Friday, September 5, 2014

Difficult Second Novels

We are delighted to welcome back, Hazel Gaynor who will tell us about her approaching second book.

It is a truth universally acknowledged that second novels are a curious thing. Like that ‘difficult second album’ so many bands struggle to produce (I’m thinking especially of T’Pau, Mr Blobby and the Sex Pistols here) so too the ‘difficult second novel’. What if it doesn’t live up to expectations? What if all those readers who loved your first novel don’t fall in love with your second? What if, what if, what if. Realising you have ONE published, actual book is quite something. Doing it all over again is both a terrifying and exhilarating prospect.
My second novel A MEMORY OF VIOLETS will be published in February in the U.S and March in the UK and Ireland. Final proofs are in. Back cover blurbs have been written. The (beautiful) cover has been designed. We are on the final countdown toward ARE’s and galleys and early, nerve-shredding, reviews and I suddenly feel crippled with self-doubt and writerly angst. I’m sure this is normal and expected (please tell me this is normal and expected), but it’s a strange sensation all the same. While part of me cannot wait for this novel to be published and read, to be an actual book (rather than words on a screen or notes scribbled on a pile of papers), another part of me wants to creep into a distant cave and hide until it’s all over.

So, here are my ten truths about writing second novels:
1)      Second novels are like a second child. You are much more relaxed about it in many ways (you’ve been through this all before, right), but then you panic as you realise you can’t remember what on earth you are supposed to do.

2)      Second novels come with expectation. Yes, debuts come with expectation also, but it’s your first (bless), people expect the worst and are surprised if it is actually any good. But if it is, people expect this one to be even better. Readers have something to compare your second novel to. This makes you feel nauseous.

3)      Second novels come without the cotton wool and pampering of debuts. Much like a second pregnancy, people soon forget you’re going through the same aches, pains, insecurities and fears. They assume you have it all figured out, because you’ve done it once before. You’re a writer now. Yeah, yeah. We know.

4)      Second novels come with a contractual agreement. With deadlines. With a publication date. No namby-pamby flouncing around and ‘look at me, I’m writing a novel’ with this one. This is serious, dude. You have schedules to stick to.

5)   Second novels come with experience. You know what’s coming. You know everyone won’t gush with praise. You know some people might even be downright nasty. This makes you feel nauseous.

6)      Second novels have to be juggled with the first (which you are still promoting). You cannot indulge them with your undivided attention like you did with your precious debut. Sometimes, one or the other may be a little bit ignored. And if you’re already writing your third, Lord help you.

7)      Second novels must (naturally) improve on the first. You must have learned something in the process of writing, editing and publicising your debut, and you must prove this with your second. No pressure then.
  8) Second novels show your readers who you really are – the style of your writing, your voice, your brand, your ‘thang’. You are setting your stall out. Pitching your tent. Get it wrong, and people may just quietly walk away and pick up the new Robert Galbraith instead.

  9)Second novels come with the potential for all those lovely ‘Praise for …’ quotes from your previous novel and might even come with a ‘from bestselling author’ splash on the cover. Oh, the joy!

10)  Second novels are, ultimately, brimming with opportunity. They are wonderful, frightening things that consolidate your place as a writer; your space on the shelf. And when all is said and done, you wouldn’t swap that for the world.

Hazel Gaynor is a mum, novelist and freelance writer. Her debut novel THE GIRL WHO CAME HOME is a 
NY Times and USA Today best seller. Her second novel A MEMORY OF VIOLETS will be published in
 February, 2015. Hazel is also a guest blogger and features writer for 
Originally from Yorkshire, she now lives in Ireland with her husband, two children and an accident-prone cat.

Read more about Hazel and her books at
Twitter @HazelGaynor

Thank you, Hazel and good luck with book number two!

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Natalie Kleinman said...

I recently finished reading The Girl Who Came Home. A wonderful book and now I can't wait for A Memory of Violets

Rachel Brimble said...

LOVED The Girl Who Came Home and looking forward to your second release. It was nice to meet you at this year's conference - and hate to say it, but glad it's not me who starts every book wondering how I managed to write the previous!

Rachel x

Hazel Gaynor said...

Thank you Natalie and Rachel! I'm sure we all go through the same doubts and insecurities - and it's great to know that everyone comes out the other side in one piece and excited to write the next one! :)

Jennifer Gilby Roberts said...

I think it's worse when the two books are in a series, because the need to meet reader expectations is even stronger.