I’m ahead of the curve!
My sequel is done! (Well, the first draft, at least.) My agent managed to wrangle me an extension, but I was done a month ahead of the original schedule, anyway. Bahaha. And all that.
A few weeks ago I finished the rough manuscript of the second Dearly book, which is entitled (and as far as I know, no one has a problem with the title), DEARLY, BELOVED.
BELOVED is the first sequel I’ve ever written, and it was an entirely different experience. I admit, going in, I was a little trembly. A few other authors had made off-the-cuff remarks to the effect of, “Oh, second series books are the most challenging,” and I think I embraced these comments a little too tightly. While the beginning was slow, I soon picked up my usual speed.
I normally don’t talk about the process of writing – other authors do it so much better than I could ever hope to. Besides, as with the rest of my blogging, such musing usually strikes me as the sort of thing no one in their right mind would be curious about. (I’m horribly uninteresting.) But I’m going to try it this time, because I think I learned quite a bit.
So, in no particular order, here are the biggest hurdles and the best rewards from my initial work on the second installment of GONE WITH THE RESPIRATION. (Yes, that is what I’m calling my series. “Saga,” “chronicles,” and all related terms are overused, I think.)
HURDLING THE DEAD (Challenges)
1. Probably the biggest challenge was just having to pick up the threads of the first book – simple, required, and dreadfully unnerving. Because of the way DEARLY, DEPARTED came to exist (it was written for personal fun, with no intention of ever actually being published), part of editing it involved opening up the conclusion to make room for a sequel. Come BELOVED, it was time to inspect the exit wound.
And really, “exit wound” is a great term for it. A ton of terribly dark events happened in DEPARTED, and doing a sequel forced me to look at certain characters and realize, “He/she went through hell; what are they still doing here?” I had to find ways to incorporate their experiences into an ongoing story, while still (hopefully) retaining some of the irreverent humor from DEPARTED.
Specifically, the character of Pamela Roe had to be dealt with carefully. She was so extraordinarily strong in DEPARTED; yet, because of the events in that book, she is now a walking mess of scars. And my heroine, Nora, is such a passionate young woman, just this little ball of energy bouncing around furiously at everything in her environment – it was a bit tricky getting a handle on her again, at first. She has so much going on in her life, now.
2. And thus, related to that: I found myself questioning my ability to “take up” certain characters again. I found myself fearing that I’d lost them, somehow, and wouldn’t be able to reprise them. A lot of this, I discovered, was due to the fact that they had developed. I wasn’t crazy, I hadn’t lost anyone – I was just alert enough to sense the changes they’d gone through. That’s all. Separating honest development from personal shakiness in trotting out characters for a second go was quite difficult, at first.
Of all the characters that have POV chapters in book two, Bram Griswold was definitely the easiest to slip back into. I’ve always maintained that I am both feminine and masculine in temperament, both to extremes, and Bram seems to flow very naturally from the masculine part of my personality. (Note to self: Try to really reincarnate as male next time, kick major ass.)
3. And finally, I’m still a bit up in the air as to the actual content of the sequel. I’ve yet to receive any feedback on it – and writing knowing that I will be receiving feedback, and working on into the future with said feedback, is new for me. I really hope I was able to come up with situations and scenes that resonate, and are true to the original. Then again, after editing the first book, I’m now comfortable with the idea of a manuscript being extremely fluid.
Weirdly enough, while (as far as I know) everyone on my publishing team really loves the romance in the first book, I think I’m awful at writing romance! And book two, of course, has at least one major romantic couple to deal with, and a few others sort of flirting around the edges. So, fingers crossed. Guns are so much easier. I can work with guns.
FAVOR OF THE ANCESTORS (Rewards)
1. By far, the most interesting and entertaining part about writing my sequel was dealing with side characters from DEPARTED – in particular, Edmund Lopez and Vespertine Mink. These two characters were, in the first draft of book one, nothing more than throwaways. I needed a bully, and I needed a rescuer, and – tada! There they were.
In book two, though, they’ve grown into so much more. I daresay that out of the main three “schoolgirl” characters, Vespertine is the one I most identify with, now – not the heroine of the title! And Edmund is just so sweet. I want to make him a brandy and fetch his slippers.
I also had a ton of fun with the new zombie characters – Sofia Cicatriz and Patient One, in particular. Then again, I generally prefer writing the zombies – evil, good, it doesn’t matter. They’ve just got such a unique take on the world, and they’ve been through so much.
2. SAMEDI. I loooooved writing Samedi again, and I’d like to give him POV at some point. Dr. Baldwin Samedi is the only character I would describe as “springing fully formed from my brow” – from the simple “headless zombie” note I scrawled to myself, he turned into this fantastically vibrant character. Within about half an hour, I knew him completely. Book two opens up some of his past. I’d love to write more about his past exploits one day (perhaps a series of short stories?), but the majority of that action would take place while he was alive, so it mayn’t be as interesting.
3. Looking ahead. Just that. It was wonderful to revisit the characters and realize that now I have the room to write about them in depth. It’s been amazing (and humbling, and sometimes disturbing, and sometimes baaaw-worthy) to envision their respective fates. I don’t view my characters as children, or as separate entities from myself, but they’re still “people” I care a great deal about.
All in all, I hope to have the opportunity to write perhaps five or six books for the series. There’s just such a massive cast, and now I feel like they all need to be treated respectfully and thoroughly – especially the zombies who will, of course, pass away one by one. There is no immortality in my zombie books, and that’s the point.
So, now, while I’m waiting for my editors to work on the sequel, I’ve been told that there might be some interest in my old clockwork girl stories. I’m going to look into that, and perhaps work on the Samedi idea, if only to entertain myself. That’s how this whole business got started, of course!