In two guest posts, Karen Sandler, author of Tankborn and the sequel, Awakening, shares her wisdom about how to plot a trilogy.
Part I: The Trouble With Trilogies
Back in my romance writing days, I didn’t write trilogies. The love stories I wrote were one-offs. Although half of my Harlequin books were all set in the same small town of Hart Valley and had some overlapping characters, there weren’t any connections between the stories. There were two books I did for Harlequin that were part of the Fostering Family mini-series, where the second book picked up where the first left off. Characters from the first book were mentioned in the second, but the main story revolved around a new hero and heroine.
Then along came Tankborn. When I first wrote Tankborn, I had a hazy idea of possibly writing a trilogy. Then when I signed with my agents and we were getting the manuscript ready for submission, they suggested I write up short blurbs for a second and third book. When we sold to Lee and Low/Tu Books, the original contract was only for the one book, but we later sold them two other books to complete the trilogy.
In her first guest post, author/illustrator Christy Hale shared ideas for how to plan a successful book launch. In her follow-up post, Hale shares tips for planning storytelling and activities for bookstore appearances. Hale is the author and illustrator of, most recently, Dreaming Up, which was named a 2012 ALA Notable Book by the American Library Association and one of the Horn Book Magazine‘s Best Books of 2012.
1. Consider the audience when planning your program. Bookstores host different types of author events. If possible attend other programs at bookstores where you will appear so you can scope out the typical crowd. The time of the event may be a good indicator of the age level likely to attend. At Kepler’s Story Time Sundays, I have read to toddlers and preschoolers with a few older school age children scattered in the mix. A mid-week morning time program at BookSmart in a shopping mall in San Jose drew in moms and caregivers with toddlers and preschoolers. An afternoon program at Linden Tree in Los Altos brought school age children. An early evening program at Reach and Teach in San Mateo was geared toward whole families. My evening launch party at Books Inc. in Palo Alto was mostly attended by adults.
Before Thanksgiving we had a great chat on Twitter with some of the contributing authors from our new dystopian anthology, Diverse Energies. Authors Cindy Pon, Malinda Lo, Ken Liu, Rahul Kanakia, Rajan Khanna, and K. Tempest Bradford joined us to answer some questions about their stories, dystopia, world-building, and more:
In one or two sentences, can you describe the dystopian worlds you’ve written about in Diverse Energies?
Malinda Lo: “The dystopian world in my story ‘Good Girl’ is a postapocalyptic NYC that politically resembles Communist China.”
Rahul Kanakia: “My story is set in a world where wealthy people have retreated into virtual reality and allowed the world to collapse. Also, there are pesticide-resistant bedbugs.”
Cindy Pon: “‘How had we drifted so far on what it meant to be human?‘ from my story sort of encapsulates it, in a world divided.”
Rajan Khanna: “Mine takes place in a world where an empire similar to the British Empire at its height uses child labor for mining.”
Came across a link today to a terrific interview with the late, great Maurice Sendak. Authors and illustrators often wonder what the best way is to deal with negative criticism of their books, so I thought I’d share Mr. Sendak’s first-rate advice:
Interviewer: What kinds of things do children write to you about?
Maurice Sendak: Usually it’s awful, because they don’t feel the urge to write themselves—a few of them do, but usually it’s “Dear Mr. Sendak, Mrs. Markowitz said would you please send a free book and two drawings?” When they write on their own, they’re ferocious. After Outside Over There, which is my favorite book of mine, a little girl wrote to me from Canada: “I like all of your books, why did you write this book, this is the first book I hate. I hate the babies in this book, why are they naked, I hope you die soon. Cordially…” Her mother added a note: “I wondered if I should even mail this to you—I didn’t want to hurt your feelings.” I was so elated. It was so natural and spontaneous. The mother said, “You should know I am pregnant and she has been fiercely opposed to it.” Well, she didn’t want competition, and the whole book was about a girl who’s fighting against having to look after her baby sister.
Writing someone’s biography can be a tricky business. First—and this is important—you’ve got to be enthusiastic about the person you’re writing about. Otherwise, it won’t work. Readers will know that on some level you’re not engaged and they won’t enjoy reading the book any more than you enjoyed writing it. I was asked once to write a biography of the Three Stooges. I said no, because I’ve never found their humor to be funny. Sure, I could get the facts right, but that’s not enough. You have to have passion.