The other day I got a note that read, “Just wanted to drop you a line and let you know I read and enjoyed Children of the Wolves! I would love to read more in that world. Do you have any plans on revisiting it?”
If you’ve been hanging around here for any amount of time, you know that “Jessica Starre” is one of the pen names I use for my novels, although it’s possible you haven’t heard of Children of the Wolves, now conveniently available in ebook and print form.
This was a story that came to me in a dream, quite literally. The entire futuristic world showed up, along with the principle theme: the nature of memory. Then I had to write the thing. And rewrite it and rewrite it and stick it in a drawer for a while, then rewrite it some more. Then try to find someone to publish it. Came close, but it was too different, or not different enough, or too mixed genre or not genre enough or too genre, you know the drill.
So I was really excited when it finally got to see the light of day. At the time I was writing it, I had the idea for a second story in the setting, but now so much time has elapsed that I don’t even remember what that second story was supposed to be about.
This is one of the problems with the advice authors often receive—they’ve written a novel, and they’re shopping it around, and people say, “Write your next book” (this is good advice) BUT they also say, “don’t write the next book in a series until you sell the first one.” (That’s the bad advice.)
I understand what prompts this type of thinking—maybe Book A won’t ever sell, and then you’re stuck with Book B, which depends on Book A and now you have two books you can’t sell. And that’s true, as far as it goes, but it doesn’t actually go very far.
Book B doesn’t have to depend on Book A. Every story has a past history that must be accounted for (“backstory”), and perhaps your Book A just happens to be the past history for Book B. As long as Book B is readable as a standalone, I’m not sure you’re actually risking your career or anything dire to do it. In fact, having more time and space to explore a specific world and specific characters may make Book B much stronger than something totally new you take on because you’re supposed to take on something new.
So by writing Book B, maybe you learn what you need to learn and Book B does end up selling. And maybe Book B takes Book A along with it.
Beyond that, I think that stories have a shelf life. I started Children of the Wolves more than ten years ago. I was deeply involved in it and loved every moment of working on it. But I have moved on, and am not the same person I was then. I don’t think even if I wanted to I could do justice to a second Children of the Wolves story. The time for me to have done it has passed, although I say that regretfully. I just wish I had written the second story when the second story begged me to write it.