Late yesterday, the paperback edition of The Cycle, my fifth novel, went up on Amazon. It wasn’t unexpected, as I packaged the paperback myself, but it’s always fun to get that email stating “Hey, you’ve got a book live!”.
Anyway, writing The Cycle made for a fun journey, specifically because the book invited me to try a number of things I’d never done in fiction before. Its sequel and the trilogy’s conclusion, Spirit’s End, is pushing a few other new things to the front. Which, if you follow the Hollywood definition of sequels, shouldn’t be the case. After all, a sequel should be the same thing, right? Make a couple small tweaks to the formula and give it a fresh coat of paint and there you go?
Except The Cycle (and many other story series) continue a story that didn’t end with book one. There wasn’t a clean stopping point. No “Happily Ever After” with every problem solved and the champions wafting away into an everlasting paradise of vague optimism. Nah, life’s dirtier than that. Full of messy grit that gets beneath our fingernails and claws its way into our days.
So in this story, Carver has new challenges to confront along with some of the returning batch from Riven. He’s changed too, though. Grown up to some degree. Yes, he can wrangle a spirit better than ever before, but its seeing how Carver the character changes in this book that really made it fun to write. Pre-existing notions are challenged, and Carver has to adapt himself to the situation. Has to look at what he thinks is right and evaluate if that’s still the case.
One of the luxuries granted by sequels is that they can assume a level of world-building. Your characters will have changed. They’ll be taking their experiences from the first book into the second one. And then the third and so on. As such, even though The Cycle might be a “sequel”, it’s actually a different book. The characters and conflicts were different, their needs and dreams different, and so on.
Writing trilogies like this makes me excited to tackle a longer series in the future, as I’m learning just how much changes from one book to the next. The stories don’t get stale. The characters don’t stay the same. It’s their journey, sure. But I’m getting to walk it with them, and that’s pretty awesome.