I’m excited to kick off the release tour for Joshua David Bellin’s book Scavenger of Souls, the sequel to Survival Colony 9, which releases Tuesday, August 23. Josh is here today to talk about the challenges of writing a sequel.
- Josh, congratulations on the upcoming release of Scavenger of Souls! Can you give us a brief summary of your first book, Survival Colony 9?
Survival Colony 9 takes place in a future world where human civilization has been devastated by a series of wars and environmental disasters. And then, following on the heels of these cataclysms, a mysterious threat appears: creatures called Skaldi, which have the ability to consume and mimic human hosts.
My narrator, Querry Genn, is a fifteen-year-old boy living in Survival Colony 9, one of the small, mobile bands that came together in the years after the wars. In addition to the severe problems all the survivors face in a desert world crawling with monsters, Querry faces two that are unique to him: he lost his memory in an accident six months before the action of the book starts, and the leader of his colony is a very demanding man who doesn’t tolerate Querry’s disability. The story takes place during a critical two-week period in Querry’s life as he tries to recover his past and fight for his colony’s future.
2. When you first sat down to write the sequel, what was your strategy for approaching it?
I’m not much of a planner; I usually just sit down and write. But with a sequel, I knew I had to be somewhat more systematic than usual. So I jotted down lots of notes, planning out possible narrative trajectories for my main characters, creating brief biographies for the new characters who appear in the book, drawing maps of the territory where the action takes place, and so on. I left a lot of things open, because I’ve found that I do my best writing when I let my characters and my story lead me to unexpected places. It was just a matter of finding a good balance between planning and winging it!
3. When I wrote the sequels for The Eighth Day, I found that I had to dig deeper into my world building and go beyond what the reader learned about the setting in the first book. How did you delve deeper into the world of Survival Colony 9?
One of the things I wanted to show in Scavenger of Souls was that Querry’s colony was not alone in this world. It seemed to me that, with the almost complete collapse of global civilization, various survival colonies would develop along very different lines depending on any number of factors: who led them, what access to technology they had, where they were situated geographically, and so on. So in Scavenger of Souls, the reader meets a number of different colonies that coexist with Querry’s, but that are very different from—and sometimes in conflict with—Survival Colony 9. Those new colonies were fun to create, and they also gave me a chance to introduce one of my favorite characters in the Survival Colony series: Mercy, a feisty teenage girl living in one of the colonies that Querry encounters.
I also had to delve deeper into the origin of the Skaldi, because I felt that readers would really want to know where these creatures came from and why they were here. Trust me—the answers are not what you expect!
4. What did you struggle the most with while writing Scavenger of Souls? (I’m assuming you struggled. If not, what made it a breeze?)
Oh, I struggled all right! I struggled with how much backstory from the first book to include in the second, how to tie up the loose ends from the first book, and how to bring it all to a close while still leaving the reader with a sense that Querry’s story continues beyond the final page. My biggest struggle, though, was that I had originally conceived this series as a trilogy, and when I decided along with my agent and editor to transform it into a duology, I had to make some very tough decisions about what to cut. Never easy to do. My only consolation is that maybe I can use some of the material that didn’t make the final cut in a spin-off story or something!
5. What’s next for you?
I’ve completed a third YA novel that I’m super-excited about, a deep-space action/romance titled Freefall, which is due out next year. After that, I’ve got a couple of manuscripts partially written, one of them YA science fiction, the other YA historical. I’ll work with my agent to figure out which one to focus on, and that’ll be my writing project for next year!
Woo Hoo! Looking forward to Freefall as well as Scavenger of Souls! Meanwhile, see below for information about the book, the author, and a giveaway.
About the book:
Querry Genn is running out of time. He may have saved his survival colony and defeated a nest of the monstrous Skaldi, but that doesn’t mean he has any more answers to who he is. And Querry’s mother, Aleka, isn’t talking. Instead, she’s leading the colony through a wasteland of unfamiliar territory. When they reach Aleka’s destination, everything Querry believed about his past is challenged.
In the middle of a burned-out desert, an entire compound of humans has survived with plenty of food and equipment. But the colonists find no welcome there, especially from Mercy, the granddaughter of the compound’s leader. Mercy is as tough a fighter as Querry has ever seen—and a girl as impetuous as he is careful. But the more Querry learns about Mercy and her colony, the more he uncovers the gruesome secrets that haunt Mercy’s past—and his own.
With threats mounting from the Skaldi and the other humans, Querry must grapple with the past and fight to save the future. In the thrilling conclusion to the story that began with Survival Colony 9, Joshua David Bellin narrates a tale of sacrifice, courage against overwhelming odds, and the fateful choices that define us for a lifetime.
Publisher: Margaret K. McElderry Books
Release date: August 23, 2016
For order links, visit http://joshuadavidbellin.com/my-books/
Praise for Survival Colony 9:
Tantalizing mysteries abound among the human and inhuman inhabitants of the bleak landscape, and the post-apocalyptic plot is satisfyingly full of twists.—Booklist
Joshua David Bellin brings serious game in a post-apocalyptic thriller that collides breathless action with devious world building and genuine heart. A terrific novel!—Jonathan Maberry, New York Times bestselling author of Rot & Ruin and V-Wars
Set in a gritty post-apocalyptic world, Survival Colony 9 is both an adventure and an exploration of what it means to be human.—Margaret Peterson Haddix, New York Times bestselling author of the Missing Series
About the author:
Joshua David Bellin has been writing novels since he was eight years old (though the first few were admittedly very short). He taught college for twenty years, wrote a bunch of books for college students, then decided to return to fiction. Survival Colony 9 is his first novel, with the sequel, Scavenger of Souls, set to release on August 23, 2016. A third YA science fiction novel, the deep-space adventure/romance Freefall, will appear in 2017.
Josh loves to read, watch movies, and spend time in Nature with his kids. Oh, yeah, and he likes monsters. Really scary monsters.
To find out more about Josh and his books, visit him at the following:
I’ve written two sequels and it is challenging. You have to make the story stand on its own, providing just enough back story for new readers without boring fans who’ve read the first books.
Thanks, Alex. I checked out your books on Amazon–they look really cool! Also followed you on Twitter.
Nice to meet you, Joshua. I loved the insight. 🙂
Anna from elements of emaginette
Thanks, Anna. Love your blog! Followed you on Twitter so we can stay in touch.
The books sound amazing! I’ve often wondered what writing a sequel would be like. None are in the works for me, I keep writing standalones so I guess I’ll never know. I’ll plug this page and the giveaway on my blog on Friday Aug 19th. 🙂
Thanks so much for helping spread the word about my book! Followed you on Twitter–please let me know if I can help you with any of your books.
Hi, Dianne, Hi,Josh,
Congrats on your sequel! I can so understand about the backstory issue… my first novel was scheduled to be complimented by four other books. When I started with the second, I had the same anxiety on what to include.
All the best with your new book! Looking forward to reading it!
Thanks, Michael! I’d love to hear what you think when you read my book!
I would definitely want to do a lot more planning/plotting on a sequel than a stand alone. Both books sound awesome!
Thanks–I’m really pleased with how the 2-part series turned out!
I managed to write one sequel, and I’m not sure I’m up to the challenge of another. Congratulations on yours!
Yeah, I’m sticking with stand-alone books for a while!
I can imagine that writing a sequel as a pantser could be daunting. Glad you were able to come up with a process that worked for you.
Thanks! Now it’s on to pantsing my next (non-sequel) novel!
This sounds intriguing. I love the idea of a monster that mimics.
Thanks, Tamara! Hope you’ll enjoy the Skaldi!
This duology sounds intriguing. Successfully walking the fine line between providing enough backstory to enable each book to stand on its own, without annoying prior readers by beating them over the head with stuff they already know is a daunting challenge. I heartily salute all authors who can pull it off.
Sounds like interesting stuff. I’m in the middle of plotting a sequel to the book I’m editing, so it helps to read about someone else’s process.