Monday, May 11, 2009

The trouble with sequels . . .and a giveaway (of course)

Book Status: Revisions: check. Line edits: check. 1st round of copyedits: check. And for those who haven't heard, I have a release date. THE DARK DIVINE will hit the shelves on December, 22, 2009. Yep, that's not a typo. My book is coming out this December. Squeeee!!!

THE DARK DIVINE is considered a Valentine's 2010 title, but it needs to get to bookstores by the 22nd of December so they can put it in their Valentine's promotions that go up right after Christmas. How cool is that? THE DARK DIVINE = Awesome last minute Christmas gift . . .or . . .THE DARK DIVINE = Perfect V-day gift. Double squeeee!!

Mother's Day status:
It all started when the boys came busting into my room around 7:00 am so they could present me with their gifts.
KidZ gave me a beautiful bouquet of Popsicle-stick flowers.

And KidA gave me, well, um, this:

And yes, that is a decapitated lego head on a post. That kid knows me so well.

Sequel Status: I'm 12 pages (15 if I put it in Courier font, hehe) into my sequel, and I'm determined to make sure that my new novel doesn't turn out to be one of those "ho-hum, not as good as the first book" kind of sequels. So that's where I need your help, dear readers. I want to know what you guys look for in a sequel:

What do you like/dislike about sequels?
In your opinion, what makes a great sequel, well, great?
What makes a stinky sequel a stinker?
What's the best sequel you've ever read?

And what do you get for helping me out? Leave a comment about what you think about sequels (the good, the bad, or the ugly), and I'll enter you in a drawing to win a YA sequel of your choice (or any other YA book, if you wish). I want to hear from as many people as possible, even you lurkers. Yes, I'm talking to you . . . go leave a comment. I promise I don't bite (most of the time) and you may even win a free book. Neat.

Thanks in advance!!


Michelle said...

I can't believe it is coming out so soon! Awesome Bree! Yipee!

Paradox said...

I can't wait for The Dark Divine!

Sequels: I love them!!! Sequels let the story and characters expand in depth, backstory, and let us see how the story continues. Favorite characters will be around that much longer, and the story as a whole can be made much more epic! The only problem is cliffhangers.... and the occasional sequel that doesn't nearly live up to the earlier book(s) (ex. The Final Warning by James Patterson). But it's fairly rare that a sequel to a great book or series stinks that badly. For the most part, sequels are great!

paradoxrevealed (at) aim (dot) com

Alyosha said...

One of my favorite YA sequels is Love, Stargirl by Jerry Spinelli. It was cool that it came from a different character's point of view, and it was a completely different story, not the same plot over again (ahem, Stephenie Meyer). For these same reasons, the sequels to Ender's Game come to mind, as well as the sequels to Morningside Heights. I like the originality of these sequels, which take them a step beyond just the "What happens next?" question. It also makes it risky, though. I'm sure a lot of the readers who loved your first book would be perfectly happy to basically reread it in sequel form. Could you possibly do it from Daniel's point of view?

Kim Woodruff said...

The thing that makes me excited about sequels is the hope that I'll get more of the same of whatever I loved from the books before. Whether it's the voice, the plot, the romance, the characters, or any aspect or combination of what makes a book awesome. If I loved it in the first, that's what I want to find in the second, but with a plot that feels just as new and fresh and exciting as the first book. So I guess what I'm saying is that I want the familiarity of the aspects I loved (for your book what stands out for me is probably the awesome sexual tension, suspense, pacing, tone, well crafted ideas, tight plot) but in a book that still feels like a discovery.

Harry Potter comes to mind. I love the characters and the world, and I love the way she does her plots and weaves surprises into the endings. Those aspects stay the same and keep me satisfied with the familiarity, but each story is a great book standing alone.

I agree with the comment about Final Warning. Probably one of the worst sequels I've ever read, but I love the Maximum Ride books because of the voice and the romance. So even though there's a lot that I don't like about that series, I keep coming back for those two aspects.

Some other sequels that I love are in the Artemis Fowl Series (I love how the character progresses in each book, I love the characters and their banter, I love the smart, tight plots, and I love the world he created), and Percy Jackson (the voice, the way he plots, the humor, the suspense, the characters, the world).

I guess the bottom line is that I love a sequel that stands alone as a great read, but with the bonus of a second helping of the feelings I loved when I read the first book.

Kim Woodruff said...

Oh, and congrats about your book coming out so soon. Yeah! I know what I'm getting for Christmas!

Brooke Reviews said...

congrats on the earlier release date! :)

When I read a sequel, I need to see growth in the lead character, even if it's little. As long as he/she is TRYING than I'm interested. Also, I don't want to see characters change completely. I don't want to sit there thinking, well he/she sure wouldn't of said/done that in the first book, totally out of character!

I think keeping up with the world these characters live in is good also. Just because it's a sequel doesn't mean I can't see new parts of where they live, or meet new people.

:) Good luck!

Bree Biesinger Despain said...

Wow, I should pose questions like this more often. Thanks for all the insightful comments.
I agree that I want to get the same "feeling" from a sequel that I got in the first book. I want the things I love to be there again. I think one of the high points of my book (if I do say so myself) is that it has great sexual tension and romance.

So here's a follow-up question for you all: How do you keep a romance "fresh" in a sequel? What are some sequels that you love that do a great job at keeping the ST and romance engaging to the reader?

Cranberryfries said...

Sequels for me personally are tricky. However with that said I think I tend to like most of them.

Is sequel and series the same thing? Like there are a few series that I've read where each book is written mostly about one main character and there are say 8 main characters.

I think changing the location or having a small life change in accordance with the bigger plot can add a little zing to the story.

I like Charlaine Harris' Sookie Stackhouse books. I enjoyed Janet Evanovich's Stephanie Plum (and I really did read all 14+ of those-I know others didn't enjoy it towards the end but I still did). Both series has one main woman character and love interests throughout.

Valynne said...

Can't wait for the book! Okay, sequels:

1) I love getting to know the characters even better--different aspects of their lives, things that shape the people they have become, or events that shape the people they will become.
2) I also like it when a character, who was only briefly mentioned in the previous book, becomes more developed. J.K. Rowling is a genius at this.
3) I like to see hope of a happy ending, even if that ending might now come until a future book.
4) I like to see the MC learn something about him/her self.
5) I like to have a little mystery that I have try to figure out at the same time the MC is trying to put the pieces of the puzzle together.


Sarah Steele said...

As long as the characters are lovable in the first book and the plot was at least somewhat engaging, I'm all for reading a sequel. I personally prefer books in a series (or at least a sequel) because if the characters were important enough to me through the entire first book, I want to know what happens to them at every single point in their lives. So good luck!!! I'm sure it will be FABULOUS!!!

Kathy D said...

What do you like/dislike about sequels? That I get to follow around my favorite characters some more.

In your opinion, what makes a great sequel, well, great?
Still leave enough up to the imagination.

What makes a stinky sequel a stinker? Did you ever read any of the Borne Identity books? The style for the sequel (trilogy?) were too similar and it was obviouse what was going to happen. Keep some unknowns and suspense.

What's the best sequel you've ever read? I loved Son of Witch.

Kathy D said...

How do you keep a romance "fresh" in a sequel?
Are you even watching Gossip Girl? DRAMA!!! Dating best friends, betrayal, revenge, miscommunication.

What are some sequels that you love that do a great job at keeping the ST and romance engaging to the reader? Honestly, I hate romance and chick flicks. So, that's a hard one. I guess in some twisted way, I like it when the bad guy gets the girl. That's probably not much help. But I like when the girl makes mistakes, learns to think for herself.

Bree Biesinger Despain said...

Speaking of Gossip Girl and bad boys: Chuck and Blair must figure out all their angst and get together! Those two are a match made in, well, Hades.

Elena Jarvis Jube said...

Just makes sure in trying to capture the things that worked in the first that you don't get stuck in making it a re-run. Make each book be a great story in its own right, so if someone didn't get to read the first, they'd still like the second.

On your follow-up question about romance in a of the trickiest things to mess with, I think. The critical thing in making a romance work in a sequel, I feel, is making us feel it's in jeopardy, but that's so easy to mess up. Pirates of the Caribbean sequels, for example, ruined the perfect, lovely romance that should have ended with the first movie. If a romance is all fixed up in the first episode, as that one was, I'd rather see a different romance between different characters. I love how Shannon Hale's sequels get a new main character each time, so you never have a chance to see the first romance get all tired out. Each is an entirely new, stand-alone story, with its own, new romance, which I love in a sequel. Cynthia Voigt's Kingdom series work like that, as well. Each has entirely different characters than the previous ones, sometimes grandchildren of the original main characters (On Fortune's Wheel, for example), sometimes nobody at all from the other books. Not that you can't have great sequels with the same mc, that build on one another, like Harry Potter or Percy Jackson. But if you're doing it Percy-Jackson style, you have to leave the romance really unsure until the last episode, or the romance just won't be interesting. By the last book in the Percy Jackson series, there are three possible girls for Percy, so we're all dying to know who's the final ONE. Or, I think it works to put the original romance in jeopardy by adding a viable third romantic interest. I'm trying to think of a book besides Twilight that does that effectively, because I hate the way that love triangle panned out. If you try that, please wrap it up in a less creepy way than S.M. did in her last book. Kill one of the three off, or something. Or, as in Spiderman and Harry Potter, the super-human guy might feel he needs to toss the perfect girl aside because he can't justify putting her in danger, so there might be some sort of internal conflict threatening the relationship, a new development in his powers or situation that he didn't know about before.
Good luck with that, Bree! You'll figure something perfect out, I'm sure.

Anonymous said...

I LOVE it when sequels give me more of what I loved in the first book. I love it when unanswered questions are explored (and hopefully explained!) I don't mind cliffhangers, as long as all of the MAJOR plot stuff is wrapped up. I want to stab my eyes out when the author leaves the big questions unanswered :)

Brodi Ashton said...

Okay, so I don't know if it's been said before, but I don't like it when sequels (especially of the romance kind) separate the two lovebirds through some "colossal misunderstanding" or some other trite mechanism, just for the sake of separating them.

Whew, okay, I feel better now. btw, if any of you reading this have a sequel with the above problem, I can only say, don't listen to me- you're published. I'm not.

Bree Biesinger Despain said...

I agree with you, Elena.

I think the trick is to find the balance between keeping the things you love, and making the story fresh so it's not just a re-run of the first. You don't want your readers to be thinking that they're reading the same book all over again. But I also hate it when sequels are too different from the original--like when they totally drop the love interest from the first book with a barely even a mention of that character, therefore negating the romance in the first book.

And I also agree that separating the MC from her love interest just for the sake of separating them is dumb.

Man, this sequel writing stuff is hard. Especially when you've got a deadline.

Kiirsi said...

I'm not sure I've got much insight to add on the's hard to have just the right amount of tension...keeping them apart and everything "not perfect" just enough but not driving the reader INSANE by it. I'm probably dating myself but I loved to watch "Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman" back in the day. Dr. "Mike" and Sully were the PERFECT couple...yet something always seemed to be standing in their way. Made for thrilling TV, characters, developments, and tension. And when they finally did get together!! It was great.

As far as sequels go...I've read some great ones, and some not-so-great ones. The Bartimaeus Trilogy comes to mind. LOVED the first book. The progtagonist was interesting, the plot was exciting and unpredictable, and I've never in all my reading found a more hilarious character than Bartimaeus. Yet book 2 was awful!! SO mindlessly boring. I had to force myself to get through the first 200 pages before anything even happened. Wanted to pull my hair out. A new character was introduced--and took up most of the book--that I really didn't care about, and the main character from book 1 became really un-likeable. Hated the book. Book 3 was better but not by a lot.

Another series--the dragon books by Patricia C. Wrede--uses a different character's viewpoint in each book in the 4-book series. I didn't like that. True, once I got used to the new protagonist I liked them, but it was annoying to care about the original one and hardly have them in the next ones at all.

I'm not sure why this works so well for Shannon Hale, though...I agree with the poster above who admired the way Shannon has each "sequel" feature a different character. It's true--her books are excellent. The world is so believable and real and you really care about the characters. They seem like real people, like friends.

I agree with the comments that sequels need to show some growth in the main characters. Why would we want to read about them if they're the same at the end of the book as they were at the starting? If all the events left them untouched and they didn't learn anything?

Alyosha said...

I love it when something shocking happens. Like in the Bourne series when they killed off Marie, or on House when Foreman, Cameron and Chase all got fired or quit. Or Season 2 of Alias when they took down SD 6. I realize those are all TV shows, but what is a TV series but a BUNCH of sequels? My advice is to do something drastic. Kill Jude. :)

donnas said...

Congrats!!! You must be so excited.

My favorite thing about sequels is finding out what comes next for your favorite characters. Its always a little sad when the book ends and there is no more.

A great sequel is when the characters stay strong and the storyline is new and interesting.

A bad sequel is when its a rehash of the same story, the characters dont change or grow or the storyline doesnt move along and the characters spend 200 pages doing nothing.

Rachel Caine's Morganville series is great as is JD Robb's In Death series.

Jackie Johnson said...

Wow - you got a lot of good advice here, so I will keep mine short since I am not very experienced! I personally like it when sequels draw on information from the first book, but not in a obvious sort of way. SO if something dramatic happens, the readers who know the background KNOW how truly dramatic it is, versus someone reading it for the first time would think it was dramatic, but not the same intensity. This is a really bad comparison, but I have always been a fan of Friends. Part of what I think is so funny about the show is how much they drew on past experiences, but in a subtle way. Basically I like a story line that is complex enough that I need to think a little, but simple enough I can relax and enjoy it too.

Otherwise - I agree with everything else that has been said about sequels: allows for greater character development, and you can find out what happens in more stages of their life. I agree - misunderstandings to drive them apart, just for the sake of driving them apart can be annoying, but you do need Gossip Girl-like drama in there to keep it interesting. Why did I just think of the Pirates of the Carribean movie - maybe a third person (Jack Sparrow) to the relationship mix can help without creating just a random disagreement? That was an odd comment, but there it is!

Cinnamon said...

That's practically right around the corner!

The thing I like most about sequels is the continuation of the story. I'm always a "but what happens next?" sort, so I love to see where the story goes. What I don't like about sequels is that sometimes it feels forced. Either too much is put into it and it doesn't at all flow like the first book or not enough time is spent on it perfecting to a diamond sheen. I'm really bad about comparing sequels to the firsts.

My opinion on what makes a great sequel: Keeping the vibe, the flow of the first book. Answering the questions we had but then leaving us with more. Taking the awesomeness of the first book and raising it to new heights.

A real stinker of a novel is, in my opinion, one that doesn't at all sound like the first novel. Either the flow is way off or drastic things from the first novel have been changed. Say we spend the entire first novel trying to save the cheerleader, only to have her suddenly die in the second novel. It leaves a feeling of disconnect.

Oh, that's a tough one. I'd have to say, right now, either Eclipse by Meyer (yes it's a Third) or Lover Eternal by J.R. Ward. Perhaps even Rogue by Rachel Vincent. Too many choices!

Kim Reid said...

I haven't had time to read all the comments so sorry if this is a repeat.

One thing Lynn Kurland warned about at the LTUE conference when dealing with romance in a series is that part of the tension is, "Will they end up together?" She used the Star Wars trilogy as kind of a bad example because Han and Leia have great tension for the first two movies but then get together at the beginning of "Return of the Jedi" instead of at the end of the trilogy. The sexual tension totally evaporates and the focus shifts to fighting with ewoks and weirdness with Luke being Leia's brother.

At the same time, another bad move is to have the lovers break up so you can repeat the tension of the first novel---i.e. National Treasure 1 and 2. The speaker said no one likes to see a break up after a happily ever after, and I agree with previous comments that you don't want the same plot twice.

So basically since you already answered the question "will they end up together?" I think the second novel should *have* romance but not *be* a romance, meaning the sexual tension should not be the main storyline or conflict like it was in the first book. SM found a way to keep raising the question of if Bella and Edward will end up together, but I don't think that always works.

I have no advice on how to execute any of this. I'm not a big sequel reader, even if I loved the first book. I just can't commit, ya know?

But I want to read your sequel! I hope Jude plays a big part in it because I want to know what happens to him.

Llehn said...

What I want to see in a sequel is the author taking the characters and the story arc to the next level. Like if there are relationships budding in the first book, I want to know how it develops. With regards the storyline, I would love it if it could use the basis of the first book as the foundation and build upon it like the Harry Potter books. I think the thing I seriously hate about sequels is when the author has no story to tell but is capitalizing on the success of the earlier book to make a quick buck or drag out a thinly stretched plot that could have been finished in the first book! Grrrr ....

D said...

I just love getting to hang out with characters again in a sequel.

I, too, hate it when some stupid misunderstanding separates a couple just for the sake of dragging out the whole- will they or won't they be a couple. My best example would be Gilmore Girls- Lorelai and Luke- they both made stupid stupid mistakes. Or Ross and Rachel- seriously? It get's boring after awhile. Those aren't books... but you get the point.

Fresh adventure and new experiences make life exciting and bring a romance closer or reveal new less desirable personality traits.

And the third Harry Potter was my favorite so sometimes sequels are better. :)

I am so excited to get your book as a Christmas present! I am totally making my husband pre-order it. :)

Lizzy said...

Hmm sequels...well it's always exciting to see a new book involving characters that I loved the first time around. It's nice to see what new situations they are placed in, and what problems they will have to face. The main problem with sequels is when there isn't any new character development. I want to learn more about the sequels where I can't learn more about them are super frustrating.I think that a great sequel has to have some conflict, and the reader should discover something new about the characters. I've read some sequels where it just seems to be a repeat of the first book...that's definitely a qualification for a stinker.
The best sequel I've ever read - Second Helpings by Megan McCafferty

Rachie said...

I think one reason sequels are usually disappointing is because they don't focus on character development as heavily as the first. For a geeky/lame example, the first Spiderman movie was cool and interesting because you get to find out about Peter Parker and how he became Spiderman and how he dealt with it, with a bit of bad-guy fightery thrown in the mix. Spiderman II, however, was just Spiderman running around beating up Doc Oc. They tried to keep the character intrigue going with all the angsty inner conflict ("Should I be Spiderman, shouldn't I be Spiderman...?"), but it just couldn't compare to the cool story of him *becoming* Spiderman.

Plots and story lines are great, but I think it's the characters that really make things interesting. To use another non-literature example, look at the TV show House. Every week they have their formulaic story line--there's a sick person, House and his team can't figure out what it is, try this, try that, in the last ten minutes House has a stroke of genius and figures out what the ailment is. Mildly interesting, but not what drives the show. It's the relationships between the characters that flows from week to week that keeps people tuning in. (Is House *finally* going to quit being an ass and hook up with Cuddy or what?!) So, to make a long comment short (too late) keep the characters interesting and keep telling us new stuff about them--rather than just coming up with another conflict/plotline--and you'll have a kick-A sequel!

PS I can't wait to get my copy of The Dark Divine!!

word verification: perged

What's that supposed to mean?! :)

Erika Powell said...

I love sequels because I was obviously in some way attached to the characters so a great sequel has to build on what made those characters great.
and congrats on the release! I am so excited for December