I do love it when I discover an author with a back catalogue the length of my arm. There is nothing more satisfying than coming to the end of a novel safe in the knowledge that I haven’t got to wait twelve months for the author to produce something new; I can just delve straight into more of his or her wares.
That said, there is one thing more satisfying; when that book is a sequel.
I’m not sure where my obsession for the sequel first began but I suspect it was Enid Blyton. I was fascinated with the Far Away Tree series and the Naughtiest Girl collection. So much that I had an imaginary friend called Katy who I went to imaginary boarding school with. I feel it’s safe to say I developed my imagination at a very early age…
I loved the Worst Witch series by Jill Murphy, nothing compared to Harry Potter who I first discovered at 19 (when Rowling had only got as far as Prisoner of Azkaban and I did have to wait year upon year for a new edition!) and in my early twenties I discovered Rebecca Shaw’s Village collection only to find she had a Country collection too which kept me well entertained in the wee small hours of night time breastfeeding.
So, imagine my delight last year when I discovered M. C. Beaton’s Agatha Raisin series. Twenty-five cosy-crime novels about a retired PR executive, Agatha, who takes early retirement to the Cotswolds. Perfect. They are light humoured, contain intrigue, suspense and a romantic element too; I couldn’t ask for more. And seeing as Beaton is also the creator of Hamish Macbeth, a nineties favourite TV programme before, it is a wonder I hadn’t discovered our Agatha before.
It’s got me thinking though; why do I love a sequel so much? Why do I want to return to the same characters, the same setting time and time again and not discover new characters and new adventures? I am a creature of habit and I do love familiarity so it is quite possible that this is why I want to return to the same place again, but I think it’s more than that. I have always been one of those people who never wants a story to end. After I finish a novel I am often left wondering what happens to the characters next? Even when there’s a happy ending, my mind wanders to what the characters will go on to do. Stay in the same setting or move away? Have children? Get married or divorced? I think it’s fair to say I bond with some characters, I care about them and I want to know what they’re doing with their lives off the page, even when I’m not there.
Which brings me to my own writing. I love the characters in my first novel, I crafted them, I developed them, I even plotted on a map where each one of them lives. In my head they are already having adventures in a second novel but I just can’t get the first novel published. I’ve had some really positive comments, it’s come runner-up in a competition, I’ve even had compliments about the characters. It’s just the plot that doesn’t quite grip enough. So what do I do? Do I rewrite it (for a third time!) in the hope I get it ‘right’? Or do I just write a sequel and see where that takes me? Because that is the great thing about series of novels; you don’t necessarily have to read them in the order they were written.
Answers on a postcard please.
Yours, confused of the Cotswolds.