As an author, is there any better feeling that that of being on fire? I mean, of course, being inflamed with inspiration, with an idea, with a story. What’s better than that little *pop* as an idea flares to life, blue and orange and yellow, that little flicker that when shielded from the wind, when protected and encouraged begins to bite into the fuel of possibilities and grow, reaching ever upward, ever outward as the possibilities turn into inspired plot points and compelling characters? You know the feeling. But does it happen every time we sit down to write? Does it herald the beginning of every new project?
But even when we are sufficiently inspired, when the creative juices flow and we can’t wait to get to the keyboard to get it all down on paper, does that mean it’s going to be a blockbuster book? Does the flame of divine inspiration ensure that we can convey that spark well enough to put out a book that fires the public’s imagination, as well?
Again we wish.
What’s my point? That this kind of inspiration is few and far between, and even if it strikes us, it’s difficult to catch that lightning in a bottle. How much more difficult is it if we set out to accomplish just that? If we take our bottle out into the night and hide in the deeper shadows beneath the trees, waiting and hoping to be at the right place at the exact right instant?
Okay, stay with me.
I’ve had many readers query me about sequels for several of my books. Ask, cajole, even plead. Which is hugely flattering. It’s head-turning. I won’t deny I’ve thought about it. But the biggest problem, at least for me, is that what was once a flash of inspiration then becomes an exercise in mechanics. I’ve told the story that kept me awake nights, the one I didn’t really understand until I’d finished it, the one that came from some place I wasn’t even aware of. Now I was going to go back and try to construct a follow-up? Now I was going to go back and try to logically, intellectually, figure out an encore when the inspiration is not that spark but a willful desire to replicate the spark and try to pass it off as the real thing?
With all due respect to those who have penned successful series and sequels, to me this is unimaginable. It’s hard enough to tease out the thread of a compelling story when it’s oozing up from the archetypal subconscious of my brain; thinking about trying to capture this intangible flash, trying to fit a harness to it and train it to sit and stay while I peck out the story just seems ludicrous. I can’t imagine anything less inspired.
We’ve all seen it. Dan Brown’s Da Vinci Code electrified the world. By the time we got to The Lost Symbol, it all seemed rote to me. More clues, more escapes, more riddles. Borrrrrrrring. I know I’ll catch flak for this, but the Harry Potter books got less and less interesting to me as time went by. And who can forget Jean Auel’s Earth’s Children saga? Again, the first book hit with a bullet, but the ensuing books were more of the same (plus more sex. Can’t you just hear her editors? More sex! More sex!). It feels terribly sad to me when an innovative idea is milked into a desiccated husk of the original. When Fast and Furious XII or Rocky 43 hits the Multiplex.
So … I don’t do sequels. I don’t do series. I should qualify that by saying that I might consider it, IF the inspiration for the whole kit and caboodle came at once, and just needed to be separated out into different books because it was too much for one book. But that’s the only way I’d consider it. I think.
Here’s my challenge to you. Which sequels/series would you nominate for being as inspiring and phenomenal as the original book? And what are your thoughts on unplanned inspiration vs. planning a follow-up book? If you think I’m off-base on this, I’d love to hear about it from those of you who have done series and/or sequels.