Welcome to #marchofthesequels, Steven! First of all tell me a little about your series and introduce us to the sequel.
The Raincatcher’s Ballad is an epic fantasy set in an industrialised world – one reviewer described it as “post-Steampunk”, which I guess is pretty accurate.
The series follows 16-year-old orphan (and apprentice Raincatcher) Serena as she navigates a perilous world in order to find out the mystery surrounding her powers. Aided by a crew of (deeply, deeply) flawed allies, Serena spends the series crossing the globe, chasing answers and confronting the dangerous forces seeking to use her powers for their own gain.
Thematically, the series deals with trust, grief and finding the strength to forgive yourself (all tied up with a metric ton of action and crazy escapades!).
Do you find that most of your readers continue to read the whole series? Why do you think that is?
The first book in a series tends to sell better than the others – if readers are intrigued, they’ll pick it up. If it’s not for them, then there’s no readthrough. I’d say it’s about 50-50, with a better ratio going from Book 2 to Book 3.
Is it easier to further develop characters you’ve already written in book one?
It was easy for me with The Raincatcher’s Ballad trilogy because I had an idea of how the characters would end up. Sometimes they surprise you, though, and there were times during the writing process when I worried that my characters had regressed between books!
How difficult is it to add new characters in a sequel into already established relationships?
I start all my planning with a unifying concept that lets me explore a particular theme/human dynamic, so when introducing new characters, I think about where they fit in within that. Does this character exemplify the theme? Or help the main character(s) overcome (or exasperate) their flaws and learn the lesson that ties into the overall theme? If they don’t, then they’re going to feel out of place, like a character from Game of Thrones wandering into an episode of The Office.
A benefit of “outsiders” coming in is that they offer fresh perspectives and often call out the main cast on how stupid they’re being without worrying about offending them (a lesson I learned from watching religiously Buffy the Vampire Slayer).
Is it difficult to continue with worldbuilding for a world you have already built in book 1? Do you find it easier to switch locations for the sequel and start again with worldbuilding?
Good question. Before I finished Symphony of the Wind, I knew what locales the characters would journey to in the following books, so I had notes etc. at the ready before drafting the sequels. It’s always good for an author to surprise themselves, though, so not everything is mapped out. Ideas can shift. I didn’t plan on a trek through a jungle in Book 3, but the characters took me on a detour.
Have you ever been stymied by a worldbuilding or plot detail from book 1 that is very inconvenient to deal with or write your way around in subsequent books?
Did you notice your craft improving from book 1 to subsequent books in a series, and if so, how?
Yes, absolutely. Reading early reviews and getting an idea of your own strengths and weaknesses helps massively. (Although half of Book 2 was written before Book 1 was released.) It’s like working a muscle; it improves the more you use it. Of course, writers always challenge themselves, so while some areas improve, it never feels easy…
Do you plan out the entire series at once or one book at a time?
One book at a time, with plenty of notes for future volumes. I like giving my characters room to surprise me.
Do you try to make sequels readable as standalones or do you design a series so that readers have to read the whole thing?
For The Raincatcher’s Ballad, the trilogy works as a single entire story. I can appreciate both approaches, though.
Do you have any marketing tips for sequels?
Keep cover branding consistent, and be mindful of spoilers in case readers pick up volume 3 before they’ve read volume 1! I also include a link to a series summary at the start of the Kindle version of my books so readers can reacquaint themselves with the story before delving into the next book.
Thanks for having me, Sue!
You’re very welcome – thank you for taking part!
My reviews of Steven McKinnon’s Raincatcher’s Ballad trilogy:
About the Author
Symphony of the Wind is Steven McKinnon’s first fiction novel, and is Book One of The Raincatcher’s Ballad. The Fury Yet To Come is a prequel novella set in the same world.
His first book, the true-life tale Boldly Going Nowhere, was released in 2015.
Steven was born in the bathroom of a Glasgow flat in the year 1986. He has since moved out.
To get the Raincatcher’s Ballad prequel novella — The Fury Yet To Come — for free, sign up to the author’s newsletter at http://subscribe.stevenmckinnon.net/