Welcome to March of the sequels, Amy!
First of all tell me a little about your series and introduce us to the sequel.
Tales of the Outlaw Mages is an epic fantasy series with an Old West flavor. But that’s not all–it features a range of queer characters, including MCs who are asexual, demisexual, and bisexual.The first book in the series is Breaker, and the 2nd book is Effigest. Book 2 picks up where book 1 left off (there was a teensy cliffhanger). It reintroduces the reader to Blaise, the titular Breaker mage from book 1, who has been taken by the enemy. Jack, the titular Effigest for book 2, must work with a man he despises to free their common friend. (In case you wonder what an Effigest is, it’s similar to voodoo magic but that doesn’t exist in this world and is used differently.)
Do you find that most of your readers continue to read the whole series? Why do you think that is?
Many of my vocal readers have! I think it’s due in part to the cliffhanger–Blaise is a sympathetic character that people come to love, and they have to know if it ends up okay for him! Though there are some readers who may not continue due to the queer characters.Is it easier to further develop characters you’ve already written in book one?Yes, since I know more about their voice and actions. A fair chunk of writing is knowing how these characters who are not you would react to something and having that framework helps.
How difficult is it to add new characters in a sequel into already established relationships?
It depends on the character role, and I try to only add if it’s necessary to the plot. The only characters I added in book 2 existed to further the plot and keep the MCs going to their ultimate goal.
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?
The hardest part of worldbuilding for me is being consister. I’m a pantser when it comes to writing, so I declare something to be a certain way in book 1 and…I’ve had to reread book 1 numerous times to maintain the lore. I started a series bible to help as reference, but it can’t capture everything I need the answer to. But it is very helpful! Some of the scene locations did change in book 2, but I still had to stick to the established lore.
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?
Hahahahaha this is the story of my life. I wish I were a better plotter because I think that would help in this case, but my brain doesn’t work like that. (I also could have waited to publish after I completed the series, but I intend for this to be an ongoing series so…that isn’t helpful.)
Did you notice your craft improving from book 1 to subsequent books in a series, and if so, how?
Absolutely. Book 1 was a lot of relearning the craft–I stopped writing around 2005, and only picked it up again with the pandemic! I tried really, really hard to write Breaker by an outline (Save the Cat method) and I found that didn’t work for me. For Effigest I wrote a dirty first draft, then re-read it and made a rough outline from that to allow me to make changes as needed. That works so much better for my brain!I’ve also gotten a little better at adding more details to a scene in the first pass. Sometimes I have “talking head syndrome” and ignore the setting, so it’s been nice to do better in that area. (I’ve had to add setting details in deeper revisions.)
Do you plan out the entire series at once or one book at a time?
I wish I could plan the whole series! I’m just going from book to book on a discovery journey. I have vague ideas of what may lie ahead for my characters, but sometimes they call the shots and those ideas may not bear fruit!
Do you try to make sequels readable as standalones or do you design a series so that readers have to read the whole thing?
Because of the cliffhanger at the end of Breaker, Effigest isn’t a great standalone. However, I added a “Previously…” section in the front matter to serve 2 purposes:1) serve as a basic plot reminder for anyone who forgot what happened in Breaker and 2) not make it so daunting if someone wants to pick up Effigest first. One of my ARC readers was delighted by the addition of that section, so I plan to keep that idea for future books, too.
Do you have any marketing tips for sequels?
I’m on Tik Tok, so my sequel so far has gained the most momentum there. On Tik Tok it’s easy to showcase a sequel because you have a method of easily telling people about it (and maybe encouraging them to pick up Book 1.) I also recommend adding a sequel to the front and back matter of your book as soon as you have an active link for preorder. That can help encourage people to move to the next in series! (I wasn’t able to do that immediately with Breaker’s end matter, but as soon as I had the link I updated the ebook version and pushed that out to all of my platforms. This method netted me 33 preorders, which to me was a success.)
Thank you for joining me today and good luck with your books!
About the Author
Amy Campbell is an independent author and librarian. She grew up in Houston, which she still calls home. Amy writes epic fantasy novels about men and women who are unapologetically true to themselves (and throws in the occasional pegasus or chupacabra to keep it interesting). When not working at the library or writing, Amy is chasing after her two busy young boys.