Rusty Fischer, crowned indie king of YA goof-goth and author of the awesome ZOMBIES DON’T CRY, USHERS, INC. and VAMPLAYERS, recently blogged on the topic of serialized stories. Why, he questioned, do there seem to be so many series on bookshelves these days? Why, he queried, does it seem so necessary these days to spawn an arc of several titles instead of one single story? “When did people stop writing books?” he asked. He made such a valid point that I felt compelled to add a comment to his post. “…sometimes, there is no more. And that has to be okay, too.” I meant it at the time.
But that was so last week.
And this week is this week. And I have a whole new set of questions.
And an idea for a sequel to JOE VAMPIRE.
Yup. Joe’s gonna do a number two.
I never saw it coming.
Make no mistake here, folks; Rusty’s point is totally ponder-worthy. And having written multi-book series himself, he was postulating rather than condemning, wondering if readers have become so fully expectant of having a story told over a collection of titles rather than contained to a single tome that publishers now favor this design. I’ve asked myself the same question, especially after deciding to work on JV2. From where does the impulse come to change THE END into TO BE CONTINUED…? And how do I, as an author, keep The Next Chapter from feeling like an ill-advised, poorly-executed tack-on? I already know as a reader what I find appealing in a well-written multi-part story – the added richness, the extra time to explore a world someone took great pains to create, the feeling of satisfied completion that requires more than just a four hundred page-count. And now, this nut begs to be cracked from inside the shell, too - an authorly perspective on why sequels occur. I never thought I’d want one for Joe, and I certainly never planned to write one. But here it is, rolling out of my head and blowing hard-core spitfire all the way. So what now?
Well, now I’m eating crow.
Feet, feathers and all, yo.
I thought I’d have trouble getting to the heart of the matter, the true reason I wanted to pick up the thread where I left it and carry the weave a little further along. Turns out there are several reasons, and all of them make sense to me now. Maybe they’ll make sense for you, too – as writer, reader, or otherwise. Roll the bullet points.
· I Want More Story In my case - and probably in the case of many others – I wasn’t finished telling the tale. Or rather, the tale wasn’t finished wanting to be told. I didn’t plan it that way, and I was pretty sure I had said all I wanted to. As it turns out, Joe had a bunch of life happen to him even after the blog ended. It just took me a while to catch up with the guy to see what had happened to him in the interim. I liked what I saw enough to want to write it all down. I may have even pushed him into a few situations he wouldn’t have ordinarily gravitated toward on his own, just so I could see how he’d react. Either way, it turned out there was more to be said. Who am I to argue with a reluctant vampire? I am but a humble servant to his words.
· I Love the Voice No, not the Christina Aguilera show. That’s fine, too. In this case, though, I kept hearing JoeSpeak in my head even after The End. You can probably tell from the Steven posts: it ain’t all that far off from my own. But I don’t usually spend a lot of time discussing the more delicate points of vampire life; Joe does. And he kept on doing it after I thought he was finished. I was sure he’d gone as far as he could in book one…but that was all about how he’d gotten control of his situation. In my Authorly Ear, he started telling me what happened beyond that. I knew it was authentic, because it sounded as if he had never stopped talking after the first book ended. I took it as a sign. So there’s that, too.
· I Love the Characters After I finished writing and editing…and editing some more…and finally publishing JOE, I went back and read it again, as a real-deal eBook, just to see what the end user experience would be. Aside from catching some yet-necessary edits, it turns out I really, really like the characters I’ve created, as much as the story I used them to tell. Not trying to sound arrogant here at all, folks; my hope is that everyone who creates something feels this way once they’ve given their work a chance to live in the world a while. What I love most is the interaction among the characters and what they came to represent by the end of the story. I wanted to see more. That validated my impulse to sequelize, and confirmed that I wouldn’t just be doing it because it might be within easy reach, or in avoidance of launching into a whole new story (a daunting prospect in its own right). I – and hopefully the other JOE readers out there – want to find out What Happens Next for Joe and Chloe, for Joe and Hube, and for Joe and all the others. I also want to see how they respond to influences beyond the circle set up in the first book, and I hatched some fun scenes I thought could let these people explore new themes as a continuation of the original tale rather than a reiteration of it. I felt their wings had been strapped firmly in place; it would be a shame not to let them fly a little.
· I Had Sheer Inspiration Had all of the above points been true, and I put my mouse to the grindstone only to find out that my inspiration for such a thing had already been worn down to a nub, I would have pitched it entirely. Sure, I still would have been curious about the next steps for Joe and Co., but if the well is dry, the well is dry. Best to leave the bucket at the bottom. But while contemplating another story I have waiting in the pipe, a single word of inspiration came to me, and brought with it a single image that exploded in a blast of zero-point writer energy and filled my head with the whole story in the span of five minutes. FIVE minutes! Of course, it needed fleshing, but there was such a strong skeleton that it practically Frankenstein’d itself together as I took notes. That has never happened to me before. I make this next statement with humor, but also with acknowledgment of that magical universal force that underlies all creative impulse, which we all hope to tap into at some point in our writerly lives: It was like receiving a gift. Something like that simply can’t go ignored. And so, it won’t. (And in order to build a bit of suspense, I can’t tell you what the word was, or the image. Suffice it to say that the Whole Everything of JV2 centers around it, so I’d hate to ruin the surprise…if I can pull it off on paper as sweetly as I see it playing in my brain, my head just might explode. I’ll probably write with a helmet on just in case.)
So it’s back to the bat cave…or back under the coffee table…or back to wherever this inspired flash for a second round came from. He’ll be straight to book this time, so the blog will remain as my forum for All Things Indie as well as JoeHeadquarters. And I will certainly keep you posted as progress unfurls. In keeping with the promotional spirit I’ve been pushing for JV1, I’ve planned a few along-the-way surprises to keep me inspired and to keep my awesome readers entertained while the tale gets all the way told. I’ve got promo tag lines already and everything. I think it’ll be a lot of fun, and hopefully you’ll agree.
We’ll find out soon enough, eh, kids?
And before you power off or switch over to Netflix to stream last week’s Game of Thrones, click on the link to the right under Other Tellers, Other Tales…the one in the shape of Rusty Fischer’s name. It leads to his fantastic blog, where you can catch his thoughts and snatch up copies of his incredible books...or grab some at his Amazon author page. I’m knee-deep in VAMPIRES RULE! ZOMBIES DROOL and I can’t remember when I’ve had as much fun reading a monster story. Dude’s hilarious – check him out and show him some love! He’s follow-able on Twitter, too - @RusWritesZombie.
Thanks for checking in…more to come.
The title probably gave that away though, right?