Writing sequel or follow on novel is a relatively new experience for me; I had never done it before last year, when following ‘Radwinter’ my genealogical novel, ‘Magick’ somehow wrote itself.
I was very conscious of the dilemma of this writing situation, where for the readers who are already familiar with the characters and their situation and history the story moves on, but for those readers who haven’t read the first story and start off on the second there needs to be some sort of context and explanation. However, the context and explanation for the new readers mustn’t be tedious or repetitive for the ‘old’ readers. The readers who are following on from the first story know what the big secret at the end was – the new readers don’t and it would spoil the surprise for them if they want to read the first book and they already know its secret. There was also unfinished business in the first book which the second book resolved (well some of the unfinished business) so there had to be links back to it.
Now I am writing the third part, ‘Raddy and Syl’, and there are the same decisions to be made; however I can’t in this novel not be open about the secret which concerns the relationships of the main characters to each other. I have to give some explanation but I don’t want a great big chunk of exposition, I don’t want a preface or introduction, I want the facts of the situation to be clear, but subtly woven into the narrative. It’s really making me think, I can tell you!
Last night I started reading a book by Ann Cleeves, the next in her Shetland series of novels about the detective Jimmy Perez. It is ‘Dead Water’, and it follows on from ‘Blue Lightning’ which had a very unexpected ending, events which had a huge impact on Jimmy Perez. So for Ann Cleeves, when writing ‘Dead Water’ she has to inform the readers about this big event because it has such an effect on Perez, a life-changing effect. She had to balance how much she gives away, otherwise anyone reading ‘Blue Lightening’ after ‘Dead Water’ who knows what is going to happen may not properly engage… and might this spoil the impact? A fine balance, a very fine balance…