The Sequel Experience: Seven Second-Book Authors Tell What the Story’s Like

We’ve been through the first leg of our journey. It’s taken us to a world of Kung-fu on ice, a zombie-infested Old West, a heart-pounding medieval Scotland, an idyllic 17th century England, a dangerous steampunk metropolis, where legendary beasts exist, and inside a fairy-tale storybook. Our characters emerged stronger for their struggles—some injured, some with new realizations of who they are and what they could be, and all of them ready for another adventure.

What comes next?

For the seven authors chatting today, what came next was another book: our debut novel’s sequel. In some cases, it’s the second in a multi-book series, and others it’s the book that ends the series, and in some we just don’t know yet. But no matter what, it’s Book 2, an important installment in each author’s journey, and a book linked with the first that introduces its own conflicts.

I’m in my own sequel journey just now, and I wanted to hear what some of my fellow 2018 debut authors were thinking as they brought their characters and worlds out for a second act. And so, this is our story.

To start, we’ll talk about how our sequels began.

~ Diane Magras

Henry Lien (Peasprout Chen: Battle of Champions): The sequel begins approximately 2 seconds after the end of book one. In book one, Peasprout Chen came to a new country to study at an academy that teaches an art form combining kung fu and figure skating. Peasprout learned about friendship, the dual nature of immigrant identity, and other important things, only to have those truths turned upside down at the beginning of book 2 with the arrival of a very unusual new student from her homeland.

Brad McLelland and Louis Sylvester (Fang of Bonfire Crossing): Our sequel picks up a few days after the finale of Legends of the Lost Causes (Book 1). Led by orphan Keech Blackwood, our young riders find themselves on the 1850s trail to Wisdom, a settlement in Kansas Territory, where they must collect new information in their quest to bring the evil Reverend Rose and his henchmen to justice. Along the way, the kids encounter the nefarious villain, Big Ben Loving, as well as a deadly shapeshifter that’s been tracking them.

Diane Magras (The Hunt for the Mad Wolf’s Daughter): My sequel starts about two hours after the first book ends in a village hut where my protagonist, Drest, wakes to the sound of a crow’s coded warning of danger: A single knight is drawing near. Drest has just escaped Faintree Castle and its fleet of murderous knights with some beloved people in tow whom they want dead. She must decide in the very first chapter whether she can protect those she loves by hiding, or by confronting her enemy. Her decision leads to a price on her head that she could have never imagined.

Melinda Beatty(Riverbound): Only Fallow can see lies–an ability that’s brought her to serve the king of Orstral. But she’s determined to get home any way she can, and, with her friend Lark, stop the persecution of the river-dwelling Ordish. But palace life is tricky and Only needs to figure out who to trust–and quickly!

Jeff Seymour (Nadya Skylung and the Masked Kidnapper): As Nadya Skylung’s cloudship Orion docks among the glorious, dangerous steampunk skyscrapers of Far Agondy, three pirates the crew are turning over to the city’s police state a daring escape. Pursuing them despite her captain ordering her not to for her own safety, Nadya discovers the city’s children are being snatched by a sinister crime lord known as Silvermask. And when he takes a personal interest in her, it’ll take all her wits and courage to keep herself, and her friends, out of his grasp.





Lija Fisher (The Cryptid Keeper): My sequel begins with Clivo and the Myth Blasters diving deeper into the world of legendary creature seeking, while desperately avoiding the bad guys (and the prying eyes of Aunt Pearl!).

Tara Gilboy (Rewritten): My sequel picks up six months after the end of book one. Gracie and the other storybook characters are living with their author, Gertrude Winters, who has given up writing stories, afraid they will come to life like Gracie’s tale did.

What did you like most about writing your sequel?

Henry Lien: My favorite thing about writing the sequel was dealing with the specter of Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, which I consider the best sequel of all time. I daily, maybe hourly, reminded myself that that was the high bar of sequels and I wanted intensely to write a sequel that made a triple leap forward like Rowling did with Azkaban. I also wanted to write the most spectacular, Miyazaki-sequel action sequences I could imagine for this book. I wanted to create my own diverse Harry Potter with an anime soul.

Brad McLelland and Louis Sylvester: Though writing this book presented plenty challenges, we loved getting to move our young characters into a brand new space with trickier trials and scarier encounters. We particularly enjoyed the chance to explore our characters’ motivations and back stories more deeply, then letting those new pieces of information illuminate our plot decisions. Writing a series can be a delicate endeavor, but even with the complications that came with pushing our story onward, we think writing the second book allowed us to stretch our legs a bit more. We also loved being able to introduce two new exciting characters who become trailmates on Keech’s quest. We think readers will fall in love with these two new characters, as well as enjoy the stepped-up elements of suspense and danger. (Beware the Chamelia! Just sayin’.)

Diane Magras: I loved having the chance to deepen my characters’ stories and their relationships. My sequel gave room for Drest to really grow. While running for her life and strategizing how she’ll escape the sentence on her head, Drest questions who she is and what she could be in a way that goes a step beyond the first book. Other characters struggle with their identities too, such as Emerick, the injured young knight from the first book. The sequel gave me room to deepen their friendship and show each of them take enormous risks for the other. And it also gave me the chance to have scenes with Drest’s brothers. In the first book, readers heard only their voices as Drest embarked on her journey. In the sequel, I could show them interacting with each other—bickering, but also supporting—with new insults!

Melinda Beatty: I loved visiting with Only again and throwing everything I had at her and her friends, just to watch them survive, thrive and overcome! I also enjoyed writing some new characters to bring more humor to the story, like the Thorvald royals and my “fishmongers” Warin and Dodd. Funny is where I live as a writer, and getting to write these bits were like literary “dessert” for me!

Jeff Seymour: I absolutely loved writing the action sequences. Staging the thrilling chases, nail-biting escapes, and dangerous fights that are the hallmark of a Nadya book with Nadya on crutches (recovering from losing her leg in the last book) made them much more creative than they would’ve been otherwise. Nadya fights Silvermask and his goons on zip-lines, with hang gliders, and using a hand-cranked recumbent bicycle. She finds ways to work around and with her physical differences to come out on top. I love those scenes, and I still like to go back and re-read them.

Lija Fisher: I loved writing this sequel because I got to do so while on a writing residency through Aspen Words and the Catto Shaw Foundation. I spent a month in a cabin in Woody Creek, CO (home of Hunter S. Thompson!) where my only responsibility was to write. It was heaven. Since I already knew the characters and the world, I could focus on the plot and fully immerse myself in creating a fun adventure with lots of mystery and even more humor!

Tara Gilboy: I loved being able to spend more time with my characters. I also loved studying different kinds of stories and thinking about what each genre’s tropes and clichés are. For this book, I wanted to play around with the horror genre, and so I read a lot of classic gothic horror novels like Dracula and Frankenstein and thought about what elements are commonly used in horror and how to both poke fun at those tropes and use them in new ways. I then also had to consider why Gertrude would write a story like that, since she is the author in my book responsible for creating the world of the horror story.

What was the hardest part of writing your sequel?

Henry Lien: Both Peasprout Chen books are very quickly-paced clockwork puzzles, like Prisoner of Azkaban, with a number of huge secrets hiding in plain view. That kind of book requires precise choreography to pull off in a way that doesn’t seem effortful or contrived. Thus, I created a coded spreadsheet approach so that I could see the progression of each clue for each plot thread, where it occurred in terms of pages, where it occurred in terms of calendar days of the school year in the book, how evenly spaced the action sequences and major emotional confrontations were, etc. It was enlightening because I could step back and see my book like a musical score or a multi-floor dungeon map like in video games such as Legend of Zelda.

Brad McLelland and Louis Sylvester: The hardest drafting for us didn’t really arrive until the midpoint of the book, where our Lost Causes ride into a dangerous town and encounter all sorts of deadly challenges. Because this situation involved lots of complicated movements around a new geographical space, we had to put our thinking caps on when mapping out our characters’ steps and decisions. How can we keep our narrative rolling smoothly without bogging the reader down with details? This was the main question we kept in mind while writing – and to tell the truth, it wasn’t easy! The Lost Causes’ final battle was also quite difficult to draft, again because of numerous players on the field. Writing the action one sentence at a time, and using lots of carefully outlined notes, helped us tackle the harrowing finale (which also helped us set up the pieces for an EPIC final Book 3 in the series).

Diane Magras: For me, it was getting the right angle of this story to tell. Before this draft, I’d written a very different Book 2 that reached a different conclusion with scenes I loved (including a castle rescue and a village confrontation scene that don’t now appear in the book). I knew what the point of the story had to be, but it wasn’t about Drest serving others. This had to be around her. And with the obvious necessary goal—regaining the castle—I needed to make it essential to her and not just the other characters. Remembering a tidbit of medieval law—the concept of the wolf’s head—helped me realize the moral focus of the story. Having Drest run for her own life and not for the sake of others added a new urgency—and gave me an excuse to show off her incredible physical training in more than one scene.

Melinda Beatty: The book was almost totally re-written between drafts 2 and 3– and I only had about 3 weeks to do it! It was the most challenging things I’ve ever done, but at the same time, one of the most rewarding and confidence building. I’ve always thought of myself as a slow writer–painfully slow sometimes–but having such a short time to totally re-imagine my story showed me that I definitely have it in me to work in a way I’d never thought possible.

Jeff Seymour: Getting Nadya’s recovery from amputation right. I’m not an amputee, so I worked with the author Kati Gardner, who is, on the book. Folding her recommendations into the story in ways that felt natural to it was sometimes challenging. For instance, she recommended I avoid using the term “stump,” which some amputees don’t like. But “residual limb,” the less controversial term, felt too medical for Nadya’s voice. So I settled on having Nadya name her residual limb “the Mighty Lady,” (nicknames being something real-life amputees sometimes do too, and definitely a Nadya thing to do) and she refers to it as “the Lady” through most of the book.

Lija Fisher: The hardest part of writing this sequel was doing it so quickly! I wrote the entire book during my month-long residency because I was determined to make the most use of my time. I wrote from 4:30am to about 3pm every day, and keeping my brain in ‘creative mode’ for that many hours was really hard. But also fun! The nice thing about being in the mountains is that whenever I had no idea what came next, I’d go out for a hike or bike ride and let my brain rest until the next idea showed up!

Tara Gilboy: The hardest part of writing this book was incorporating all of what had happened in Unwritten, the first book, without confusing my readers. I knew that some readers would have read the first book, but others may not, and so I wanted to tell a story that could stand on its own for new readers, but also one that built on what had already happened in book one. I really struggled to find ways to weave in bits of information about things that had happened in book one without boring the reader with lots of summary and backstory. My editor helped me a lot with that in revision, and I hope I was successful!

Our sequels in ten words:

Henry Lien: Kung-fu figure-skating boarding school adventure about immigration and teamwork.

Brad McLelland and Louis Sylvester: Expect new friendships forged, spookier situations, and a few seriously shocking twists.

Diane Magras: Castles, swords, betrayals, secrets, loyal friends, family, and a daring battle.

Melinda Beatty: Adventure, friendship, learning about privilege, conspiracy, and lovable rogues.

Jeff Seymour: A heroine on crutches, a steampunk metropolis, thrilling fights, and a big twist at the end.

Lija Fisher: Adventure! Humor! Mystery! Search for the unknown! Cryptozoology! Friendship! Crazy gadgets!

Tara Gilboy: Spooky mansions, a magic book, a scary beast, and accepting the bad parts of ourselves.

More about our books :

Henry Lien/Peasprout Chen: Battle of Champions/January 22, 2019

Now in her Second Year at Pearl Famous Academy of Skate and Sword, Peasprout Chen strives to reclaim her place as a champion of wu liu, the sport of martial arts figure skating. But, with the new year comes new competition, and Peasprout’s dreams are thwarted by an impressive transfer student. Yinmei is the heir to the Shinian throne and has fled her country for Pearl. When she excels both academically and socially, Peasprout begins to suspect that Yinmei is not a refugee at all but a spy. When the Empress of Shin threatens to invade the city of Pearl, Peasprout makes a bold decision. To keep her enemy close, Peasprout joins Yinmei’s “battleband,” a team that executes elaborate skating configurations that are part musical spectacle, part defensive attack. In Henry Lien’s Peasprout Chen: Battle of Champions, Peasprout guides her battleband on a mission to save Pearl, and learns what it truly means to be a leader.

Brad McLelland and Louis Sylvester/Battle of Bonfire Crossing/February 19, 2019

Keech Blackwood and his band of fellow orphans demand justice for their fallen families. But the road to retribution is a long and hard-fought journey. After defeating Bad Whiskey Nelson, the man who burned Keech’s home to the ground, the Lost Causes have a new mission: find Bonfire Crossing, the mysterious land that holds clues to the whereabouts of the all-powerful Char Stone. Along the way they’ll have to fend off a shapeshifting beast, a swarm of river monsters, and a fearsome desperado named Big Ben Loving who conjures tornadoes out of thin air. It’s an epic standoff between the Lost Causes and the outlaw Reverend Rose, a powerful sorcerer who would be unstoppable with the Stone in his possession. With the world—and vengeance—hanging in the balance, the Lost Causes are ready for battle.

Diane Magras/ The Hunt for the Mad Wolf’s Daughter: March 5, 2019

Brave warrior, bloodthirsty villain, vicious lass, wolf’s head—Drest can see herself in most of the names she’s been called, except the last. Wolf’s head. It’s a sentence of death-without-trial that’s been decreed by the ruler of Faintree Castle: the traitor Sir Oswyn. And one of his knights is determined to earn the sentence’s rich reward. It’s also a sentence that Drest tries to keep secret when her father and brothers (the Mad Wolf and his war-band) flee the castle men who are hunting them, leaving her in a village to protect the deposed and wounded young Lord Faintree. But word of the wolf’s head travels, and Drest is soon in grave danger. Unless she’s willing to run for the rest of her life or hide as an ordinary maiden, her only hope is for Lord Faintree to regain his power and reverse the sentence. Drest must decide who she really is and how much longer she is willing to risk her life before Sir Oswyn’s knight catches his wolf.

Melinda Beatty/Riverbound/June 4, 2019

Only Fallow can see lies–a cunning so powerful that the King insists on keeping her in the palace, tasked with helping him flush out traitors. When the King’s counselor, Lamia, tells Only of her plan to oust the King and put his daughter on the throne, Only is eager to help. Though Only’s cunning would be useful to any ruler, the Princess had promised to send Only home when she becomes Queen. But Only soon learns the truth is a complicated matter–especially when the fate of a country hangs in the balance. Now wound tight in a twisted plot, Only must set the record straight to stop the destruction of everything–and everyone–she holds dear.

Jeff Seymour/Nadya Skylung and the Masked Kidnapper/June 25, 2019

Nadya Skylung paid a high price when she defeated the pirates on the cloudship Remora. She lost her leg. But has she lost her nerve too? When Nadya and the rest of the crew of the cloudship Orion reach the port of Far Agondy, they have a lot to do, including a visit to Machinist Gossner’s workshop to have a prosthetic made for Nadya. But though the pirates are far away across the Cloud Sea, Nadya and her friends are still not safe. A gang leader called Silvermask is kidnapping skylung and cloudling children in Far Agondy. When Nadya’s friend Aaron is abducted, Nayda will stop at nothing to save him and the other missing kids, and put a stop to Silvermask once and for all.

Lija Fisher/ The Cryptid Keeper/ August 20, 2019

Clivo and the Myth Blasters are back on the trail of the immortal cryptid in this conclusion to a monstrously funny middle-grade duology by Lija Fisher. Life has gotten complicated for thirteen-year-old Clivo Wren. After taking up his deceased father’s mission to find the extraordinary creature whose blood grants everlasting life, Clivo is spending his summer not at camp or hanging out with his friends, but jetting all over the world tracking cryptids—while keeping his aunt Pearl in the dark about his dangerous adventures. At the same time, a shocking development unveils the truth about Clivo’s enemies, and the cryptids themselves are posing trouble at every turn. With the help of his crew of Myth Blasters, Clivo is going to need all of the tools, gadgets, and training he has to prevent the immortal cryptid from falling into the wrong hands—and to keep Aunt Pearl off the case.

Tara Gilboy/Rewritten/April 7, 2020

After learning the truth about her own fairy tale, twelve-year-old Gracie wants nothing more than to move past the terrible things author Gertrude Winters wrote about her and begin a new chapter in the real world. If only things were going as planned. On the run from the evil Queen Cassandra, the characters from Gracie’s story have all been forced to start over, but some of them cannot forget Gracie’s checkered past. Even worse, Gracie discovers that her story is still being written in Cassandra’s magic book, the Vademecum. As long as Cassandra has the Vademecum, none of the characters are safe, including Gracie’s mom and dad. In a desperate attempt to set things right, Gracie finds herself transported into another one of Gertrude’s tales—but this one is a horror story. Can Gracie face her destiny and the wild beast roaming the night, to rewrite her own story?

One thought on “The Sequel Experience: Seven Second-Book Authors Tell What the Story’s Like

  1. SO looking forward to reading these!

    If you’ll be so kind, authors: How much did your plans for your sequel play into writing Book 1/its prequel? At any stage?
    I’m in an R&R for A book which I’d be over the moon to have published, but I can’t stop thinking what would happen, be revealed, etc in its sequel!

    Like

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