Hi all! One of the many joys on the road to publishing, and beyond, is having the opportunity to meet and get to know other fellow authors. The beauty of blogging is that I get to share those connections with you!
What follows is a guest post by one such friend-author, Selah Tay-Song. Please enjoy! I can tell you, as someone currently toiling through writing their second book, it’s a huge relief to know my struggle is far from unique.
Lessons Learned from the Dreaded Second Book
(Guest Post by Selah Tay-Song)
A couple of years back, I attended a writing conference where the keynote speaker, Author Jim Lynch, said that the second book is always the hardest book for an author to write.
He explained that whether the first book was a raving success and you are terrified that the second book won’t be up to the same standard, or the first book was a flop and you are reeling with disappointment, it’s hard.
He went on to say that while the second book is particularly challenging, it never gets easier. Even the most prolific bestselling author will still have a hard time sitting down and starting another book.
At the time I hadn’t even finished Dreams of QaiMaj Book I, so I didn’t take his words too much to heart. Now that I am launching Dream of a City of Ruin, Dreams of QaiMaj Book II, I understand exactly what he meant. The challenges to writing book two were different from the first, but no less daunting.
In addition to being both terrified that the second book wouldn’t live up to the standard I’d set with the first book, and disappointed in the performance of the first book, I faced three seemingly insurmountable writing challenges while writing Dream of a City of Ruin:
DCR is a “journey” story (the main characters spend most of the book traveling from point a to point b) which is really hard for me to write (I’m an action kinda gal).
The two main characters in DCR have to go from being mortal enemies (literally, they tried to kill each other at the end of the first book) to bonded allies. And the reader has to buy this development.
The scope of DCR was dramatically larger than the scope of the first book. The setting widened, the number of important characters increased, and the stakes grew much higher.
So how did I rise to these challenges?
For the first one, I read a lot of journey stories, and focused on journey or transitory portions of several of my favorite series. What I found that kept me engaged in these kinds of stories, almost overwhelmingly, were two things: one, the characters underwent an emotional journey that mirrored the physical journey, and two, there were actually plenty of ways to keep the tension and action high during the journey—have the heroes being pursued, or put obstacles in their path, or put them in conflict with each other.
For the second challenge, I relied largely on my editor and beta readers. I had a vision of where I wanted the character’s relationship to be when I finished, but there were a lot of places where I moved too fast, where the characters acted too accepting or friendly before it was reasonable for them to do so. My big learning experience with this project was patience, and a big part of that was being patient with these two characters, letting them figure things out at their own pace.
For the third challenge, I had to adapt my writing process. I spent a lot more time planning Dream of a City of Ruin than I ever have before when drafting a book. Not only did I plan out the plot carefully, I also planned out each individual character’s arc. Once I sat down to write, I had a much more clear idea of how everything should play out than I did writing the first book.
Patience, planning, writing in community, and research were my big take-aways from the experience of writing Dream of a City of Ruin. I will certainly be carrying these valuable lessons with me as I continue to write the Dreams of QaiMaj series!
What was your biggest writing challenge recently, and how did you overcome it? Leave a note in the comments and let me know!
Selah J Tay-Song is living proof that if you persevere, you’ll catch your dreams. She decided to be an author at the age of six. It took her 25 years to learn how to write a book. Today she is the author of the award-winning Dreams of QaiMaj series, described as magical, poetic and engrossing. When she’s not writing epic fantasy, Selah blogs about everything she wished she knew before she wrote her first book. When she’s not writing, Selah is stalking the urban river otters that live near her home in the Pacific Northwest.
Check out Selah’s latest book, Dream of a City of Ruin, available March 20th, 2015! The tale of QaiMaj continues in this gripping sequel to Dream of a Vast Blue Cavern:
War simmering for three thousand years is poised to explode on the surface of QaiMaj. The outcome might free the scattered survivors of an ancient disaster from tyranny, or destroy them forever.
Torn from familiar caverns in the midst of her own war, stranded in the icy lands of Khell, Queen Stasia of Iskalon knows nothing of the conflicts shaping QaiMaj. Her only guides are legends told by a Khell Healer and her own prophetic Dreams of her people suffering in a dark, ruined city. Unwillingly allied with the man who destroyed everything she holds dear, struggling to define her identity in the face of so much loss, stalked and assailed by death-hungry Dhuciri, Stasia sets out across the vast wastelands of QaiMaj to reach the city of her Dreams.
But Svardark, the ruling dynasty on QaiMaj, already knows she has surfaced, and they will stop at nothing to find her in . . .
Hello, and thanks again for tuning in! As I’d mentioned in my last post, I’ve been invited to participate in the Meet My Character Blog Tour. For this particular tour, authors interview a main character from a recently published or soon to be published work, and then tag other authors to keep up the chain of interviews the following week. It’s the perfect opportunity for readers to learn about these characters outside of the constraints of their stories, and for authors to promote not only their work but the characters that made their work possible.
Before we begin, I’d like to thank the authors who invited me to participate in this tour:
Lily Author writes mysteries and thrillers, and is the author of Eden Fell, a dark and modern fairytale that chronicles Eden’s life as she falls from grace. She is also a moderator of the Goodreads group Fringe Fiction. You can read Lily’s contribution to the Meet My Character Blog Tour here.
Sarah Roberts is the author of Rokula, a Contemporary Fantasy novel about monsters, magic, arena fighting, conspiracies, jealousy, betrayal, love, destiny, and madness. Rokula is the first installment of The Rokula Saga. For more information, check out The Rokula Saga website here. Like Rokula on Facebook. You can read Sarah’s contribution to the Meet My Character Blog Tour here.
Ryan Gladney is the author of Nine Lives of Adam Blake, a contemporary novel set in Minnesota that combines elements of speculative fiction, urban fantasy, philosophical fiction, coming-of-age, and literary fiction. You can read Ryan’s contribution to the Meet My Character Blog Tour here.
In a few seconds, you’ll be meeting the lead characters of my debut novel, The Butterfly Crest. When I was considering how to set this up, I decided it would be best to let the characters speak for themselves. As a result, you’ll be reading an interview scene that exists somewhere outside the timeline of the novel.
And with that, onto our scene…
Meet My Characters – Interview Scene
Relief washed over Elena as she stepped out of the blistering summer heat and into the cool, air-conditioned atrium of a restaurant. Looking down at her watch, she was thrilled to see she was only five minutes late.
The moment the door closed behind her, the sounds of the street outside fell away and were quickly replaced by the clamor of patrons enjoying their lunch. There was always something frantic about the energy inside a New Orleans restaurant; a joie de vivre, as Cataline would say. It was impossible not to be swept up by it, and Elena couldn’t help but stop and take a moment to enjoy it.
Her moment, however, was cut short by the sound of an unfriendly, yet familiar voice.
“Ah, Ms. Vicens, you’re finally here. He’s been waiting,” the host called out to Elena in a brisk tone, raising his hand to wave her over from the entrance. “Come along,” he added, looking her over disapprovingly, before turning on his heel to lead the way.
Elena stared at the man’s back for a few seconds and then fell into step behind him, following along the familiar corridor to the private dining room reserved for the Callas family. Thankfully, the short walk was a quiet one this time, and the host didn’t linger once he showed Elena into the room; his attempt to walk her to their table had been met by a violent stare from the room’s only occupant.
Tall and slender, with pale blonde hair and ice-blue eyes, the man was dressed in an impeccably tailored suit, his hair worn short and perfectly groomed. He appeared to be in his late twenties but was much older than that, and his fair skin was so pale it reminded Elena of snow. Since the day they’d met, this was exactly how he always looked, except for the few times Elena had seen him lose his composure—and those moments were few and far between.
“Tell me you didn’t walk here,” he said to Elena as he met her in the center of the room and led her back to their table. After helping her into her chair, he took his seat across from her and waited patiently for her response, the hint of a smirk ghosting his lips.
“I did. It’s a beautiful day out.” Elena set down the piece of paper she’d been holding and reached for the glass of water on her side of the table; the walk had left her parched.
“You should have used the little trick I showed you,” he teased and followed her movements with quiet interest, his attention finally settling on the piece of paper she’d put down. “What’s that?”
“The reason I asked you to meet me,” Elena replied with a smile, “and you know I don’t like using that little trick of yours when I don’t have to—makes me super dizzy.”
“Give it time, Ele. You’ll get used to it,” he assured her, and with his eyes fixed on hers reached toward the piece of paper on the table and tapped his finger over what looked like the signature line of an email. “So what’s going on with our favorite little author? Here I was, hoping you were trying to wine and dine me.”
“Oh, I am. Just not for the reasons you want me to.”
Elena would have said more, but they were interrupted by a waiter who came to take their drink order. He seemed overly nervous, his hands shaking as he took their order and then quickly made his way out of the room once finished.
“Do you always have that effect on people?” Elena asked, watching as her companion read over the email which he’d snatched up from the table while the waiter had been doing his job.
“Depends, and don’t pretend not to know why. You should add that question to Eva’s interview. I bet she’d love that.”
“You realize this is probably why she’s asked me do the interview, right?” Elena said with a shrug, ecstatic when the nervous waiter returned with their drinks; a little alcohol would go a long way right about now, assuming the waiter didn’t drop his tray on account of his nerves.
“I have to say I’m a little offended she didn’t interview me herself.”
“Oh hush, you brought that onto yourself. You’re too demanding with her. Now hand me that email so we can get this over with.”
“I’m not demanding, Elena. I just happen to know she works best under pressure.” With a satisfied smile, he handed the paper off and reached for his glass of bourbon before settling back into his chair. “Where exactly is she posting this anyway?”
“I have no idea. Now, enough sidetracking. I’m never going to get back to the office at this rate, and your mother is going to kill me.”
“Did you sneak out?” he asked, amusement coloring his eyes. He leaned forward and watched her intently, resting his chin on his hand.
Elena fought the urge to throw a piece of bread at him. Ignoring his remark, she decided to jump right into the first question of the interview. “What’s your name? Are you a fictional or a historic person?”
“That’s a loaded question, isn’t it? I go by several names, and my nature would depend on your definition of fictional or historic.” Reaching for the glass of bourbon, he brought it to his lips and took a deep drink before continuing. “My name is Eiry Callas. To keep this simple, let’s just say I’m a fictional character.”
“Ok, that works. Now onto the next question,” Elena continued. “When and where is your story set?”
“Remind me again when we met.”
“Are you serious?”
“Ele, the years blend, so cut me some slack.”
“I figured you’d have a photographic memory or something.”
“That wouldn’t really help unless I’d seen the year, right?” Eiry offered Elena a warm smile—his version of a peace offering—and then stood from his chair. He reached into his pants pocket and retrieved a vintage cigarette case. Placing it on the table, he resumed his seat and began to search for the lighter in his blazer.
Elena watched him quietly, enjoying the way he went about things. His pace was never hurried, and his manner was always graceful and controlled. When he found his lighter, Eiry removed a cigarette from its case and then settled back into his chair.
“The story told in the book takes place in the spring of 2010, if memory serves me right,” he said, answering the last question. “It starts off here, in New Orleans, and then takes the reader to Kyoto, the underworld and beyond. Would you like one?”
For a minute Elena didn’t know what he was talking about, then saw him push the cigarette case toward her on the table. She shook her head and reached for her glass of wine instead. Looking over the email, she moved on to the next question. “What should we know about you?”
“I like pocket squares. I don’t like nicknames.”
“I think you’re leaving a few things out.”
Eiry lit his cigarette before answering. “A man should be entitled to a few secrets.”
“Fair enough. What’s the main conflict in the story? What messes up your life?”
“How long is this article going to be?” He lifted his gaze and watched her quietly, weighing his words. It felt like an eternity passed in perfect silence. The nervous waiter came in to refill their drinks and ask if they were ready to place their order. Eiry waved him off. He took another deep drink, and when he finally spoke his voice was thick and heavier than before. “The story is about a prophesied heir, a human descendant of the House of Thebes who will turn the tide in an ancient war between gods. For thousands of years, these heirs have been killed and the house was thought to be extinct, until we found you.”
Elena couldn’t keep his gaze. She ran a hand through her hair and looked down at the table. The second her eyes fell on the cigarette case, she reconsidered his offer. She downed what was left of her wine and reached for the case. It would be better to move on with the next question. “What’s your personal… goal?” Shit. She should have read the question first, before asking. It was like pouring salt on the wound. “Never mind, no need to answer that one.”
Eiry stilled and his features smoothed. “That’s probably for the best. I’m beginning to think Eva made all this up to torture me.”
“I doubt it,” Elena assured him. “There’s an email chain here with the questions. She added a few of her own, though.”
Eiry narrowed his eyes. “What’s a few?”
“Five or six. Nothing major.”
“Fine,” he said grudgingly. “Let’s get this over with so that I can start plotting my revenge.”
“Where were you born?”
“In the deep south, in a small city that borders a river.”
“When’s your birthday?”
“What’s your favorite food?”
“What’s your favorite book?”
“It’s a play. ‘Antigone’ by Sophocles.”
“What’s your favorite movie?”
“What’s your favorite T.V. show?”
“I don’t watch T.V.”
“That’s a lie and you know it.”
“I’m not lying, Elena. You watch T.V. and I have no choice but to watch it with you.”
“Come on, let me tell them.”
“No, now move it along.”
“Fine. Have you answered the last six questions truthfully?”
“The world may never know.”
And there you have it, folks—an afternoon lunch with Elena and Eiry. The scene turned out a little longer than I anticipated, but I hope you enjoyed it. Without further ado, here are the four authors I’m tagging for next week. Meet their characters next Monday, July 21st!
Lisa Jones is the author of The Prophecy, a fantasy novel and retelling of the Arthurian legends. It is the first book in a trilogy. Lisa’s second book, entitled Redemption, will be available later this year.
Ben Starling is an Oxford grad who is passionate about marine conservation and boxing, both of which are central themes in his upcoming novel. He is currently Writer in Residence for Mirthquake Ltd., a production company that advocates for ocean health and welfare.
Patrick Wong writes Young Adult fiction with a paranormal twist. His debut novel, Balancer is about a teenager who has the power to balance Life. You can find Balancer on Amazon here.
Selah Tay-Song is the author of Dream of a Vast Blue Cavern, an epic fantasy novel that tells the story of Princess Stasia of Iskalon, who, in the aftermath of war, must keep the remnants of her kingdom intact, and her only hope is a prophetic Dream that may lead her to a new home for her people.
This week’s image is “Poppies” by Katsushika Hokusai, a Japanese ukiyo-e painter and printmaker of the Edo period, who is best known as author of The Great Wave off Kanagawa.