I'd like to introduce you to my next guest author who is sharing her sequel writing story: JD Spikes, author of the Secret Journals series. When she first approached me about being part of this line-up I was hesitant, because her books, while related, aren't necessarily sequels. They are a series with different characters and settings and a common thread that ties them together. However, I thought it over, and I realized that what she had done as an author was extremely clever and creative. It also took a lot of guts to keep writing books with the hope that her readers would stick with her from story to story. Please enjoy what she has to say about all of this.
Jeanine (JD) Spikes:
Yes – you could see the question practically scroll across their eyes when I discussed my young adult books with anyone. I understood the weirdness of my vision, but I couldn’t stop it. It felt too right. Let me explain.
While at my local Borders to buy a sketch pad for my artist son and a lined journal for my writer son, I stumbled on a small journal that called to me and wouldn’t let go. It was emerald green velvet with the embossed word ‘Journal’ on it. I circled that bargain bin, wove through the book aisles, circled the bin again. Thought about the café. Returned to the bin. In the end, I bought that little journal, brought it home, and decided I’d use it as a diary. Just like the heroines of my favorite Victorian novels did, circa Victoria Holt. How cool would that be?
The next day I started writing in it, just a paragraph to see how it felt. To my surprise I realized what I wanted to write wasn’t from me or about me, but from a young girl with a secret. I mean, I was already an author for adults, so I knew a story when I heard it. This story had a teen telling it, though.
The Secret Journals were born.
I really thought I was writing one story. In it’s inception it was called “The Velvet Journal”, Daphne Wentworth’s retelling of the summer of her 17th year, when she met Zach Philbrook at a haunted lighthouse and her life changed forever. Then I went back to Borders. Straight to the gift area where the journals were displayed.
Another journal caught my eye. I didn’t know why – it didn’t look like a diary, like the first one. It was smaller and leather, with a leather cord that wrapped around it and tucked in, to keep it closed. No lines on the inside of this one. You could jot notes to yourself, a sort of working journal, or sketch if you had the need. Why might you have that need?
The Leather Journal’s Therese Berard rehabs houses with her dad. He’s a contractor and she does the window dressing. He doesn’t know how she always gets it right, doesn’t know she’s an empath with psychometric abilities. Houses ‘speak’ to her. When they land the Braeburn House rehab and she inadvertently leaves her leather journal there, everything changes. Pictures show up in it. Someone challenges the changes. And then her best friend’s big brother sticks his nose in.
Different locations, different characters, different outcomes. But ALL journal-centric, in spooky places in New England, with a triangle of teens and a supernatural element. No-brainer, in my mind. Keep it going.
So I did. I realize now, though, that I started to look at journals differently, different than the average buyer. I look for one that jumps out at me, intrigues me. One that says ‘I have a story to tell’. As the stories came, I wrote them. And I started trying to sell them.
The traditional publishers weren’t loving a non-series series, especially one with unconnected titles, like
The Velvet Journal, The Leather Journal, The Shadow Journal…. I get it. How would they promote it? How do you get kids interested in a group of books that do not have the same characters coming back, the same locations, the same plot lines, when the industry is focused on Trilogy and Series?
Enter the small publisher. I’d sold a novella to them as part of an anthology. They knew my work. They knew my work ethic. They said, yes – let us check it out. Awesome! They bought it.
I asked them, putting this article together, what made them decide to buy it? Why, when Big Six gatekeepers (editors and agents) didn’t want to take a chance, would they? Lachesis gave permission to share their response. From my Lachesis editor, Joanna D’Angelo (whom I love):
The reason why we signed you on is quite simple. You're a talented writer and a gifted story teller.
I think that a book series has to have room to grow and expand, just like a TV series does. Look at American Horror Story - it changes season to season but it is still in the realm of the "macabre". Even a "non-series" series like yours, or perhaps an "alternative YA series" has a "link" or connection. It could be a thematic one, or a symbolic one. In your case the idea of a secret journal - a different secret journal in each book that, once found, has a great impact on the heroine and hero.
What drew me to your book was, first and foremost, a darn good story. But what I also like about your work is that you weave multiple layers in your stories that explore socio-cultural issues, with a poignant sensitivity. There is also humour which is also a good thing. But I also love that the story is spooky, "old school" style, which I love.
Spooky old school is how I’d seen it, too.
So the truth I’ve found, that I’ve taken away from writing this article – which made me think and question WHY, is – bottom line? What I’ve heard all along. You have to write a damn good story. You have to believe in that story. Then you have to find someone who loves the story, your voice. And if it feels like a great connection? Don’t let go.
You know you want a get her books now. They sound pretty cool!
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D. G. Driver
Author of Young Adult books Cry of the Sea and Passing Notes.