In January 2009 my novel IN THE REALM OF EDEN (www.realmofeden.com) was published. I was pleased with it and never once did I ever consider a sequel. Within months of the book’s publication I had already begun another novel totally unrelated to the first. But I began to hear from readers of the published book that I had left the story hanging and they wanted to know where the story might have gone from there. Although I was comfortable with the way I had ended the story it seems my readers were not. In a way that was a good thing because it told me readers wanted to know more about the characters.
I put the novel I was working on aside and began giving serious thought to a sequel to the previously published book. The 64,000 question was how would I do it? Even though the new book would pick up where the first left off, the story has to stand on its own so that a potential reader would not be forced to go back and read the first book before beginning the second (although my publisher, Glenbridge Publishing ltd., would certainly like the sales).
A sequel, even though it contains many of the same characters carrying on the original story, has to be totally self-contained. If it is not you are cheating your readers. The new story must include as little back story from the first book as possible, which is difficult at best. You need just enough cleverly dispersed throughout so that the reader knows what took place in the first book. It’s tricky, especially since I had never attempted a sequel before.
First, I roughly outlined in my head (I rarely makes notes) how the story would go forward based on the premise and characters contained in the first book. I like to discover the details I go. Detailed notes usually are just that, detailed notes that make it into the manuscript instead of letter things unfold as you are writing. So beyond knowing the story overall, I never really know the exact details that will make it into each chapter. My theory is surprise myself, surprise the reader. A film director will tell you the same thing about how scenes eventually unfold from a screenplay.
After failing miserably at the first several attempts I was finally able to get a handle on it and I am now 190 pages into the follow-up story. Once I figured out how to work in a minimal amount of the back story I was off and running. The trick (for me at least) was allowing bits and pieces of the back story from the first book to become an integral and suspenseful part of the plot of the second book. Of course it will eventually be for readers to decide if I succeeded, especially those who read or have read the first book.
I am finding the sequel more difficult to write than the original since it is far more complicated in its plot and the arc of the main characters is greater than in the first book. That’s good. It means (I hope) I am getting better at my craft.
Every novel is supposed to begin with a bang, or at least something that will cause a reader to want to turn the page. Hopefully, I have done that. Here is a peek at the first and shortest chapter of the new book entitled EDEN DESTROYED.
Thursday, November 6th, 4:00 p.m.
In an unusually placid Pacific Ocean, one of twelve menacing spacecraft stationed strategically on the edge of Earth’s thermosphere—origins unknown—fired a single yellow-orange beam at the uninhabited 450 acre coral island of Howland, some 1700 nautical miles southwest of Honolulu. The lethal ray was visible to the naked eye as it found its mark dead center of the atoll but there was no explosion, no fanfare of any kind. In the blink of an eye the deadly shaft consumed the island’s bleak, subdued flat profile as if it had never existed. The small land mass, made up of scattered grasses, prostrate vines and low-growing Pisonia trees and shrubs simply vanished without so much as a ripple, replaced by the vast calm blue-green ocean surrounding it.
The pernicious demonstration had clearly communicated its intended warning.