Thursday, March 25, 2010

Welcome to S.J. Frost's guest blog

Tough Act to Follow By S.J. Frost Five months have passed since my debut novel, Conquest, hit the world, and what a whirlwind it’s been! Maybe because it was a goal for so long to see it published, when it finally was, it validated to me that I truly was a writer, even if I had moments of disbelief and doubt after it was released. And yeah, I’ll admit, I still have those moments from time to time. Even now, I call myself a rookie author. I’m not sure when, or if, I’ll ever grant myself the title of “experienced” or “savvy.” As an old horseman once said to me, “Whenever I meet anyone who says they know all there is to know about horses, I think to myself they don’t know very much at all.” I’ve carried that saying with me when working with my horses, but I also apply to so many other things in life, including writing, because learning never stops. During these past five months, I’ve learned a great deal about the book business, the art of writing along with the more mundane aspects of it, and also about myself as an author and person. I’ve survived the rigors of reviews, each one making me hyperventilate a little, even positive ones, but they’ve taught me to look at my work through another person’s eyes. I’ve had days of running on three hours of sleep from staying up to write, but missing a little sleep just makes me appreciate it more when I do get it. Yet of all the things I’ve learned, the most important lesson has been what the true value of writing is, or at least what its value is for me, and that’s to touch people’s lives through my stories and characters in a good and positive way. I consider myself fortunate that Conquest accomplished this goal for some of those who’ve read it. Now, though, I’m facing a challenge I never anticipated. I have to follow up Conquest with its sequel, No Fear, and try to meet the expectations set in the first one and once again, reach out to my readers. Sequels and series in general are tricky business. An author introduces characters in the first book that hopefully readers will connect with, and then must try to continue their story through one or subsequent volumes without messing anything up. How many times have you read a book you really enjoyed, then heard a sequel was following and got excited at the chance to spend more time with the characters you grew to care about? I know I have. Now how many times have you read a sequel, or a book later in the series, and cursed the author for doing something with your beloved characters that you thought was just so wrong? I have to raise my hand on this one, too. The hard part about sequels and series is that as the author, you have to take characters that are already familiar, but still work them to be fresh. A lot of the firsts have already been done; the first meeting, the first kiss, the first intimate night, the first “I love you,” the first fight. So what do you do in the sequel? I think when some authors are faced with this dilemma, that’s how characters get pulled into doing shocking things. Maybe an established couple brings a third into their relationship. Perhaps cheating happens, a break up, one character dies. These are some things I’ve read that have made me cry, “Nooooo!” and in turn left me scarred. Of course, I’m still scarred from watching Disney’s Bambi when I was five years-old, so it could be I’m just overly emotional. And certainly some authors have worked these plot devices masterfully to create powerful stories. But this is why sequels are a slippery slope. As an author, after that first book is released, it doesn’t belong to you any longer. It’s moved beyond you, your children have left home. You continue to watch over them as any loving parent, but now they belong to all those who read them. Sometimes you want to jump in to defend them, but in the end, you have to let them go to make their own way in the world…until you write that sequel. Then process begins all over again, but now you don’t have just a responsibility to your dear characters, but also to your readers who are emotionally invested in them. With any sequel there are expectations for what will happen with the characters, with the story in general, even with your writing style. To meet every expectation is impossible. The best an author can do is to strive to do their characters and readers justice, and to understand the great responsibility you have in continuing a story. I worked very hard to do that in Conquest’s sequel, but I can’t say whether I’ve accomplished that or not. Only my readers can tell me, because the work is now theirs. With No Fear having just released this week, a whole lot of new learning is before me, along with the hope that the lessons I gained from the first act will follow up with this one, and I’ll once again touch people’s emotions for the better. Review of CONQUEST

7 comments:

S.J. Frost said...

I just wanted to say what a pleasure it is to be a guest here! Thank you so much:-)

Dawn said...

YAY...It's out, it's out. Kris let me know last night and I want this one. LOVED the first one and can't wait for to read this one.

Hi SJ {waves}Congrats. on the new release and many wonderful sales. :)

Dawn
Owner-LRC

S.J. Frost said...

Hiya Dawn! *waves back* Thank you very much for your kind words. I'm so happy and flattered to hear how much you enjoyed Conquest :D

And isn't Kris awesome? She's always got the best dish on books. I'm beyond ecstatic to have No Fear out and I hope you like it as much as the first one!

Jardonn Smith said...

Hi, Shannon... congrats on release of your new book. Hope your fictional rockers become as popular as some real ones... like... oh, I don't know... The Beatles!

S.J. Frost said...

Thank you, Jardonn! I haven't stopped bouncing since it's been released, I'm so excited!

Wow, The Beatles, now that's a goal! If my rockers got even a quarter of a percent that popular, I'd be thrilled :-) Now I suddenly feel the urge to listen to "Paperback Writer," hee hee!

Y. Bressani said...

Congratulations on the release and I look forward to reading it. I know I really enjoyed Conquest! :)

S.J. Frost said...

I'm so happy to hear you enjoyed Conquest! Thank you! I hope very much when you get a chance to read No Fear, you enjoy spending time with Jesse and the guys again :-)