Wanted: Dead or Alive! (Or smashed into little bits and delivered in boxes.) The Steampunk Pirates jump at the chance to earn a handsome reward in return for doing some snooping. But when they find themselves sandwiched between the Dread Captain Inky beard and a spider on the attack, it's time to beat a retreat. Can they escape without a scrape or have the robotic rebels ticked their last?Attack of the Giant Sea Spiders was published in the UK last week and is the second book in the Steampunk Pirates series. I'm reading it right now and it's just as fun as the first!
Thanks to Gareth for writing this post for me and I hope you enjoy reading it. Look out for my review of the book next week!
That Difficult Second book
by Gareth P. Jones
This week sees the release of the second book in my series The Adventures of the Steampunk Pirates.
Attack of the Giant Sea Spiders picks up where The Leaky Battery Sets Sail left off, with the sixteen mechanical buccaneers still on the run from the English authorities and still desperately trying to convert their rusting iron parts into gold.
This is my third book series, which means it was the third time I have written a second book. The second time I wrote a second book was Eye of the Monkey (Ninja Meerkats) and the first time I wrote a second book was The Case of the Wayward Professor (The Dragon Detective Agency).
Second books present a number of interesting challenges, because – unlike standalone novels –there are two distinct types of reader: those who have read the first in the series and those who have not.
The reader who is returning to the series says something like, “Hey Gareth, I do hope this book is going to move the story along and feature all the things I liked about the first without feeling like a carbon copy of it. I want more about the characters I already know plus some new ones please. Oh, and a different plot if you wouldn’t mind. Thanks.”
The reader who has not read the first hears this and says, “Hold on, this is a series book? I don’t want to read a book that feels like I’m coming in half way through a story and keeps going on about stuff I haven’t read. I hope I’m going to know what’s going on. ”
A second book must introduce the characteristics of your protagonists in a way that feels fresh and exciting for both readers. It should have a different plot structure to the first. You want returning readers to feel rewarded as they learn more about the pre-existing characters’ backstories but also enjoy meeting new ones and discovering what’s going to happen next.
I tend to prefer my second books to my first books. With a second book, I get to do all the things I didn’t have room for in the first, but it’s not like a standalone novel when you need to start completely from scratch. Writing a fresh story with pre-existing characters is like going to a new restaurant with old friends. You know what kind of evening you’re going to get and that you’ll probably spend a good amount of time laughing, but you don’t know what the food will be like. Perhaps there will be a funny waiter or maybe there will be a couple in the restaurant having a big blazing row. Perhaps you’ll learn new things about your friends, or someone you thought you knew will do something unexpected.
The challenge is to keep the plot from repeating the previous book. Writing involves an ocean of possibilities plot-wise but it is amazing how often my brain suggests ideas that will end up with similar situations to the previous book. This is fine so long as I catch these things early. A second book forces me to come up with more inventive solutions to problems in order to avoid going over old ground… or, since we’re talking about pirates, water.