When I was struggling to find a publisher for my first novel, if there was one thing that annoyed me more than advice to keep trying, you’ll get there if it’s good enough; it was moaning about the difficulty of producing a follow-up. While I’m not renowned for my glass-half-full mentality, I’m screaming first world problem to the power of ten. These writers were blessed with a burden I’d have willingly taken from their shoulders, so how do I feel now I’m about to release a second novel of my own?
As Cressida Downing says on the Writers and Artists website, readers
want what they liked in the first book to be in the second book, but they don't want an identikit book, they'd like some different bits, but they couldn't tell you what different bits.
If the second novel is too samey, the audience complain 'this author only knows how to write one book.' If the second novel goes in too much of a different direction, the audience sulk 'this isn't the sort of book I was expecting from this author.'
I know she’s right, because I’ve felt something similar, on occasion, when I’ve reviewed the second novels of writers whose debuts I’ve loved. On the other hand, there are a couple of authors (Alison Moore, for example, and Shelley Harris) whose second novel I enjoyed even more than her first.
Mine will be whatever it is: different things to different readers. Meanwhile, although acknowledging I’ve worked damn hard to get here, I appreciate my good luck in finding, in Inspired Quill, a publisher who’s positive about my writing and a pleasure to work with on making it better; as well as the lovely bloggers, librarians and booksellers (and the friends who say Have you read Anne’s book? It’s very good whenever they get the chance) who have helped bring my debut to the attention of readers, who have themselves so generously given my words their time. Eighteen months on from publication, I’m still finding new readers and doing events for Sugar and Snails.
It’s my pleasure to unveil Underneath, a slightly scary story wrapped up in a deceptively soothing blue cover. Advanced reader copies are now available in digital format in exchange for an honest online review.
He never intended to be a jailer …
After years of travelling, responsible to no-one but himself, Steve has resolved to settle down. He gets a job, buys a house and persuades Liesel to move in with him.
Life’s perfect, until Liesel delivers her ultimatum: if he won’t agree to start a family, she’ll have to leave. He can’t bear to lose her, but how can he face the prospect of fatherhood when he has no idea what being a father means? If he could somehow make her stay, he wouldn’t have to choose … and it would be a shame not to make use of the cellar.
Will this be the solution to his problems, or the catalyst for his own unravelling?
A couple of options presented themselves when I wondered about pairing this post with the latest Carrot Ranch challenge to write a 99-word story featuring someone who watches. I could have written about the author who writes with a critic sitting on her shoulder. I could have written about my character, Steve, drilling a peephole in the cellar door to keep a watchful eye on his captive. Alas, the story that chose me is even more bleak.
His mother watches. First the cap. Then the wrist and ankle straps.
He always welcomed me and my “box of tricks”. Vocabulary, comprehension, digit symbol. If there were points for effort, he’d have been off the scale.
Mamma’s here, Leroy. She knows her words can’t penetrate the glass. She’s here because she birthed him, the cord around his neck. I’m here because I couldn’t trade his failures for the court’s compassion. He’s there because he’s poor, uneducated and black.
She watches the electricity convulse her baby’s body until it breaks him. I watch his mother witness this country’s shame.