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.
The 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.