Or, Let’s talk about Red Gold Bridge and Fog Season
In my career I’ve had two second books so far: Red Gold Bridge and Fog Season. Published earlier in 2019, Fog Season, the second book in The Tales of Port Saint Frey, follows up with the further adventures of Yvienne and Tesara Mederos. It deepens their stories, carries on with the consequences of their actions, and brings in new villains and new dangers.
Red Gold Bridge has just been reissued by sfgateway. The second book in the Books of the Gordath, it is about what happens when a door you thought was closed for good, opens again — and your worst nightmare comes through. It’s about love, rescue, and finding your place.
Both books are very different, but they have one thing in common — they are better than the first book in the series. Oh, I don’t mean better as in the first book is bad. I don’t sell bad books. (At that statement, middle-aged
paunchy boys flex their necks and crack their knuckles, ready to tell me how wrong I am. Yes. That is antagonistic. If you’re reading it, I left it in after a bit of a back and forth with the better angel of my nature.)*
But better in that the pacing is better, the plotting is better, the overall story telling is better. Both books can also be read as the entry into the series. This is a trick that I learned from my first editor, Susan Allison, who told me not to write too much backstory — you don’t want new readers to put down the second book because they think they have to pick up the first. It’s a fine line, but it can be done. So here’s my pitch — go ahead and read Fog Season before The Sisters Mederos, or Red Gold Bridge before Gordath Wood. You’ll be fine.
Here’s another reason the second book is better. I have less time to write it. The first book — any first book — has had a long time to gel. The second book is under deadline. There’s no time to be precious. It’s got to be done. I remember getting the contract for the Gordath series and I had six months to deliver the second book. In the end they gave me 9 months, I asked for an extra three weeks, and we got it done.
Red Gold Bridge is still better. I threw out nearly 50,000 words (the perils of pantsing) and I still got it done and it’s still a better book.
Similarly Fog Season. I had learned my lesson and had the book written — mostly — before we sold The Sisters Mederos, but there was a lot of back and forth with my agent and editor, respectively. Toward the end, the editor and I had a call, and the last piece fell into place, making the book exponentially better and the whole thing come together like a puzzle piece.
As writers, we get better with every book. We get better at structure and pacing and emotional heft and resonance, and world building and character, and stakes, and conflict and joy and sorrow. Each subsequent book should always get better than the last, and should also be harder to write, if we’re doing our jobs right.
Fog Season and Red Gold Bridge. Out now. Doing what second books do best — holding up the promise and delivering more.
*Better angel: That’s mean
Me: Look, you know what happens when women, especially middle-aged women, acknowledge that they are good at something. They get “well, actually’d” by helpful men.
BA: But fat-shaming?
Me: Should I take out paunchy?
BA: Take out paunchy.