Book Nerd Guest Post
Like many authors, Megan Crewe finds writing about herself much more difficult than making things up. A few definite facts: she lives in Toronto, Canada with her husband and two cats (and does on occasion say "eh"), she tutors children and teens with special needs, and she has yet to make friends with a ghost, though she welcomes the opportunity. Her first novel, GIVE UP THE GHOST, was published by Henry Holt in 2009 and is now out in paperback. Her second novel, THE WAY WE FALL, is coming in January 2012 from Disney-Hyperion.
Megan Crewe Guest Post: Even a Sequel is a New Beginning
There's a saying--I don't remember who said it first, but it gets passed around in author circles--that you don't learn how to write *a* book, you learn how to write *this* book. Because each story brings its own unique challenges, which may require a different style, structure, type of content, or even way of thinking than any you've written before.
So it didn't surprise me that writing THE LIVES WE LOST was hard, even though I know what I wanted to happen and I was very familiar with the characters and their situation after already having written a whole book about them. I'd never written a book like this before--I'd never written a sequel.
Not only had I never written a sequel before, but to tell you the truth, the most of the time I don't even like reading sequels. There are a few trilogies and series that I absolutely adore (Megan Whalen Turner's Attolia series, and E. Lockhart's Ruby Oliver books, for example), but I've become very cautious about sequels because I rarely enjoy them as much as the first book, and often enjoy them a lot less. And when I really enjoyed the first book, it's kind of sad to have that pleasant memory dampened by watching the story go downhill. These days, I'm very picky about sequels, and only pick one up if I loved the first book so much I must know what happens next, or if it comes highly recommended by trusted reader friends.
So the last thing I wanted to do was to write a sequel that even I wouldn't want to read. Which, considering how few sequels I enjoy, was quite a bit of pressure. I approached the problem in the way that seemed to make the most sense to me--I looked at what makes the sequels I *do* enjoy good, and tried to include those things in my own:
1) Increased stakes. After making sure you put your characters through an incredible struggle in the first book, it can be difficult to find new conflicts to throw at them that are just as intense, let alone more. But if the new conflicts seem weaker than those readers have seen before, the second book can feel like a let down. This is one of the reasons why, even though I get asked about it regularly, I haven't written a sequel to my first novel, GIVE UP THE GHOST. I just can't imagine a situation Cass could get herself into that would be equal to what she goes through in the first book.
But I knew from the start that THE WAY WE FALL would have a sequel, because it came with a bigger problem built in. In the first book, Kaelyn has to grapple with the problems on her small island. In THE LIVES WE LOST, she has to leave the island behind, facing the full scope of the pandemic and enemies she could never have imagined in her home town.
2) New territory explored. Nothing's more boring than a sequel that just feels like a rehash of the original story, right? You want to see the characters go somewhere new, deal with new problems, and maybe even meet some new characters as well. I knew Kaelyn's story would take her into a different setting, traveling across the mainland where in the first book she was confined to her island. But I also made sure that she had fresh issues to grapple with that she hadn't had to consider before, and that the new characters she meets would challenge and support her in different ways.
3) Main character growth. I connect with a story through the characters, and I find it hard to get really invested in any story (stand-alone, first book, or sequel) where the main character thinks and feels the exact same way at the end of the story at the beginning. I love seeing characters learn and grow. Kaelyn does a lot of growing in THE WAY WE FALL, but that wasn't enough--for the sequel to be compelling, she needed to change and develop her convictions even more. Conveniently, the new territory and increased stakes made it easy to push her past her previous limits.
4) This last consideration was only a consideration because I hadn't originally thought I was writing a trilogy. As I've discussed in more detail on my blog (http://www.megancrewe.com/blog/?p=1473 ), when I wrote and sold THE WAY WE FALL, I believed it was going to be a two-book series: the island book and the mainland book. But when I actually started writing the sequel, it turned out that second part of Kaelyn's journey was too much story to fit into one book, unless it was going to be nearly twice as long as the first.
Suddenly I had a new problem. I had to break what I'd thought was going to be one story in half. It's not uncommon for the middle book in a trilogy to end on a cliffhanger, but I didn't want any of the books in the series to leave readers feeling they hadn't read a complete story, that this was just filler before getting to book 3.
Thankfully, my original outline had included a midpoint where Kaelyn makes a major decision about what kind of person she's going to be and how she's going to tackle her problems, and uses that to deal with the escalating conflict. It's a temporary resolution, and her mission isn't complete, but she has a full character arc within that book and she's taken one big step closer to being where she needs to be. And everything that happens in THE LIVES WE LOST is essential to the overall plot arc.
I'm sure some readers will still find my sequel not quite satisfying enough, but I believe I've written the best I can to tell the story I wanted to. One thing you learn early on as an author is no matter what you do, it's impossible to please everyone! But it's my hope that the readers who loved THE WAY WE FALL will find even more to love in THE LIVES WE LOST.
But she can't look back—the life she once had is gone forever.
A deadly virus has destroyed Kaelyn’s small island community and spread beyond the quarantine. No one is safe. But when Kaelyn finds samples of a vaccine in her father's abandoned lab, she knows there must be someone, somewhere, who can replicate it. As Kaelyn and her friends head to the mainland, they encounter a world beyond recognition. It’s not only the “friendly flu” that’s a killer—there are people who will stop at nothing to get their hands on the vaccine. How much will Kaelyn risk for an unproven cure, when the search could either destroy those she loves or save the human race?
Megan Crewe's second volume in the Fallen World trilogy is an action-packed journey that explores the resilience of friendship, the ache of lost love, and Kaelyn’s enduring hope in the face of the sacrifices she must make to stay alive.
Megan continues this amazing series with excellent character development and plot progression. Readers will learn more about Kaelyn and her strong attributes. She makes bad decisions and accepts their consequences. Her growth is authentic and motivating. The spread of the flu has extended and the book takes readers into new geographical areas that make this deadly virus believable. Even with a highly complex plotline and intriguing characters, Megan’s writing style is incredibly easy to follow. She provides readers with details that will make them feel like they are in these unforgettable characters’ playing field. The Lives We Lost is a spectacular display of nonstop action, adventure, and romance.