Welcome to March of the Sequels, Peter! First of all tell me a little about your series.
The Guardian of Empire City series is an urban science fantasy crime thriller set in a near-future following homicide detective Tom “Doc” Holliday and his eclectic team as they try to “solve the strange and unusual by any means necessary.” The series leans heavily on classic tropes, pop culture references and the occasional Shakespeare quote.
In BLOODLINES, readers are introduced to a changed Earth—humanity lives in one of fifty-one walled enclaves, magic coexists with technology, and parallel dimensions sometimes spit out bad things who aim to misbehave. But in Empire City, a lot of the character and architecture that comprised the Five Boroughs is still very much alive, epitomized to some degree by Holliday. Stuck in a dead-end job, Holliday is recruited to join Special Crimes because of his gift, a fickle clairvoyance he calls the Insight that grants him the ability to see the dark and terrible things hiding within his world. Saddled with a team whose past is checkered as his own, Holliday investigates the murder of a young woman whose body was drained of blood. From corporate espionage, biogenetic engineering and gun-toting mercenaries to soul-sucking shadow parasites, vampiric androids and the magical masterminds behind them all, it’ll take more than the Insight, a homicide detective’s instincts, a hacker witch, an irreverent former holy cop and an interdimensional woman with a magic voice to solve this crime. But solve it, they do.
Four months after the BLOODLINES case, Holliday finds himself on the hunt again in PIECES OF EIGHT. When the mutilated corpse of an ex-con is found in the bowels of an old church, haunting Biblical verses scrawled at the crime scene speak of divine retribution, and a killer hellbent on revenge. Holliday knows this murder is just the beginning, because blood is thicker than water, especially when the Russian mob is involved.
With few leads and fewer suspects, Holliday and the team embark upon an investigation that will lead them down a dark and twisted path and test the bonds of family and friendship. From the frozen streets of Little Odessa to the diabolical wealth of Park Avenue, Holliday will need more than just his Insight to hunt down a seemingly unstoppable killer.
But when Holliday suspects the killer might not be what it seems, he must use his fickle magic to unravel a Faustian bargain binding an innocent soul or lose his own and watch his world die.
Do you find that most of your readers continue to read the whole series? Why do you think that is?
Sadly, I don’t. I think the avid fans who have discovered the series do, but the average reader doesn’t. It could be for any number of reasons—they’re busy with family or work, they’re writing their own stories, they have a huge TBR pile, they buy the book and forget they own it, life gets in the way, they’ve been kidnapped by aliens, or worse, their in-laws. Who knows? Readership is fickle. Unless you’re one of the “BIG NAMES”, a little self-pubbed indie writer like me is just another crumb on the table. If the reader remembers the good meal they had, then they’ll savor the final crumb…as long as it doesn’t get wiped up before that happens. A long and somewhat silly answer with the sobering truth that writers can’t control readers and their desire to read the next installment. You write the best book you can, hope you hook some readers, and then go back to writing the next one all the while constantly refreshing Amazon and Goodreads and Twitter and everywhere else praying you’ll see someone shout from the mountaintop that they’ve read Book 1, have moved on to Book 2, and everybody else in the world should do the same. Alas, most unicorns don’t exactly exist, but there are many wonderfully supportive people such as yourself among the Twitter Writing Community who are tremendously helpful and spread the word.
Well thank you – we do try where possible!
Is it easier to further develop characters you’ve already written in book one?
I think so. In this case, familiarity doesn’t necessarily breed contempt. As a writer, you know what they feel like, how they act, talk, think, emote, and you want them to not be one or two-dimensional fictional figments. Unless that’s precisely what you want, in which case ignore my previous statement. But I find slipping into the characters and then asking questions like “What’s next for Holliday?” or “What can I do to advance Besim from mysterious to downright diabolical?” or “How did the events of BLOODLINES change Deacon in PIECES OF EIGHT?” I’m constantly asking myself these questions and many others, allowing their story threads to roll around in my mind so when I’m before the keyboard, those new concepts just leap onto the virtual page.
How difficult is it to add new characters in a sequel into already established relationships?
Not hard at all. In fact, I love it. I want to add freshness to the old script. New characters expand the world, creating new opportunities or challenges for the main core, and new wrinkles to the plotline. My characters will never live in a vacuum. They’ll always run into new characters that will broaden them as individuals in some direct or subtle way.
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?
It’s a fun challenge. I’m constantly worldbuilding in The Guardian series, even though I’m working with something very familiar, namely, New York City. Because the setting is a near-future / alternate history, I can do whatever I want within the familiar confines of the Five Boroughs (and surrounding counties). Holliday’s cases will take him to different parts of Empire City, and eventually beyond the mile-high spell-forged steel walls that guard it. This allows me to dive deeply and color things with whatever palette I choose. So while I am switching some locations in the sequel, I’m also worldbuilding as I go. I want my readers to recognize some things and appreciate the changes I’ve made with others.
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?
So far, no. I’m only two books in (while working on the third), and I keep notes about what I’ve already done for consistency’s sake. That keeps things tight and easy. I suspect once I get beyond four or five books, that might happen.
Did you notice your craft improving from book 1 to subsequent books in a series, and if so, how?
Oh yes. Thanks mostly to my editor, I’ve improved my craft. My writing is more focused. At least, I hope it is. One of the best pieces of advice I can give to any first-time author is to invest in a good editor. I don’t care who you are, all writers suffer from the forest-for-the-trees syndrome and will never see or catch every error, no matter how meticulous they might be. I constantly self-edit, and I’m always amazed when I get the manuscript back and roll through the hundreds of corrections my editor has made.
Do you plan out the entire series at once or one book at a time?
My stories are somewhat unique in that they’re all based upon tabletop role-playing games that I’ve run for my long-time gaming group. I novelize their games, taking liberties and changing things that make the most sense for the continuity I’ve created in the books. I don’t have a set plan for how The Guardian series will end, other than I will eventually resolve the main storylines first introduced in BLOODLINES and furthered along in PIECES OF EIGHT. But I don’t have a Point A to Point Z plan for it. At least, not yet.
Do you try to make sequels readable as standalones or do you design a series so that readers have to read the whole thing?
My sequels require the reading of the previous book if you want all the juicy details. But I’ve been told I did a nice job summarizing the events of the prior book in PIECES OF EIGHT so that a new reader could dive in to Book 2 if they felt like it.
Do you have any marketing tips for sequels?
I wish I did. Marketing is one of the hardest things to do as a self-published author, and I could certainly use some tips myself!
Thank you so much for this opportunity! I appreciate you allowing me to ramble on about The Guardian of Empire City series!
Thank you so much for taking part – and good luck with your books!
Find Peter’s books here:
BLOODLINES is available on Kindle, Kindle Unlimited, in paperback and on Audible.
PIECES OF EIGHT is available on Kindle, Kindle Unlimited, and in paperback. The Audible version should be out sometime in late spring or early summer 2022.
About the Author
A native son of Massachusetts, Peter has been living in the Deep South for over 25 years. By day, he’s an insurance professional, saving the world one policy at a time. But at night, well, no one really wants to see him fighting crime in his Spider-Man onesie. Instead, Peter develops new worlds of adventure, influenced by his love of science fiction, mysteries, music and fantasy. Whether it’s running role-playing games for his long-time friends, watching his beloved New England sporting teams, or just chilling with a movie, his wife, two boys, one puppy and three cats, Peter’s imagination is always on the move. It’s the reason why his stories are an eclectic blend of intrigue, excitement, humor and magic, all drawn from four decade’s worth of television, film, novels, and comic books. You can learn more about Peter and his writing projects at peterhartog.com, or send him a tweet @althazyr.
Contact Peter here: