For the last truly great sequel he’s read, Tom Turner has to reach far back in history – all the way to ancient Greece.
“I have racked my brain trying to think of a sequel equal to its original,” said Turner, a short-story writer and editor living in Augusta. “You have to go all the way back to Homer. A lot of scholars say the Odyssey is a sequel to the Iliad.”
There’s a reason good sequels are hard to find: They’re hard to write, but it’s not for want of trying.
“Louisa May Alcott wrote Little Women. No one read Little Men,” Turner said. “Everybody read the Witches of Eastwick. Who remembers the Widows of Eastwick?”
Local authors weighed in on their favorite second books and the challenges of writing an encore novel.
Augusta author Susan P. Mucha didn’t start out with the idea of writing a series but got to know the characters of her medical murder mystery books so well that she couldn’t help but write about them again.
Her latest, Die Before Your Time, follows Elia Christie and Luis Echevarria, who investigated a murder at Augusta National Golf Club in her first book, Deadly Deception.
“I got to know Elia and Luis, and I like them. Also, I learned from my readers that they like them, too,” she said.
Mucha wasn’t worried about whether the sequel would “live up to” her earlier work. Instead, she came across another challenge.
“I have to be careful not to contradict myself,” she said. “I keep characters’ idiosyncrasies, dates, ages of characters, things like that in a notebook.”
Sometimes it’s not the characters that carry over, but the place.
Leonard Todd is the author of the 2008 book Carolina Clay: The Life and Legend of the Slave Potter, Dave.
“It’s a book in and of itself as a biography of an amazing person,” he said.
Next month he debuts an original musical inspired by both his and Dave’s home, Edgefield. It’ll be performed the last two weeks in October at the Edgefield County Theatre Company.
“I was looking for a second project after the Dave book,” he said. “Edgefield is my inspiration. Who knows what it’s going to inspire next.”
Regardless of what they’re writing, most authors don’t want to be a one-hit wonder, said Tripp Bowden, an Augusta author who also found inspiration in his hometown.
The former Augusta National caddie is author of the 2009 book Freddie & Me. He just completed a new book with former Augusta State golf Coach Josh Gregory, about the team’s journey to win consecutive national titles.
“It’s an unlikely story, like my relationship with Freddie,” Bowden wrote about in Freddie & Me. “It should have never happened, but the impossible can happen if you believe.”
Nonfiction writers and the authors of “commercial literature” often find themselves better able to avoid the “sophomore slump,” according to Turner.
When it comes to fiction, he suggests it’s best to judge a novel by its structure.
“The best novels I can recall have thematic conclusions and the words, ‘The End,’” he said.
“It’s like Joni Mitchell once said in front of a live audience, ‘Nobody ever asked Van Gogh to paint Starry Night again.’”