March of the Sequels – Thilde Kold Holdt

Welcome to March of the Sequels, Thilde!

First of all tell me a little about your series and introduce us to the sequel.

The Hanged God Trilogy is Viking fantasy, following a cast of villagers on their journey to protect their beliefs and gods as Christianity slowly overtakes their Norse lands. Meanwhile, their gods to fight for survival, for Ragnarok nears, the final battle during which gods and giants are prophesised to die.

Northern Wrath takes us on a bloody journey through the harsh battles in Midgard, while its sequel, Shackled Fates, brings us closer to the overlapping troubles of the gods as the final battle nears.

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

Honestly, I don’t really know what readers do (although I wish I did).

In terms of reviews though, I can see that there are less for Part 2 but there may be many reasons for that. One reason might be that there is still one more book left in the trilogy (Autumn 2022). Some fantasy readers in particular, like to wait until a whole series is out to launch deep into a story. It’s also possible that more people leave reviews on a book 1 than a sequel, as the excitement of discovering something new is higher than merely continuing a story. Perhaps they simply feel that there’s less urgency on a sequel. There can be many factors and reviews are not necessarily a good metric to measure what readers are doing, but honestly, it’s the only metric I have at the moment.

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

I think it’s definitely easier than to start from scratch. In a sequel the base work has been done. Usually by the time I’m ready to write a sequel I know my characters so well that they often take the story into their own hands, whereas when I first encounter them, I’m still trying to figure out who they really are and what they care about.

That being said, returning to pre-established characters is not without its challenges. In Northern Wrath I had a character who caused me a bunch of headaches by taking over the narrative half-way through and threatening me at axe-point. So when it was time to pen the sequel, I worried a lot about how this troublemaker would try to ruin the entire story this time around! 

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

My experience so far has been that I don’t particularly plan on having new characters come into a sequel, but the characters who matter to the story just sort of present themselves to my established ones and therefore easily integrate into the story.

In the case of the Hanged God Trilogy, I knew we were going to go further into the world of the Norse gods as the story progressed and we would have to meet some of the “celebrity gods”. The new characters in the sequel were therefore already established in the lore, and had been referenced (albeit shortly) in Northern Wrath.

The trouble here was that a lot of modern readers are familiar with Odin, Thor and Loki but a lot of readers’ main frame of reference seems to be the Marvel representations. So, the challenge I faced in introducing these “new” characters was that I was working against pre-established ideas of who they are.

As far as how they meshed into the story and with my own characters, that came quite naturally and smoothly. The gods (and even Loki) have a lot of charm, after all.

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?

I find a lot of comfort in having set the pillars for the world building in a book 1. By the time readers reach book 2, they should already know what kind of world we’re dealing with and what kind of characters live in this world. What their beliefs are and what their culture is like. These are all parts of worldbuilding. It’s always possible to introduce new settings as well, but I’d say that’s actually more challenging than moving characters along pre-established settings that readers already have a feeling for and a relationship towards.

A new setting is not just new to me, it’s new to the reader as well. Which means that every time I take my characters to a new setting, I can’t use short-hand to populate the world. I have to actually explain what the place looks and feels and smells like. The more places you introduce, the more challenging it can also be to make each place unique, while still ensuring that it truly feels like it belongs in the wider world of what has already been established. 

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?

I’ve been very lucky in that I finished the entire Hanged God Trilogy before the first book came out. This meant that I was able to remove smaller details I had initially put into Northern Wrath, intending for them to carry great meaning later on, but details that I ultimately never used.

That being said, the story in the sequels unfolded naturally from what had already been written, and I didn’t at any point feel shackled to the building blocks I had set up in Northern Wrath.

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

Definitely. I think it’s only natural for an author’s style and craft to improve the more they write. For me, it was quite noticeable in that my first drafts for the sequels were of much higher quality. It definitely felt like I was more secure and steady as a writer the further I came into the story.

In a book 1 there is so much that needs to happen. The writer needs to establish the world, the characters and the plot. In a sequel, a lot of these things are already established for a reader, and hence the writer can (ideally) focus more on just getting on with the story and improving their craft.

Northern Wrath was my debut and I love it, but it’s also a book that I reworked constantly as I was penning the rest of the trilogy to get it up to the same standard as what came later. I feel very lucky to have had that time to adapt it, but the book still remains rough around the edges, and to me that’s part of its charm.

If I was to re-write Northern Wrath today, it would definitely come out differently and probably more polished, but I don’t necessarily think it would have been any better for that. It’s a little rough around the edges and in that way, that’s exactly what makes it so… Viking.

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

I’m somewhere in the middle. I do plan out the entire series, but my plan also changes and evolves, even well into the edit.

As a writer, I see myself as a bit of a detective. That means that I know the instigating incident, I know where I want to go, but I’m also slowly uncovering clues along the way. Only at the end do all the pieces truly fall into place and allow for me to solve the whole puzzle, right along with the reader. 

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

The Hanged God trilogy was written as one long story. This is why the books are called Parts 1, 2 and 3, instead of Books 1, 2 and 3. They’re therefore not standalones, but they do each have a theme and arc, as well as a beginning and an end.

I think it’s important for each book in a series to have a finale and something it particularly focuses on too, whether that’s a theme or a particular plot that begins and finishes within the book. Without having its own arc or ending, reading a sequel can often be a less satisfying experience, so that’s why I make efforts on that front.

Do you have any marketing tips for sequels?

To me successful marketing is like capturing a dragon. An absolute mystery.

I just try to have fun and show my excitement about the books, and hopefully that translates to readers and makes them interested in the books too.

I do think however that having to market a trilogy is a bit like getting to market the same book for three consecutive years. Or at least the same story. Ultimately the people who know about book 1 will be aware of the sequel sooner or later, when they want to read on and look it up themselves. So, what you’re trying to do is appeal to readers who still haven’t taken the plunge and picked up book 1. I may be completely wrong on that front, I’m not an expert dragon hunter, but that’s how I’ve come to think of it.

Thank you very much for taking part in March of the Sequels, Thilde. Good luck with your books!

Amazon | goodreads | My Review of Northern Wrath | My Review of Shackled Fates

About the Author

I am a writer of fantasy novels. My first series, the Hanged God Trilogy, centres around Vikings and the Old Norse gods. I’m represented by Jamie Cowen at the Ampersand Agency.

I am a novelist by profession, currently working an epic fantasy series about 7th century Korea. My epic fantasy trilogy about Vikings, the Hanged God, is currently being published. I have lived enough different places that the most difficult question to answer is: “where are you from?” I am, quite simply, from the planet Earth, for I have yet to set foot on Mars. Someday, though…

Twitter | Website

3 thoughts on “March of the Sequels – Thilde Kold Holdt

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

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