One of the wonderful things about early reviews of my novel has been that many of the reviewers are keen to read the next instalment.
As a reader, I understand the sentiment. One of the joys of a novel which is part of a series is knowing that, if you enjoy it, there will be more.
But as a writer, it’s quite a responsibility. And it throws up some interesting challenges.
I’m deep into Hell’s Gate, the sequel to The Honey Guide / Hour of the Red God. Along the way, I’ve had to ask myself:
- How do I keep the same pace, theme and texture of the first book, without repeating myself?
- Conversely, how can I add something new without reinventing what made the first novel enjoyable?
- Which characters do I revisit, and which do I drop?
- When it comes to my hero’s back story, how much do I have to go over that ground again? Do I need to spend a lot of time on exposition from Book 1, or dive straight in to the action in medias res?
I decided early on to undertake one drastic change. The action has been trans-located from the urban buzz of Nairobi to a seemingly sleepy rural outpost. This offers two opportunities: firstly, while the pace of the first book was often breathless, in Hell’s Gate I have a chance to build a slow, claustrophobic sense of dread. This allows me to further explore the dark side of my hero Mollel’s character.
This simple change of scene has already led to Hell’s Gate having quite a different feel
—while retaining, I hope, what readers will love about the first: a cast of diverse characters, exotic locales, nippy dialogue and bubbling intrigue.
Meanwhile, I have also ‘got rid’ of Mollel’s family—or at least, put them aside. While he’s on assignment in Hell’s Gate, I wanted to explore a different sub-plot with this character, which would only be complicated by the presence of his son. So temporarily at least, the boy’s been packed off to Grandma.
I’ve also had terrific fun exploring some of the ideas I just ‘seeded’ in the first novel. If it should happen that anyone reads these books out of order, I think they will enjoy spotting some clues that I left in a breadcrumb trail along the way. Some of this is for a ‘story arc’ which is much wider than just these two novels!