Welcome to March of the Sequels!
First of all tell me a little about your series and introduce us to the sequel.
Children of the Nexus is an epic science fantasy series following a group of already-established heroes from a Stone Age culture as they struggle to make life better for their people and, along the way, broaden their horizons and uncover historic secrets. While dealing with dark themes and awful events, the protagonists are good (but flawed) people trying their best, and while they encounter cruelty and evil, they also encounter selflessness and good.
At the beginning of the series, Taunos is already the “hero of Torkae”, the community the four heroes are from, and he’s expected to pull off the impossible on a regular basis. His sister Kaemada is psionic, having both telepathy and telekinesis, even though among her people no one has both gifts. Kaemada’s friends Ra’ael and Takiyah finish off the group—Ra’ael with telekinesis and the berserker “blood rage”, and Takiyah, who is far taller than the Rinaryn people usually are and can shoot fire from her wrists.
The first book, Between Starfalls, focuses mainly on the Rinaryn people and the mythical Kamalti, a steampunk people living in city-states below the mountains. The sequel, Let Loose the Fallen, brings into play the other peoples mentioned in passing, as well as expanding on the effects caused by the protagonists’ actions in the first book. Each of the four pathways in Let Loose the Fallen leads to answers to pieces of the larger question: what is going on with the Elders who were supposed to guide them?
Do you find that most of your readers continue to read the whole series? Why do you think that is?
So far, yes, most of my readers continue. I think part of it’s that people fall in love with my characters—not just the main characters, but also side characters like Dode and Tjodlik. The end of book one tends to propel readers forward as well, as they can’t accept that being the end (which is good because it’s not the end!). Hopefully that trend will continue with Memories That Bind, which is the third book in the five-book series.
I think the other major reason that so far most people tend to continue is that, since I haven’t done tons of marketing yet, readers often are those who have seen snippets of future books from my newsletter, site, or social media, and perhaps their interest is already piqued. The true test will come once I start heavily pushing book one, I think.
Is it easier to further develop characters you’ve already written in book one?
By now, I’m incredibly familiar with all of these characters, so writing these books feels like going on a fun adventure with familiar friends. Hopefully readers feel the same. I know where I’m pointing for the end of the series, and so I can keep my eye on the end for navigation through the character arcs. Each of the characters had flaws presented in the beginning and as the series goes, I’ll be developing on those flaws and their integral wounds, so as their adventures continue, they’re continuing their growth as people at a fairly even pace. My critique partners are pretty good about catching it when it feels like my characters are regressing, too, so I can fix that before publication!
How difficult is it to add new characters in a sequel into already established relationships?
I haven’t found it to be too difficult. I do have to resist the impulse to devote too much page-time to new characters or to widen the scope too far too fast, losing the focus on the main conflicts. I tend to have a lot of side characters that pass through, which gives me a lot of threads to hang on to in the background—I have to know where those side-characters are going behind the scenes if I’m going to pull them back in without it feeling forced! Elisabei, Reinan, and Olorah are good examples of this, as are Amanah and Emin. Amanah was briefly mentioned in Starfalls from Taunos’s PoV, but it’s different from actually meeting her and her brother Emin. I already knew about these characters in Starfalls, so hopefully it feels natural when the reader gets to finally meet them for real—and so far, readers have really enjoyed them. Some of readers’ favorite side characters are from book two, with Umril, Emin, Amanah, and Pek being frequently named along with Dode and Tjodlik from the first book.
Is it difficult to continue with worldbuilding for a world you have already built in book 1?
I have so much worldbuilding I’m eager to explore that it’s actually hard for me to keep the rate slow enough not to get lost, swept away in the tide of new people and places. I don’t want the worldbuilding to take over the plot, but at the same time, I’m a reader who’s always super intrigued by incredible worlbuilding. So I tend to leave myself a lot of seeds that I can later explore once they become relevant to the plot, and these seeds help the world feel big and diverse.
Do you find it easier to switch locations for the sequel and start again with worldbuilding?
That was a challenge for me in Fallen, as I wanted it to still feel like a sequel, rather than a brand new thing of its own. Anchoring the perspectives with people mentioned in the first book was my strategy to combat that and keep it feeling like a continuation. Taunos travels far and wide in the sequel, more like he’s used to doing before Starfalls, but I wanted to anchor the reader in the world, too, so I kept Ra’ael in a familiar setting which allowed me to also explore more of that setting I hadn’t had a chance to use before, as this time it drove her farther along her arc. Kaemada went somewhere that had been mentioned in passing in book one, and Takiyah went somewhere completely new to all of them (though also mentioned in passing in book one). In this way and in the way their arcs developed, I tried to expand the net while making it clear that this is all still the same story.
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 have, lol, and that can be fun. I take it to mean I have a good balance on powers vs obstacles, and it can lead to super awesome results. Sometimes it leads me to more diversity in worldbuilding—factions within factions, etc—and other times, it means I (and the characters) have to find another way around an obstacle. That can increase the tension along the plotline, which is great! Some of the obstacles I encountered in Fallen were incredibly frustrating to work through, but so many thanks to my amazing dream team for helping me through and being a wonderful sounding board!
Did you notice your craft improving from book 1 to subsequent books in a series, and if so, how?
I’m always working on improving my craft, and I have noticed that plot pacing is getting easier for me. Depth of character point of view is something I’m really confident in now, and I love the richness and depth it adds. The plot of Fallen gave me a lot of trouble, but I learned so much through it too. Not only did I have to balance powerful characters against their obstacles, but I also had to balance their rates of progress against each other and they all needed to be independently (without the knowledge of the others) be working on various aspects of the same problem to have it really feel cohesive. This meant plot and its pacing became incredibly important, while those are not normally things that I care too much about as a reader. I’d rather have amazing, fully-realized characters than the perfect plot, if I had to choose, but without that careful balance of pacing, Fallen would collapse into a tangled mess rather than the neatly woven web it was in my head.
Do you plan out the entire series at once or one book at a time?
I don’t actually plan, but I had written out the series entirely. Since then, I’ve made major changes in book two (for instance, originally there was a five year gap between books 1 and 2) that have completely disrupted the plots of subsequent books so I have to rewrite them, but that’s ok. I always try to be at least a book ahead in drafting so I can pace out foreshadowing and such. With Memories looking solid, I can feel my brain working on book four’s rewrite.
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 decided to go hard toward the series aspect. While characters might mention past events as they relate to current goings-on, there’s no “previously on:” in the books. Instead, there is a summary of
Between Starfalls available, linked in the beginning of Fallen, but it’s expected readers have already read said book. I’m not sure Fallen would make any sense without Starfalls, and I’m not sure Memories would make any sense without both of the previous books. The end of Fallen is a bit softer than Starfalls’ ending, but there are still a lot of questions to be resolved, so it’ll flow naturally into Memories, just as Fallen flowed from Starfalls. Palon and Windward’s books, however, I plan to design such that they can be read as standalones (when I write more books for them). They’re set in the same world–same island, actually—and effect and are effected by the series, but I want to avoid the hurdle of a series there.
Do you have any marketing tips for sequels?
I haven’t done a lot of marketing yet— I want to get closer to Memories release before doing a big push to promote Starfalls and Fallen first. I have done a lot of giveaways with Starfalls, but I’m planning to do more, and more public, giveaways closer to Memories’ launch.
About the Author
Ever since a college professor told S. Kaeth she’d have to eventually focus on just one thing, she’s been dead set on proving him wrong.
From charging through the wilderness, wrangling alligators and snapping turtles, trapping and counting moles, or supervising prairie burns for college credits to doing research and training frogs, lizards, and a lungfish, she treats life as an adventure. She traded hikes, natural history interpretation boating tours, and creature encounters for the slightly-less-exotic-but-no-less-fun mammal training about the same time she began to get serious about her writing craft.
You can find her teaching herself languages and lesser-known fiber crafts, hiking, or playing Capoeira when she’s not practicing the fine art of weaving a tale.
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Let Loose the Fallen:
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