Saturday, 27 July 2013


In the Guardian today, Neil Gaiman said, "I think everything I've written with the exception of Ocean [at the end of the Lane] has a sequel I could start tomorrow." And it got me thinking.

pinguino k from North Hollywood, USA, 2007
There is a passion for sequels. I can't tell you how often fans have written to me asking for sequels to books whose story seems to me to have come to a definite end. And it can go on after an author is dead; just how many James Bond, Sherlock Holmes and Jane Austen spin-offs can there be? (Especially now you can just add zombies).

Another way, the more elegant to my mind, is to have a minor character from a book become the dominant one in another, as Paul Scott did with Booker-winning Staying On, after writing the Jewel in the Crown series. Susan Howatch made it the dominant feature of her Starbridge series of novels.

Giorgio Bassani's Romazo di Ferrara was five novellas linked in this way, of which the most famous is The Garden of the Finzi-Continis.

Yet another method is to write a prequel, explaining something about the earlier life of one of a novel's characters : Philippa Gregory, whose The White Queen is currently being shown on British TV, is releasing The White Princess this summer, which is at least chronologically later, being about the White Queen's (Elizabeth Woodville's) daughter (Elizabeth of York). But the novels were written out of historical order.

3rd in the Cousins' War sequence but a prequel to The White Queen
Still, Shakespeare wrote Henry Vl (all three parts) and Richard lll before Richard ll, Henry lV (2 parts) and Henry V. Perhaps the groundlings shouted, "More! More!" and Henry Vll would have been a bit too close to home. (Even though he did probably later write Henry Vlll with John Fletcher).

How do you feel about sequels? Which novel would you most like to have one? My candidate is Michael Faber's The Crimson Petal and the White.


adele said...

I would second your choice but am trying to think of my own one!

Martina Boone said...

Like you, I love companion novels. The idea of getting to see the world and perhaps even the original protagonist from a new perspective is deeply intriguing to me! :) But. I think in the end,it depends on whether there is more to learn about a main character or his/her story that can only be learned by walking in his/her footsteps. :)

Sue Bursztynski said...

As a reader of speculative fiction and children's/YA books, I have had enough of sequels. Really. Fat fantasy trilogies were bad enough, but nowadays there are fourteen-volume series that you have to read in their entirety if you want to know how it ends. And as a reviewer, I get Volume 13 of that series when I haven't read the first twelve. Enough! I'm for standalones, although I don't mind, say, Terry Pratchett's Discworld books which you can mostly read standalone, though it helps to be familiar with the characters. And I don't mind a companion volume set in the same universe that you can read standalone - I'm working on one myself, with a character who appeared briefly in the previous book, at an earlier stage in his life. But it won't matter if you haven't read the other one.

Stroppy Author said...

OK, I wrote a comment but then decided to write that sequel. So I have thought about this post, but I'm not going to reveal my idea here! Thank you, Maven!

Katherine Langrish said...

Well, being nearly at the end of writing the first book in a two-part set, I have to hope! But perhaps the second book doesn't count as a sequel - in the sense that it completes the story, rather than adding to it?

bad chick said...

good luck!

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