Welcome to March of the Sequels, Jordan!
First of all tell me a little about your series and introduce us to the sequel.
The Dreadbound Ode is a grimdark fantasy space opera. Three young villagers are dragged into an epic quest to stop an ancient demigod from resurrecting his terrifying brood from the underworld. The Skald’s Black Verse focuses on Brohr, a berserker possessed by a ghost that gives him a chilling talent for violence. In The Weeping Sigil, Henrik steps to the fore. Son of a wealthy collaborator, he has had an education in the magical arts, but after the disaster on his home world, his magical aptitude only makes him a more valuable slave. Dragged in chains from one side of the solar system to the other, Henrik is forced to serve his old enemies, and is caught up in the brutal game of Tyrianite politics. As he unravels the secrets of his adopted house, he is haunted by prophetic visions of a looming apocalypse, and becomes convinced that he must tell the world the truth about the impending disaster.
Do you find that most of your readers continue to read the whole series? Why do you think that is?
As I have gotten further along I’ve gotten better at pulling readers on from book one. At the beginning of an author’s career there are a lot of things stacked against you in this process. First, readers don’t know you and don’t necessarily trust that you’ll finish the series. I also am not a super fast writer, The Dreadbound Ode have each been a year or so apart. I also have learned more about assuring that back matter is optimized to immediately reengage the reader as they finish book one. I still haven’t achieved more than 50% read through, but I am hoping that when the third and final book in the series, Travels in the Dark, come out 3/3/2022, that will change.
Is it easier to further develop characters you’ve already written in book one? How difficult is it to add new characters in a sequel into already established relationships?
I have really enjoyed deepening my characters over the course of this series. Things change dramatically for each of the main characters from book to book. It was really rewarding to look back and see that each of them has undertaken an incredible journey and changed a lot, while still being uniquely themselves. Adding new characters is fun too, of course. I think these two tasks really complement each other, it only deepens our understanding of characters to see how they react to new people in their lives.
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?
No I loved it. While the universe is the same, the setting in each book changes completely. I think worldbuilding is one of my strong suits and definitely something I really enjoy. For me, creating new and exotic environments steeped in lore is what draws me to write fantasy, specifically.
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?
No but holy shit is it hard to remember everybody’s names and physical details. Oh man, I try to minimize the number of characters, but after three books and as many worlds visited, many of whom crop up again in unexpected places, I found myself thumbing through book one a few times to try to remember some minor detail about so-and-so.
Did you notice your craft improving from book 1 to subsequent books in a series, and if so, how?
Yes, absolutely. I hope every book I ever write is better than every one that came before. I think overall story structure and characterization improved the most over the course of the series. I switched editors after book one, and my new editor Sarah Chorn, pushed me to dig deeper into my characters’ emotional landscapes in book two, The Weeping Sigil. By the time I finished Travels in the Dark, I felt a lot more confident about my writing.
Do you plan out the entire series at once or one book at a time?
I did. I even wrote a draft of The Weeping Sigil that stuck to it. But honestly it felt kind of meh. So I tore it up and went back to the drawing board. I’m glad I did. I added a character that gave an entirely new dimension to Henrik’s struggle, it made the story resonate on an emotional level that made it a much better read.
Do you try to make sequels readable as standalones or do you design a series so that readers have to read the whole thing?
I put recaps in the beginnings of my books, so if a reader wanted too they could pick it up at any point and just read the synopsis of the previous story, but that would rob them of the unadulterated joy of reading The Skald’s Black Verse and The Weeping Sigil. I care too much about my readers to recommend that.
Do you have any marketing tips for sequels?
It’s hard. My biggest advice is not to release a book at the same time as a contested election or the invasion of Ukraine. Don’t be afraid to be out loud about it. Don’t be afraid to give away copies of book one. Don’t be afraid to discount it. I wish I was a marketing guru but really that isn’t one of my strong suits. If you have good advice you tell me! 😊
About the Author
Jordan Loyal Short is an author of epic fantasy and a small business owner. He has worked in a variety of industries, as a waiter, bartender, copywriter and more. He lives in Washington state with his wife where he is currently daydreaming about the end of the world.
You can visit his webpage at www.jordanloyalshort.com