March of the Sequels – Joshua Gillingham

Welcome to March of the Sequels, Joshua.
First of all, tell me a little about your series and introduce us to the sequel.

The Saga of Torin Ten-Trees is a troll-hunting fantasy adventure inspired by the Norse myths and the Icelandic sagas. 

In The Gatewatch (Book 1), Torin Ten-Trees and his closest companions, Bryn and Grimsa, set out to become trollhunters. When a troupe of meddling dwarves throws them off course they are captured by trolls and taken as prisoners to a secret gathering deep underground. There they learn that an ancient giant has crowned himself king of the trolls and plans to utterly destroy The Gatewatch. Their perilous journey back to the land of sun and stars stretches their strength to the limit, strains their wits, and demands an unspeakable sacrifice…

In The Everspring (Book 2), Torin Ten-Tree’s debt of service as a trollhunter in Gatewatch has been paid.  He must decide whether to return home to take up his father’s seat in Ten-Tree Hall or to become a Greycloak of Gatewatch along with Grimsa and Wyla. Torin grapples with an unexpected revelation, the long-hidden identity of his mother, just as a delegation brings urgent news of King Araldof Greyraven’s grave and sudden illness. Heirless, the Greyraven’s death would plunge the land into chaos as the Jarls of Noros entered a struggle of succession. The last desperate hope to keep the realm from wreck and ruin is the legend of a powerful source of healing, the Everspring. Yet, greater questions and graver answers await Torin and his company on the road north through the land of the immortal giants. As long-forgotten secrets are unveiled, they learn not only the cause of the Greyraven’s illness but the insidious origins of the evil that first spawned the trolls in the wild woods beyond Gatewatch…

If that has piqued your interest then grab a horn full of mead and cozy up to a crackling fire before setting out on this troll-hunting fantasy adventure! 

Do you find that most of your readers continue to read the whole series? Why do you think that is?

Certainly! Requests for the sequel started pouring in shortly after The Gatewatch launched in May 2020 and did not let up until The Everspring was released in November 2021. (Soon to be followed by reader petitions for the third book – I’m seeing a pattern!) The Everspring was actually fully written by the time The Gatewatch came out, so it was frustrating at times to know that the sequel was done but not available to readers. The year and a half gap between the books was due to delays on the publishing side. This is one aspect of writing books that I have come to understand and more accurately account for in recent years. A book does not slip off the author’s desk onto bookshelves in the store; it has a long and harrowing journey between those two destinations. 

Is it easier to further develop characters you’ve already written in book one?

Easier is not the word I would use, but it is a totally different experience dealing with a cast of established characters in a familiar world rather than starting from ‘Once upon a time…’; in this case it was a pleasure for me as I had built up so much backstory while writing The Gatewatch that I could not pack into the first book (save for, perhaps, including an in-world encyclopedia as a companion to the book). Working some of those details into the second book was very rewarding as I invited readers deeper into the lives of characters they loved from The Gatewatch and brought them on a new adventure that greatly widens Torin’s world. 

How difficult is it to add new characters in a sequel into already established relationships?

I did not find this difficult; in fact, I found it refreshing. The Gatewatch featured a very tight-knit central group of characters and I worried that a second book built around only those relationships would feel stale. However, introducing even one or two new characters offers many opportunities for new character dynamics, both with the new character and between established characters. The Gatewatch is focussed on the trollhunters of Noros, Viking-like warriors with a strict code of honour; two new characters from the faraway land of Armeah appear in The Everspring and provide rich opportunities to explore points of intercultural synergy and friction. 

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?

This is a definite no for me. The sequel begins in the same location and it was very exciting to continue building out from there. I really tried to limit myself to one specific area of the world in book one so as not to distract from the development of central character relationships; however, in book two I felt I had more freedom to explore the world as the adventure carried Torin and his companions further north to the land of the giants. The second book, in that sense, was not a leaving but a widening; more exciting than anything else for me was deepening the lore of the world. 

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?

Yes, and I can point to one specifically. In the late stages of editing The Gatewatch I sensed that two characters, Torin and Wyla, wanted a romantic through-line in the series; ‘romantic’ in the Viking sense… think Brynhild and Sigurd. So I followed this nudging and the way it played out made me a bit nervous; at the time it felt brave but as I wrote the sequel I wondered if I had made a mistake. However, by the end of The Everspring I wrote one of my favorite scenes of the whole series which serves as a foil to the ‘romantic’ scene in the first book and could not have happened otherwise. Not to set out any spoilers, but as a teaser, the third book carries this through and now that the series is finished I believe that following that nudge was the right thing to do. 

Did you notice your craft improving from book 1 to subsequent books in a series, and if so, how?

More than just craft, I actually had half a sense of what I was doing when I wrote The Everspring. Before The Gatewatch, I had never written a full-length novel before! Having written several books now I have come to realize there is a rhythm to the process, a rhythm which I was unattuned and out of step with while writing The Gatewatch though it miraculously still came out as a well-received fantasy adventure debut. Nevertheless, I have a hard time reading the first book. I love the characters and the adventure, but I am constantly tripping over phrasings I would change and tweaks I would make here and there. I don’t write the same now as I did seven years ago. 

Do you plan out the entire series at once or one book at a time?

I sketch out series on a very global level; basically one or two plot points per chapter (I write books with twenty chapters). There must be accommodations made throughout the actual writing for diversions from the original sketch, but it really helps to have a general sense of the direction of the story, especially for fantasy adventure series like The Saga of Torin Ten-Trees. In fact, I have started writing a new series inspired by the Golden Age of Piracy and the French Revolution; it has been critical to have some global sense of where things are heading, especially when staging out key points in character arcs.  

Do you try to make sequels readable as standalones or do you design a series so that readers have to read the whole thing?

Any great book should stand alone, regardless of whether it is part of a series. However, dedicated readers of the series should enjoy benefits such as a deeper understanding of character conflicts, recognizing nods and references to previous books, and hopefully a much greater sense of satisfaction upon reading the final book in the series. 

Do you have any marketing tips for sequels?

Pay it all forward during the launch and follow up to your first book. Engage with your readers. Thank them for posting reviews. Connect with other authors in your genre and be generous with your time. Seek out media connections and maintain those relationships for the launch of your second (and hopefully third, fourth…) books. And don’t just build up your media presence around your first book – build it around you, the author. This is especially important if you plan on writing a series, or more than one series. Marketing is a slippery fish and everyone will have to find their own way of catching it, but keep at it and be creative. Patience and consistency far outshine sudden bursts of energy or financial investment. Don’t give up!

Thank you for joining me for #marchofthesequels today! Good luck with your books!

About the Author

Joshua Gillingham is a Canadian author from Nanaimo, BC. There he enjoys life with his adventurous spouse and their two very unadventurous cats. The Gatewatch was born of his unremitted fascination with Norse Myths and Icelandic Sagas. His lyrical maritime ballad The Queen of the Rose Marie was selected for the Short Story Dispenser Project hosted by Short Édition and his award-winning essay Becoming a Resilient Writer has been featured on several sites for aspiring writers. When he is not hunched over his laptop sipping coffee and tapping frantically at the keyboard, Joshua performs Irish and Maritime music with The Ugly Mugs and designs viking-themed board games for Little Hammer Games.

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One thought on “March of the Sequels – Joshua Gillingham

  1. Pingback: March of the Sequels Hub | Sue's Musings

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