Guest Post: How Writing a Trilogy Taught Me to be a More Engaged Reader

December 13, 2013 Author Feature, Guest Post 11

We are so happy to have with us today, Anne Greenwood Brown the author of Lies Beneath and Deep Betrayal. If you like mermaids then you’ll want to pick up these two books!

Lies Beneath seriesRead my review of Lies Beneath

Read my review of Deep Betrayal

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Lesson One: What I Learned from Writing my Debut Novel

Lies Beneath was my first foray into Published Author Land. The idea for that book came to me in a dream. I actually woke up with the first line running through my head, and many readers have commented that it’s their favorite line in the book.

At first I thought, Really? I mean, yes, I love it too, but there are other lines that are far more important to me and that highlight the themes I was trying to evoke. As I thought about it, it occurred to me that what the author thinks he or she is writing, and the book the reader thinks he or she is reading, are often two very different things.

For example, some people thought Lies Beneath was a dark and tragic story, bordering on horror. Some thought it was a light paranormal romance. Others thought it was a modern-day take on a classic Victorian poem.

The ultimate lesson to me as an author was that once my book is released into the world, it ceases to be “my book.” It is not my “baby.” It is a piece of art to be interpreted by a stranger. To be loved or to be hated, but hopefully to be understood, which leads me to the first lesson I took away for myself as a reader.

Now, after I’m done reading a book and have processed my own unique perception of the story, I always try to discover (usually through author interviews) the author’s intent. Several times I’ve learned that my interpretation and the author’s intent were so different that the realization has given me a chance to enjoy a novel a second time with a fresh pair of eyes. It’s like finding two prizes at the bottom of your Cracker Jacks.

Lesson Two: What I learned from Writing a Sequel

There is a term bantered around in book blogging circles called “the curse of the second novel.” Interestingly, a similar notion is shared between authors. When writing a series, the second novel is usually the most troublesome because, where we had all the time in the world to write book 1, now we are writing under deadline. For me it was nine months. For some of my peers it was as short as six. Writing “under the gun” can be a scary business. We’ve even talked about having a support group during the writing process!

But why should second novels be such a problem for readers? I’ll step back here and hazard a guess as a reader myself. I think it boils down to expectations. As we read the first book in the series, we learn which characters we love and which ones we hate. We may even–subconsciously or not–develop our own stakes in the story, expecting or hoping the story to go in a certain direction. Then, when the author reveals another less attractive side of a character we love, or takes the story in a direction we did not hope for, we might feel let down.

For me personally, when I read New Moon, I was so upset by the direction the story took that there’s a small dent in the wall where I threw the book. I had a similar experience in City of Ashes when I learned that Clary and Jace were . . .  well, you know. On the other hand, I know other readers reveled in those unexpected twists.

I experienced this dichotomy as an author with my sequel, Deep Betrayal, when the POV switches from Calder’s (in Lies Beneath) to Lily’s. Some people were disappointed to learn that Lily wasn’t always as strong as her words and actions had led them to believe in Lies Beneath.  In contrast, other readers commented that Lily reminded them of themselves in the way she put one face forward to the world and kept her insecurities bottled up inside.

The lesson I learned as a reader about reading sequels is to ask myself “why” things went differently than what I expected, and to wonder what the author might have up their sleeve. Nothing is done by mistake and often what bothered me in a book 2 (e.g., New Moon) made complete sense by the time I got to the end of the series.

Lesson Three: What I Learned from Writing the Conclusion

Writing Promise Bound (Jan. 7, 2014) was probably the most exciting thing I’ve had the pleasure of doing on the page. Having survived the first writing under deadline experience, my confidence was greater. Nine months to write another book? Bring it. And it was such a relief to share the pieces of the story that I had to keep hidden (for the sake of plot) through books one and two.

But the unexpected surprise was how hard it was to say goodbye to my characters. After the trilogy wrapped, trying to start a new project felt like cheating on a boyfriend, or betraying a best friend. How could I spend time with new characters when it was still Calder’s and Lily’s voices that I heard in my head?

I’m still grappling with what the lesson is here for me as a reader. But I think it has something to do with not having to mourn the characters when the story is done. That’s the beauty of a book. While you may never be able to recapture the thrill of meeting the characters for the first time, they are always waiting for you there, between the covers, and you can always peek inside–every now and then–just to say, “Hey.”

Deep Betrayal

It’s been thirty days, two hours, and seventeen minutes since Calder left Lily standing on the shores of Lake Superior. Not that she’s counting. And when Calder does return, it’s not quite the reunion Lily hoped for. Especially after she lets her father in on a huge secret: he, like Calder, is a merman. Obsessed with his new identity, Lily’s dad monopolizes Calder’s time as the two of them spend every day in the water, leaving Lily behind.

Then dead bodies start washing ashore. Calder blames his mermaid sisters, but Lily fears her father has embraced the merman’s natural need to kill. As the body count grows, everyone is pointing fingers. Lily doesn’t know what to believe—only that whoever’s responsible is sure to strike again. . . .

Deep Betrayal (Lies Beneath #2)

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Tabitha (Pabkins)

When I'm in the zone I can flip book pages faster than the eye can see - screaming "More Input!" I'm a book, yarn, & art supply hoarding goblin who loves to draw, make toys and craft all sorts of creepy cute things. My current habit is to listen to audio books while I'm arting it up!
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11 Responses to “Guest Post: How Writing a Trilogy Taught Me to be a More Engaged Reader”

  1. Bex

    ‘ That’s the beauty of a book. While you may never be able to recapture the thrill of meeting the characters for the first time, they are always waiting for you there, between the covers, and you can always peek inside–every now and then–just to say, “Hey.”’

    I absolutely love that and it’s so true! It’s a fantastic feeling to revisit your beloved characters and worlds. Kind of like coming home again! Great post. 😀

    • Tabitha the Pabkins

      I agree! I love rereading my favorite books. It’s just like rewatching a favorite movie to me. I have some copies of books that I’ll always have to own because I reread them now and again.

    • Tabitha the Pabkins

      Me too! I can’t even imagine how crazy it must be to be an author/writer. I just don’t have that kind of drive and dedication. Plus I hear writers stop being able to read as many books as they’d like because they spend so much time writing their own work. And I just can’t have that!

    • Tabitha the Pabkins

      I completely agree! I hear really often from authors that they don’t get much time to read anymore after they get published. I can’t even imagine finding the time to revisit old favorites. but its something I love doing myself!

  2. Alba @ BookPics

    Ahhhhhhhh!!! I so soooo love Anne’s first book (that’s the only one I’ve been able to get) I can’t believe the last book will be out soon.

    And don’t you worry dear author, you’re not the only one who’ll be mourning *^*

    Hi Tabitha!!
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