We've always known we wanted to see a follow-up to The Atheist's Daughter –and since you and you weren’t gonna write it, we figured we’d better get to work. We knew some of the points to hit -- Kristin and Liz, on the road; Hawkins, struggling with his place in the world and his growing romantic feelings for Kristin; Mrs. Norton feeling threatened and vulnerable for the first time in quite a long time; Mr. Locke, in a very bad place -- and we knew how the book started, we knew how the book ended. But we’d not even attempted the sequel thing before, and, honestly, it's a struggle.
So we knocked on VJC’s door since she’s written a successful series, the Jason and Azazel Trilogy, and we had two questions we wanted to ask. First of all, we wanted to know what was the best, most rewarding, thing about writing a sequel – and she told us, “Knowing I have an audience for it. It makes writing exciting, because I think of what my current readers will think about certain elements, and I know people are actually going to read and buy it.”
Okay, sure, makes sense. But then we asked, what was the worst thing about writing a sequel? She was willing to step up to that one, too: “Being worried I'm a sellout, and that I'd be having more fun writing about something new and exciting, but instead I might be making a choice to write about the same characters mostly because I know my readers want it.”
So there was an important tip right there: Write what your readers want. Might be a little useful in the future. (Another important tip? For a short time, you can read Breathless, the first novel in the J&A Trilogy, for free – just go here.)
We’ve decided, there are certain rules we need to follow to get a sequel just right. First of all, we've always believed a sequel must be complete in and of itself. Which means, the story must make complete sense, even if you've not read the book leading into this new tale. It's a little tricky, trying to bring newcomers up to speed while not boring those folks who've already read Book #1, but it must be done and done well. P.G. Wodehouse was a master at this kind of thing. We've read P.G. Wodehouse, we love P.G. Wodehouse, and, frankly, we're no P.G. Wodehouse.
There's also this: This new story has to reflect the style and sensibility of the first (it is a sequel), but if a devoted reader can guess where things are going, it needs more work. Life brings surprises and so should a well-written novel. But nothing cheap -- the cat springs out of the closet! -- nothing untrue or unfair -- "And being an amateur astronomer," Detective Blackon said, "I realized that Saturn's magnetic field was a fraction the strength of Jupiter's. When Professor Rucka claimed otherwise, I knew he was the murderer!" -- and such moves aren't always easy. Good thing that Renée is the plotter, eh?
Finally, as the story advances, the characters have to grow. Just as in T.A.D., Kristin at the beginning of the book can't be the same Kristin we meet at the second tale. In our book, even the monsters have to undergo change. Except, y'know, they remain MONSTERS, which provides a certain limitation on personal growth. Plus, some sweet day, we just might want to write a sequel to this sequel – which will bring a whole new set of problems to the word processor.
We'll let you know how things work out.