The Family You Choose (The New Pioneers #2)
written by Deborah Nam-Krane
published by Deborah Nam-Krane
About the book: Miranda Harel has been in love with her guardian Alex Sheldon since she was five years old, and Michael Abbot has despised them both for just as long. When Miranda finds out why she wants both men out of her life for good and questions everything she believed about where and who she came from. Finding out the truth will break her heart. Without family or true love, will her friends be enough?
Finding Balance in Your Series
When I finally sat down to write my first book in 2007, I already knew that it was going to be the first in a four-part series and, more importantly, what most of the major beats were in the other installments. Editing the first part was, in theory, easy: put in just enough about certain characters to perk up the readers’ ears, but not so much that the reader would wonder who the book was about in the first place.
Emphasis on theory. To be honest, I chafed a little bit about this when my beta readers and editor told me to pull back. The second installment is a lot more complicated than the first, and I needed to set the table for it carefully. However, I became convinced that there was a benefit to making the characters in question mysterious and “shadowy,” and I think I did a good job of it.
While the reaction to my first book wasn’t bad, the reaction to the sequel has been much better, even as a first draft. However, one thing my editor and readers came back at me with was not to spend too much time recapping the story from the first book. Another writer also working on a series—my good friend Danielle-Claude Ngontang Mba—advised a “Cast of Characters” page as an introduction. I loved that idea as it reminded me of some of the Poirot mysteries (by Agatha Christie) that I’ve read that listed out the major characters. I don’t give anyone more than two sentences, but that’s just enough to capture people’s relationships and sum up what they did in the first book if they appeared there.
There is still, however, the issue of recaps in certain scenes. When I had to do that, I made the decision to give the reader more information than they’d had in the first installment. In The Smartest Girl in the Room, Emily has a brief but violent confrontation with Michael, a pivotal character in The Family You Choose. Rather than have a bit of dialogue that sounds something like “Yeah, remember that time he and I got into a fight?”, Emily instead gives the other characters she’s talking to information on what was said during the confrontation-something I didn’t go into the first book because I didn’t write that scene from Emily’s point of view.
Because this little world has been haunting me for so long, I had already sent the third installment to my editor when I was weeks from publishing the second. There is another character in the second book that is going to be crucial in the third book (and by the time you finish the second you’ll know who it is). But while that character may have set things in motion, the third book isn’t about him. However, I felt like the back story was juicy enough that it deserved its own treatment, so I wrote a short story to give my readers a little bit extra. And while it will be for sale, it is extra; it will give insight into the characters, but you’ll still be able to follow the main story without it.
When you write a series, your job is to tell each installment in such a way that it helps tell the overarching story of the series. And while you want to whet everyone’s appetite for what comes next, you want to do it in such a way that the readers genuinely want more of your compelling characters, not because you’ve manipulated the plot such that they have to get the next book if they really want to find out how it ends. That might work- it does for a lot of authors- but then you have to make sure the final payoff is HUGE, and with each release, the stakes get higher.
If you can pull that off, all the more power to you. As for me, I’m going to focus on my characters. Who knows? By doing that, they just might give me some new ideas—and installments!—I hadn’t already thought of.
About the author: Deborah Nam-Krane has been writing in one way or another since she was eight years old (and telling stories well before that). Her series, The New Pioneer debuted in March with The Smartest Girl in the Room. The sequel The Family You Choose will be published at the end of September.
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