To Sequel or Not to Sequel

First things first. To all of you who write ANYTHING after reading one of my books, whether it’s a review, a personal email or even just a note on Facebook, I say Thank You. And whether it’s glowing praise, biting criticism or just “meh,” I appreciate anyone who closes one of my books and thinks about it long enough to write something down. It’s gratifying to know there are real people on the other end of my books, and that they care enough about the outcome to remark.

One of the most common questions or comments I get relates to potential sequels. Some of those are from readers who enjoyed the characters so much, they don’t want to let them go. That’s a terrific compliment, and I admit it’s awfully tempting to keep writing about people and settings that stick in my head that way, and I honestly do wonder sometimes what my romantic couples would be up to if I were to return to them in a sequel.

On the flip side, other pleas for a sequel come from people who weren’t satisfied with where or how the book ended. They aren’t convinced of the Happy Ever After, and if that’s why they read romance, it can be a major letdown. While I don’t set out to write stories that leave readers hanging, I do sometimes try to leave them in my characters’s shoes—not certain of what the future holds, but hopeful it will be a love that lasts—and I also ask readers to consider that happiness can take different forms depending on the characters and their circumstances.

Karin Kallmaker, my friend and fellow Bella Books author, has introduced us to dozens of couples through her books, and she revisited several of them in a couple of collections of short stories cleverly titled Frosting on the Cake 1 and 2. A nifty idea, one I might steal one of these days. Such a “look-in” could potentially satisfy both of the sequel camps—those who want to spend more time with the couple and those who want confirmation of their Happy Ever After.

cover_aftershockThe problem with that, for me, is the format. It’s been ages since I’ve written short stories, and most of the story ideas I cultivate are best treated over a longer arc. The second, and more difficult problem, is that I’m fundamentally a romance writer. Two women meet, fall in love, and overcome obstacles to be together. The sequel to that type of story isn’t a romance…unless I break them up and have them overcome more obstacles to get back together. (See Aftershock) Raise your hand if you want that.

No, seriously. If I come back in a sequel and mess with the happy or hopeful ending from the first book, will you be convinced of their second Happy Ever After? More important, could you endure the pain and uncertainty of seeing a couple you cared about torn apart?

Here’s another question: If you’re a romance reader, what else might you be looking for in a sequel? Is there any sort of dramatic story arc that could hold a candle to the rush you get from reading about two women who meet, fall in love, and overcome obstacles to be together? To frame it another way, would you rather I spent my time on a sequel or a new book?

I’d love to hear your thoughts. You can log in with your WordPress, Twitter or Facebook account below to leave a comment, or just scratch a note on Facebook, where I’ll be posting this link. No right or wrong answers—ANYTHING that lets me know you’re out there on the other end is good.

18 Responses to “To Sequel or Not to Sequel”

  1. There is a definite art to doing a successful sequel to a romance, and I think you listed the hazards quite well. Other genres might lend themselves a little better to a sequel because they have a strong sub-plot – mystery, detective, paranormal, etc… But romance is a tricky one. I’ve seen it done very well, but more often I’ve seen it dim the magic of the characters that I loved so much in the first book. It’s hard to sustain the tension of new love when real life settles in, and isn’t that tension of the first kiss what we read the stories for? By the way- I’ve read all of yours and loved ‘Etched in Shadows.’ Looking forward to the next one!

  2. I actually like sequels if you get to enjoy the couple a bit in their happy ever after. The sequel can build tension around secondary couples without breaking up the blissful couple.

    • It’s not often I write secondary characters that I continue to think about once I’ve finished the book. Elena Diaz was an exception, and I sometimes wonder how Teddie from Rhapsody is doing. If I write a story for her, I’d like to wait for her to grow up a little more. She could turn out to be a lot like Audie Pippin from Sumter Point.

  3. Love all your book KG, especially the Shaken series. I would love for you to continue on with their story, especially with some humor mixed in but whatever you write I will read. I’m a big fan so I’m just looking forward to whatever is next.

    • Thanks for coming along on the ride, Anita. I’ve talked to a few people about where I see the Shaken Series going. After two upbeat books, it’s probably time to take another downturn, and no one wants to read it. 😉

  4. I have enjoyed all of your books. Altho I do enjoy sequels, they can sometimes get bogged down and become overkill. Your books have never had this issue, but I have read some that did. Once the HEA happens I would rather they rode off together into the sunset.

  5. You are an incredible author and I have admired your talent and have read everyone of your stories.

    Books/stories are like movies. Sometimes there is an element in the movie whether it’s a character or the story itself that connect with its audience. The same thing happens with books. I am a voracious reader and have read hundreds of stories from different authors and I can honestly say that when I connect with a story because of its characters, plot or issue of the story, I will remember it always. In our minds it becomes a classic. Just like “To Kill a Mockingbird” or “Gone With the Wind”. I may not recall every detail but I will always remember what the story is about.

    It is true that when we become infatuated with certain characters, we want them continuously in our lives. They because almost like our “friends” and we connect with them. I guess the best way an author can determine if she should create a sequel is by gauging how the story was received by her readers.

    • Thanks, Yolanda. There truly are characters that become almost real. When I went back to the Shaken Series to write Mother Load, the 4th book, I became nostalgic over hanging out with the Kaklis family. I want readers to experience that too.

  6. I am definitely a fan of sequels. I also see that not all stories need another full length book. I have read some books were there are two new main characters but old friends from previous books come in to lend to the story because they know one if not both new main characters. We can get a glimpse of the life after their book ends. I hope that makes sense. You are a wonderful writer and I can’t wait for the next one.

    • That’s certainly one way to keep your characters alive, especially if you’ve developed a community or setting that you like to write about. My books tend to be scattered all over the place, so I’d have trouble picking one. 😉 Elena Diaz from Malicious Pursuit showed up in Secrets So Deep and again in Playing With Fuego. That was fun.

  7. Sequels or stand alones? Doesn’t really, really matter as long as they’re GOOD. As yours are, KG. The trouble with short story collections, like Karin’s “Frosting the Cake” 1 and 2 is that, although I just love KK and have every one of her books, when I read the Frostings, I have to refresh my (very old) memory and re-read the novels to really get the story. Nothing wrong with re-reading – I’ve read my favourites several times, but there are SO many books I haven’t and want to read that re-reading all the time is not what I want to do!! 🙂

  8. The Shaken Series was wonderful. I think the time arc needed to successfully tell the story of Lily and Anna necessitated sequels. While I’d love to revisit some of the wonderful characters you’ve created I can see that full length books to peek in on some of them simply wouldn’t be your cup of tea. There is one couple I’d truly love to know more about though, Ashley and Judith from “Rhapsody”. Their HEA wasn’t quite as certain as others and I wonder about them from time to time.
    Sequels or not I thank you for all the wonderful women in your books. They have certainly been fun to spend time with.

    • Lily & Anna’s story definitely needed more books. It strains credulity to pack earthquakes, romance, adoption and twins in one book! A reader might think, “Gosh, is this ever going to end?!?”

      Ashley & Judith, though … I like where their story ended. To me, that’s an example of where happiness means something different for certain characters. That Judith could accept Ashley along with her demons is proof of a very strong love.

  9. We love sequels because because of our interest in the strong and likable characters. A long-time couple meeting challenges and celebrating the good things is still romance to us.

    • Good to know, Becky & Mary! I wholeheartedly agree a couple’s life can be romantic, but it doesn’t always satisfy the reader who’s looking for a traditional romance.

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