To date, I have published six novels: three standalones and a trilogy. The trilogy follows three generations of families, but essentially each novel can stand alone as one, cohesive love story.
Increasingly, I’m finding that readers me ask whether I’ll write a sequel to a novel they’ve enjoyed. ‘Why oh why does the story have to end?!’ lamented one reviewer of my most recent novel, Aphrodite’s Tears.
I could return to the island of Helios in Aphrodite’s Tears, and write of the life that Damian and Oriel build there together; of their explorations of the Greek islands and their trips to archaeological digs around the world.
I could revisit Luna and Ruy of Legacy, and explore how the fourth generation of the families in Andalucía fares.
I could go back to Venice and Tuscany, Italy, and pick up the story of Paolo and Venetia in The Echoes of Love, tracing how a life lived beyond the shadow of the past plays out.
And I could go all the way back to the beginning, to Burning Embers, and see how Coral and Rafe are doing in wild and beautiful Kenya.
I could write all of these stories… but I won’t, for three reasons.
First, part of the art of writing is knowing when a story begins and when it ends – and that end point is vitally important. You want to leave the story at such a point that the future is open for the reader to imagine. In romance, the genre in which I write, it is absolutely crucial that the reader be left able to dream.
Therefore, in each of my romance novels the story ends where I feel it should end: with the hero and the heroine having overcome the obstacles in their path and now standing united, facing a lifetime together. Commonly, this is called a ‘happy ever after’ ending; but in fact, I think of the end as simply ‘ever after’. My hero and my heroine have committed to each other, and they will stand together from here on. Of course, given that they love each other, there will be plenty of happiness ahead; but hard times too, for that is life. What matter is not the ‘happy’ part of the ending, but the ‘ever after’ part; what matters is that they will be together through all life brings their way, and neither need ever by lost or alone again.
The second reason I don’t write sequels is because, to my mind, they can be disappointing. If the first book is sufficiently compelling, the writer (and readers) may wish for more. But will the second book deliver all that the first did? Or will it fall flat? Consider, for example, the sequel to Gone with the Wind. Margaret Mitchell published Gone with the Wind in 1939, and it was wildly successful: it won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction, was adapted into an Oscar-winning movie, and has sales in excess of 30 million copies worldwide to date. In 1991, a sequel was published, entitled Scarlett and written by Alexandra Ripley. It was not a critical success at all. Respected author George R.R. Martin called it an ‘abomination’. Quite simply, Gone with the Wind did not need a sequel; when Margaret Mitchell typed ‘the end’, it really was the end.
Finally, the idea of writing a sequel does not appeal to me because I have so many story ideas, and when I finish one story I am eager to move on to a new one. With each novel set in a different place around the world, starting a new book is like a new journey for me, and I love to immerse myself in the culture and history and legends of the setting – and visit it in person, where possible.
Ultimately, I am a writer born of my travels, eager to seek out new knowledge and experiences; to create new story worlds to which my readers may be transported; to find new and beautiful paths to the ‘ever after’.
I sometimes even like books that end in a cliffhanger if I have enough information to finish it in my own mind.