This month’s Author Takeover comes from Alwyn Hamilton, discussing the trials and tribulations of writing a second book. The brilliant characters from her first book, the wonderful whirlwind of magic Rebel of the Sands, return in another fast and thrilling adventure with Traitor to the Throne. Alwyn was born in Toronto and spent her early years bouncing between Europe and Canada until her parents settled in France. She studied History of Art at King’s College, Cambridge. On graduating she worked in a bookshop in France, where she rediscovered YA, worked in an auction house, and now writes full time.
We have three copies up for grabs for readers in UK & Ireland, find out more below!
Writing with Expectations
If you ask most authors what the hardest part of writing a second book is, chances are they’ll tell you the same thing: It’s the fact that for the first time, you have someone waiting for it.
It’s simultaneously the most wonderful and most daunting thing.
Most of us write our first book in obscurity. Plugging away in the evenings after our day jobs, on the weekends when you’ve managed to forget to make plans, with an entire world in your head that no one else knows about yet.
The only thing I remember from the daze of speaking to my agent for the first time, was when she said Amani’s name for the first time. A strange feeling came over me because I had never heard her name said out loud before. For the first time my character, my world, my story was out of my own head and with someone else who has thoughts about it. And your agent is just the start. Then there’s editors who wade even further into the world with you. And everyone else who works at your publishers. And then finally readers. And suddenly your book and your world is known by other people with their own thoughts and opinions and expectations.
So when I sat down to write the second book, suddenly there were people expecting it. Wonderful and daunting. It took me a while to stop feeling like someone was looking over my shoulder at my first draft. I overuse certain words. “Slammed” is one of them. My characters are constantly slamming their fingers down on triggers or slamming into the ground when they get knocked down in a fight. This was pointed out to me, and corrected by me in the process of editing REBEL OF THE SANDS. Cut to writing TRAITOR TO THE THRONE and I typed out the dreaded “slam” in the second paragraph then froze and spent the next twenty minutes trying to figure out the right synonym instead of just…finishing the scene.
I learned with TRAITOR TO THE THRONE that I needed to push everyone else out of my head to be able to write a book without being immobilized.
That’s an important lesson to read before the your first book moves to the next phase of expectation: readers.
Having readers is obviously what every author wants, and having readers who are engaged enough to review your book or tweet about your book and ask questions about your characters, or even just have opinions and thoughts and feelings on your book. The tricky thing is when it then takes a second to be the only one in your head after hearing others thoughts.
Most of us have a story mapped out, and while it will evolve and change with the input of editors, and while we want to give our readers a satisfying story, unlike TV shows, which have been known to keep fan favorites alive, or sail the ship we’re all behind, we can’t write to expectations.
If I get caught on a day of editing that’s not going well, sometimes I can’t help but let it create self doubt. And I mean the positive things too. A review that mentions how much someone loves character X in book one might make you suddenly panic about how that character isn’t in book two enough, or about how much a reader hopes two characters will wind up together makes you suddenly fret that they aren’t meant to be endgame.
The thing is, what with the timeline of publishing, it’s kind of impossible to respond to reader expectations with a trilogy, even if you wanted to. If you’re coming out with a book a year, chances are that by the time your first book hits shelves, your second book is already drafted and done and sent off to your editor. If you’re writing a duology you’re already done the whole series by the time anyone starts having feelings about the first book. Though I can imagine it must be a completely different experience over the course of a longer series. For instance seven books over a decade, to pick a random example.
The best thing we can hope for is to write the story we want to write, and hope that we don’t just meet reader expectations but surpass them and surprise you.
Enter at the link below to win one of three copies of Traitor to the Throne!
Traitor to the Throne:
“Nearly a year has passed since Amani and the rebels won their epic battle at Fahali. Amani has come into both her powers and her reputation as the Blue-Eyed Bandit, and the Rebel Prince’s message has spread across the desert – and some might say out of control. But when a surprise encounter turns into a brutal kidnapping, Amani finds herself betrayed in the cruellest manner possible.
Stripped of her powers and her identity, and torn from the man she loves, Amani must return to her desert-girl’s instinct for survival. For the Sultan’s palace is a dangerous one, and the harem is a viper’s nest of suspicion, fear and intrigue. Just the right place for a spy to thrive… But spying is a dangerous game, and when ghosts from Amani’s past emerge to haunt her, she begins to wonder if she can trust her own treacherous heart.”