Working on a Sequel Requires a Delicate Balance

Pen-L will publish A Bullet for the Ghost Whisperer on November 15h. This is my sequel to Silent Partner, the paranormal mystery Pen-L published last year. I’ve already begun kicking around some ideas for a sequel to the sequel. What I have discovered, though, is that writing a sequel is a tricky business. It all has to do with the delicate business of the world you have already created in the first book and the introduction of new readers.

How far should an author go in making each book stand on its own feet? Daniel Silva, in my opinion, has run into a serious problem because he has written so many novels with the same cast of characters. He had to spend countless pages in The English Spy simply reintroducing characters and sketching out their back stories. The problem, of course, is that his legion of dedicated readers found the retelling to be boring and unnecessary. The new readers, on the other hand, I’m sure found the sketchy descriptions of key scenes in earlier novels to be too brief and lacking in details.

As I mentioned earlier, writers engage in world building. Silent Partner created two key characters who had relationships with other people. The effect is much like throwing a pebble into a lake. Every relationship is a part of the character’s world and impacts his or her view. So, how many of these does the author need to mention? In Silent Partner it is critical that readers understand Frankie’s prior relationships and marriage because it made her who she is. Her relationship with a horrible uncle also made her who she currently is. Josh Harrell, likewise, is who he is because of some of his prior failed relationships. How much detail do I need to go into for new readers?

I do think that my favorite ghost in Silent Partner can be appreciated in A Bullet for the Ghost Whisperer without the need for the reader to go back and read Silent Partner. My hope, of course, is that new readers of mine who pick up A Bullet for the Ghost Whisperer will become so enamored with Andy (short for Andrea) that they will want to go back and read the first book. After all, how often do you find a paranormal mystery that includes the closest thing to lovemaking between a ghost and a human?

I’ve been careful not to make my paranormal mysteries into a series because I think that limits readers’ access to them. They can be read totally as stand-alone books. I intend to make my third volume stand alone as well. I hope some of you are looking forward to A Bullet for the Ghost Whisperer. I’m currently distributing early reading copies for reviewers. If anyone reading this blog is interested, please drop me a comment with your email address. Here’s a sneak peak at the cover to set your appetite.

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