Welcome to my Blog Tour stop for Stephen Lloyd Jones novel Written in the Blood.
Stephen very kindly has written a guest post for me on the subject of writing a follow up novel
For me, completing a book is a strange feeling. While I’m pleased to have made it to the end, arriving there also means saying goodbye. When I finished THE STRING DIARIES back in 2012, I went into a strange kind of mourning. I’d spent so long in the company of Hannah Wilde, Leah and Jakab that it felt like bidding farewell to a close group of friends.
Although I’d always intended that book to be read as a standalone novel, I’d thought a lot about what paths the characters might take afterwards. One very important question kept returning, so when Headline mentioned they were keen to publish a follow-up novel, the opportunity to spend more time in that world was irresistible.
For those who haven’t read THE STRING DIARIES, or simply need a reminder, it’s the story of a young woman, Hannah Wilde, on the run from a man who’s murdered the last five generations of her family. She knows only a few things about him: his name is Jakab, he hails from somewhere in Eastern Europe, and he has the ability to change his appearance at will. Jakab can appear as anyone, at any time – even as the closest members of Hannah’s family. As a result, she finds it hard to trust anyone, and she also knows that her chances of defeating him are slight.
Starting work on the new book offered a number of interesting challenges. From the outset, I wanted the story to be accessible for readers unfamiliar with THE STRING DIARIES. But I also had to make sure that I offered a satisfying experience to readers who had enjoyed the original book.
The first question was: whose story is it? THE STRING DIARIES is a novel told through multiple generations of the same family. I felt, instinctively, that the new story should be told from the perspective of the newest generation. Leah Wilde, Hannah’s daughter, was nine years old during the key events of THE STRING DIARIES. By setting the new book fifteen years later, I had a twenty-four-year-old heroine with a monstrously twisted past and a vital role to play. I don’t want to include any spoilers here, so I won’t reveal too much about that role, but I can tell you that writing Leah was incredibly satisfying: a young woman trying to live up to the example set by her mother, and putting herself in terrible danger as a result.
One of the most head-scratching elements of writing THE STRING DIARIES was linking the individual stories and timelines in a way that felt natural for the reader. A revelation (or secret) in one timeline often directly influenced another; working out when to reveal important information (and when to conceal it) felt like trying to design a complicated card trick.
The level of complexity (for the writer, not the reader!) only increased for WRITTEN IN THE BLOOD. This time around, I had both a larger cast and a wider set of goals to juggle. The story zips around a plethora of destinations and time periods, meaning that instead of designing a complicated card trick, it felt like trying to tightrope-walk The Grand Canyon with a nose full of sneezing powder.
People have asked whether I felt any more pressure writing WRITTEN IN THE BLOOD following the exposure that came from the first novel being selected for the Radio 2 Book Club. The answer, honestly, is no. No one is more critical of my writing than I am. Once I’ve satisfied my own internal critic, I know that I’ve done the best job I can. The last two years, since the publication of THE STRING DIARIES, has been a huge learning experience. I’ve tried to squeeze every new scrap of knowledge, every drop of talent I have, into the new book. While my debut will always hold special memories, I think that WRITTEN IN THE BLOOD is a richer, more satisfying piece of fiction as a consequence. I had a blast writing it, and I hope you’ll enjoy the result.
Written in the Blood is published by Headline on the 6th November 2014 - Buy Here