mostly been covered, however between the building of Stonehenge in 2000 BCE and the Roman conquest in the first century CE, there’s room for many stories, one of which has been told in Sword of Avalon, set in the twelfth century BCE.