The Sequel – My Lesson in Never Say Never

Before I get into this, I need to implant another ear-worm into your noggins. Here’s a little Romeo Void to start things off:

I had such a crush on Debora Lyall back in the early 80s when that song came out. She was filled with the awesome. We used to slam like crazy to it at the punk club we frequented.

Now that I’ve walked you down memory lane, I can tell you about one of my most recent NEVER SAY NEVER moments. Isn’t it true that we have these moments all through our lives, and yet we still have to learn the lesson over and over and over again!?

I was foursquare against EVER writing a sequel to a novel. I mean, I ranted on the subject. Although I always liked reading book series, I have never been a fan of the concept of writing one. “When I’m done with a book, I’m done with the characters in that book. Period! I will NEVER write a sequel.”

It seems that every time I say I’ll never do something, a challenge eventually comes up that pushes me to try doing it. And almost invariably, I’m grateful for doing it. This is true in all aspects of my life, not just my writing life.

So, during the 2010 72-hour Muskoka Novel Marathon I wrote HALF DEAD AND FULLY BROKEN. It won 2010 MUSKOKA NOVEL MARATHON BEST YOUNG ADULT NOVEL AWARD. It was actually my 3rd of 4 MNM best novel awards…my proudest accomplishment to date!

I was POSITIVE with a capital p that I had seen the last of the characters in that novel. I had a wonderful time getting to know them during that whirlwind weekend. I loved them! But their story was told…and I was ready to move on to something else. When I put a story to bed, that’s it!

Fast forward to 2014. My agent mentioned, in passing, that she loves dealing with series. “Do you see a possibility of a sequel with HD&FB?” My immediate reaction was, “NO. Never.” I don’t think I actually said it out loud. I’m more the hem and haw type. But in my head, I chopped the head off that notion in one fell swoop.

Then I had the Muskoka Novel Marathon to deal with. And limited ideas for story-starters. I was feeling particularly lazy and uninspired this time around. The marathon was in July, and the idea first floated by me around May. Little did I know Stacey had planted a seed in my brain that cultivated all by itself.

By the time the marathon rolled around I had tentatively decided to give it a go. I would take Carter Colby and his nearest and dearest friends on another journey. Carter is the FP POV narrator of Half Dead & Fully Broken. Like I said, I really enjoyed spending time with these characters. So when the back of my initial refusal to ever write a sequel was broken, I was really excited to hang with these guys again.

To give you a quick idea of what HD&FB is about…Carter’s twin brother Marcus dies in the opening chapter. Marcus’s ghost then comes into the picture to help Carter make some things right. That’s the short version. I went into the marathon with a vague idea for book two, which I decided to title ALIVE & KICKING. I would have someone else die and come back. Since Carter has already experienced working with a ghost to make things better, he would automatically think he was doing the same thing with this second ghost…but this ghost is vindictive. He’s back to screw around with people left behind. He’s angry. And he has an unknowing Carter at his service to help him tear things up a bit.

Starting a story with well known characters is amazing! It’s like a reunion with old friends. The tricky part is telling enough of the backstory from book 1 without telling too much of it. I wanted to recap, but not inundate the reader with TMI. It’s also fun to twist things around a bit and come at the characters with a whole new dynamic. I felt like Puppetmaster Extraordinaire! If I had had a long handlebar mustache, I would have been twisting the ends and laughing maniacally throughout the entire marathon. (-:

The point of this blog post is to suggest that, as writers, we should never take a stand against trying something new. Or, more to the point never say never about never saying never…or something like that.

Now, I ask you…would you do it? Have you done it? And if so, did you like it?

By Kevin Craig

Author, Poet, Playwright. Author of The Camino Club, Billions of Beautiful Hearts, and Book of Dreams, all from Duet Books, the LGBTQ Young Adult imprint of Chicago Review Press. Other books: Pride Must Be A Place, Half Dead & Fully Broken, Burn Baby Burn Baby, The Reasons, Sebastian's Poet, and Summer on Fire.

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