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I’ve know Author Mary Fan for almost two years now, and she never ceases to amaze me. She is one of the hardest working authors I know. She has one published book and two more books soon to be released. Today she is writing about her experience.

The Accidental Sequel

When I set out to write Artificial Absolutes, back in 2011, I had zero ambitions for it. I was writing it just for fun, with the endgame being to maybe post it on a website and get comments. However, my brain likes to get ahead of itself, so even in the earliest stages, when I was like, “um, how does one write a book again?”, part of me thought, “hey, you might want to get this published someday.” I didn’t know anything about how publishing worked, but I got it in my head that standalones were easier to sell than first books of series. So, I told myself, “whatever you write, make it a standalone.”

And I did—at least, I thought I did. Artificial Absolutes was pitched and picked up by Red Adept Publishing as a lone sci-fi book. But the thing is, my gets-ahead-of-itself brain couldn’t leave well enough alone. The ending of Artificial Absolutes, while wrapping up the main plot lines, leaves room for more, and I couldn’t help thinking, “well, what happens next?”

The question followed me, and ideas kept popping into my head. It also bugged me that one of the central characters doesn’t exactly get a happily-ever-after ending in Artificial Absolutes. I resisted for a while, but eventually, I caved and began plotting a sequel.

I came up with an outline for Book 2 fairly quickly and started writing, but 30,000 words in, I hit a wall. Something just didn’t seem right, and I had the worst case of writer’s block ever. I tried powering through, then realized, “wait, if I don’t like this book, how can I expect readers to?” So I scrapped the draft, revised the outline, and tried again. About 30,000 words into Draft 2, the block hit again. Something still didn’t seem right. Meanwhile, I was looking forward to writing Book 3, because I had this exciting idea about having the main character, Jane, and her brother, Devin, turn against each other after spending two books fighting side-by-side. Finally, I realized the issue: the things I had planned for Book 2 were all filler to get to Book 3. So why not skip it and get straight to the interesting stuff?

And that’s how Synthetic Illusions was born. Even though it didn’t exist in my mind when I was writing Artificial Absolutes, now, I can’t imagine the story without it. Having a sequel gave me space to explore ideas that were touched upon in the first book but never expanded—like Devin’s past involvement with a shadowy government agency.

Writing a sequel can be both easier and harder than the first time around. The world is already in place and the characters already present, but there’s also a need to come up with new stuff. There’s a need to simultaneously stay within the realm of Book 1 and expand it, which is a fun challenge to tackle. I certainly had fun revealing hidden corners of the Artificial Absolutes galaxy in Synthetic Illusions.

I was a bit nervous when I submitted Synthetic Illusions to Red Adept, since I wasn’t sure if it lived up to Book 1, and was on pins and needles for weeks waiting for a response. Finally, a response came, and I was ecstatic. Editing was much easier this time around because I’d already learned Red Adept’s style, and I love how the cover artist tied the two series covers together. I can say with certainty that there will be a Book 3, because Synthetic Illusions has a rather open ending. Now, I just need to write it…