Lots on today’s agenda, and I’m already running late, because I got home too late last night to post this ahead of time:
First, ConCarolinas was great fun. Magical Words has definitely left its mark on the convention: among the professionals appearing were ten current or former Magical Words contributors — Faith, Misty, John, James, Carrie, Kalayna, Edmund, A.J., Stuart, and me. And among those attending were many of our regular readers. I want to give a special thanks to Mud and Laura, who threw a terrific party on Saturday night. And I also want to thank everyone who not only made me feel welcome, but who also took under their collective wing my younger daughter, who came with me to the con. We had a great weekend.
Second, today marks the kickoff of my Summer 2013 THIEVES’ QUARRY Blog Tour. Yeah, I know: I’m here at MW most Mondays, so it doesn’t really feel like a special event. But the release of Thieves’ Quarry, the second book in my Thieftaker Chronicles (written as D.B. Jackson) is now less than a month away (July 2) and what better place to begin the virtual tour than here at my favorite blog in the world? To mark the occasion, I am giving away a Thieftaker t-shirt to some lucky reader. Leave a comment on this post sometime between now and Friday, and you will be entered in a drawing for the shirt, which will be available in any size you want. Already have a Thieftaker t-shirt? No problem — they make great gifts! So leave a comment and maybe you’ll win!
Thieves’ Quarry, of course, is a sequel, and as such presented unique challenges when I wrote it. I wanted to recapture the tone and feel of the first book in the series, and I wanted to build on the character work I started in that first volume. But by the same token I wanted to make certain that I was not simply recreating the first book. The last thing I want to do is bore my readers or give them cause to believe that “if you’ve read one Thieftaker book, you’ve read them all.” More, I knew that I needed to increase the stakes. The second book in a series, even a series of stand-alone stories (as opposed to an extended story arc), should feel bigger and weightier than the first. So, in other words, I was trying to write a novel that took all the good stuff from book I and did it all better and with more significance. It had to feel familiar enough to fans of the first book to let them know that they were in for a similar ride, but it couldn’t be so similar that if felt ho-hum. Oh, and by the way, it also had to work for new readers. The characters, setting, magic system, and history had to be reintroduced so that those coming to the Thieftaker Chronicles for the first time with Thieves’ Quarry, would not feel lost.
None of these challenges was unique, of course. Faith deals with issues like these with each new Jane Yellowrock book. Misty had to do it with the second Kestrel book (which, by the way, I cannot wait to read). A.J. has to do it with the Darwin Arkwright books. Carrie, Mindy, Di, Lucienne — they have all had to do this. I had to do it with my extended story arcs in the LonTobyn, Forelands, and Southlands series. But since Thieftaker is a different kind of series for me — again, stand alone novels as opposed to several books in one narrative arc — it felt different, new, and a bit intimidating.
In the end, there were several things I did that helped me with this book:
1. I came up with a starting point for my plot that was both similar to that of the first book, and also different enough, and big enough, to feel fresh. In the first book, Ethan Kaille is called upon to investigate the murder by magic of one young woman killed on the night of the Stamp Act riots. In this book, he investigates the murders by magic of nearly one hundred men aboard a British naval vessel. Similar, yes. But on a grander scale and with different implications.
2. I allowed my worldbuilding — in this case the history that I use as a backdrop for the books — to guide some of my choices. This second book takes place during the British occupation of Boston in the fall of 1768. The naval vessel in question is one that I created for the book, but it is part of an armada that really did sail into Boston Harbor in September of 1768 carrying soldiers for the occupation. So as long as the fleet was just sitting there, I though I might as well use it . . .
3. One of the best things about Thieftaker, the first book in the series, was Ethan’s interaction with his thieftaking rival, Sephira Pryce. I wanted to go back to that interaction and explore it in greater depth, but again, I didn’t want their relationship to be static. And so I introduced a new element in their rivalry: I managed to give Sephira access to a conjurer of her own.
4. I kept the emphasis on character. Ultimately, all of our stories are about people, and even when I was worrying about plot ideas, I tried to keep in mind that in the end the book would come down to Ethan, Kannice, Diver, Sephira, Janna, and the rest. And so I did my best to show how the characters and their relationships with one another had grown and changed in the intervening years between Thieftaker and Thieves’ Quarry. Yes, these are stand alone books. But while each new book draws upon a different narrative, the character arcs span the entire series. Keeping that in mind allowed me to make certain that I wouldn’t — couldn’t — write the same book a second time.
5. Finally, I had fun. Seriously, that’s really important. I LOVED writing this book. It was fresh for me as a writer, and that made me confident that it would be fresh and fun for my readers as well. We’ll see once the book is released if that worked, but so far the reviews are very good, so I’ve reason to hope.
What challenges have you faced going from the first book in your current project to its sequels? Or, if you’re not there yet, what issues have you concerned? Let’s talk about it — and that way you’ll be entered to win a shirt!!David B. Coe http://www.DavidBCoe.com http://www.dbjackson-author.com http://magicalwords.net