I did it! I finished my very first sequel! Magic or Madness 2 (working title: Chooks or Chokos) has been written, the send button has been pressed, one of my editors, thirty pages in, has said so far she’s loving it. I can open that champagne, drink, breathe deep, and then turn to the next (and also previous) project. Yay!
I started Magic or Madness 2 (working title: The Magic Puddle) on the 14th of June, 2004, and finished on the 24th of January, 2005. Seven months! Not quite the nine weeks that it took to write Magic or Madness. No Mexican writing idyll this time around: I had to do housework, deal with admin, work on other projects like editing Daughters of Earth, an anthology of feminist sf.* The first 25 thousand words of Magic or Madness 2 (working title: Magical Crazies Down Under) were written painfully and slowly in New York & Buenos Aires from June to early November; the remaining 40 thousand plus words were written lightning fast in Sydney in the last two months. Yes, I’m knackered, but not as knackered as Scott—he’s written three novels since last June.
Magic or Madness 2 (working title: Magic, Madness & Minties) was a much harder book to write than Magic or Madness. It took forever to get started, though my cunning plan of using "once upon a time" as the kickstarter ended up working. Here’s the first sentence:
Once, when I was really little, we passed a road sign peppered with bullet holes.
(Once is just shorthand for "once upon a time".)
Turns out that making the second book in a trilogy stand alone is not easy. There’s a whole book’s worth of backstory that you have to artfully drop into a sentence or two. I can see why some writers don’t bother. I wondered why I was bothering. It’s not like I’ve ever picked up the second book of a trilogy and read it first. Call me old-fashioned, but I like to start at the beginning (according to Julie Andrews it’s a very good place to start). Does anyone read trilogies out of order? (Write me if you have. Be nice to know all my efforts weren’t for nowt!)
I did my best, and Scott, and my first readers, Gwenda Bond, Pamela Freeman, Carrie Frye, Jan Larbalestier, Karen Meisner, Sally O’Brien, Ron Serdiuk, and Lili Wilkinson, let me know exactly where my best wasn’t good enough. Thank you! Now I just have to sit tight (or, er, get back to work on Daughters of Earth) and wait for my editors’ comments.
Meanwhile, the day Magic or Madness is published (17 March) approaches. Reviews are starting to appear. Kirkus just called it "A cleverly creepy fantasy with likable, complex characters and a sinister conclusion". Not too foul, eh? And I’ve heard rumours that it’s also getting a good review in the School Library Journal. People who aren’t my publishers or friends are reading it! Gulp, but also yay! It’s about time. I wrote it, like, a million years ago.
I have now written four novels, sold three (one, Magic or Madness 3, is not written yet, so, yes, there are two unsold ones), and planned about a thousand others. What to write after this trilogy? I’m thinking the world is finally ready for my great Australian, feminist, monkey knife-fighting, cricket & Elvis novel. Whatcha reckon?
Sydney, 26 January 2005
*I’d thought editing would be a complete doddle. Me with my feet up on the desk, while other people killed themselves writing. Not the case: editing that anthology has been much, much harder work than any novel I’ve written. Not editing again, me. I’m not cut out for hard work.