Got a great birthday present today… my first copy of THE CHASE arrived in the mail.
But the big birthday surprise was the fine print on the cover.
I crapped myself when I saw that. I’ve dreamed my whole life of seeing that fine print by my name on the cover of a book. The timing couldn’t have been better. Thank you, Janet, for making it possible!
So…. Imagine this. You invite your neighbor round for coffee. You don’t like them much, they’re kind of irritating, not really your type. But you start up a friendly conversation anyway. Nothing particularly revolutionary, elaborate or interesting. Just a pleasant, enjoyable chat.
So far, so dull.
While you’re chatting, you casually get a roll of duct tape out of the kitchen drawer. You know, the one you keep for fixing stuff around the house? You come back and tie your neighbor’s hands and feet against the chair. Then I want you to take out your .38 revolver from your closet– you know, the one you keep around the house for emergencies– release the cylinder, put one bullet in the gun. Just ONE. Then close it up.
Now I want you to put the gun against your neighbor’s head. Nothing should change. You will still have that pleasant, inconsequential conversation. Except for one thing. Once a minute, every minute, pull the trigger.
I guarantee you that conversation will be the most riveting, suspenseful conversation you and your neighbor will ever have.
Why? Because suspense isn’t so much what is happening, but what might happen. It’s a situation in which the outcome is in doubt. You’re asking questions not immediately answered. Posing posing a threat that isn’t being immediately resolved. Raising concerns that are not addressed. The longer you stretch those questions, the longer you delay, the longer you parcel out information without providing answers, the more suspense you generate.
My friend Jeff Wheeler‘s new book Dryad-Born just came out in digital, print and audio. It’s the second book in his bestselling Whispers of Mirrowen trilogy for Amazon/47North. So I invited him to talk about some of the challenges of writing the follow-up to a hit novel…
Some writers struggle with “Second Book Syndrome” when doing a series. If you haven’t heard of this syndrome, it’s the complaint some readers have that the second book in a series almost always fails to deliver the same emotional punch as the first. The second book is a bridge novel, connecting the initial story to the grand climax at the end, and so it is often stuffed with meandering plots to fill up word count until the reader gets to the final battle.
I’m actually quite addicted to the second books of some of my favorite authors, and I don’t look at the second book as filler at all. In my worlds, book one is meant to introduce the main characters, develop the setting, and thicken the tension. Book two is where I save some plot twists that really ratchet up the tension, introduce new characters that throw the lead characters off their game, and position some revelations that hint at things to come in the final book—just cryptic enough to keep readers guessing.
This month, 47North has launched my newest “second” book: DRYAD-BORN, Book 2 in the Whispers from Mirrowen trilogy. The story begins with an entirely new character and an entirely new subplot before reconnecting with the heroes from Book 1, FIREBLOOD. I love the suspense that comes with writing a second book, when the enemy seems to be winning on every front and the danger builds. That’s why The Empire Strikes Back is my favorite Star Wars movie. It’s not just a bridge. It’s where the story really begins to emerge.