JoAnn Yhard on Writing a Sequel

It’s my pleasure to welcome Nova Scotia, author, JoAnn Yhard to my blog. JoAnn is the author of “The Fossil Hunter of Sydney Mines,” as well as “Lost on Brier Island.” Her latest book, “Buried Secrets at Louisbourg” came out this spring and is now due to be released in the US on September 1st. That means all our US friends will be able to order. One lucky person can win a signed copy of  JoAnn’s book. Check the bottom of this post to find out how.

Buried secretsSo what’s Buried Secrets at Louisbourg about?

Fred has had a rough summer. His secret crush on Mai is going strong, his mother has barely recovered from a battle with cancer, and his unreliable father’s diving business has gone completely underwater. Now Fred, Mai and Grace, extraordinary fossil hunters, are at the Fortress of Louisbourg hunting a different kind of treasure. They are secretly excavating the historic site, trying to find a mass of jewels Fred’s ancestor may have buried there—jewels that could save Fred’s family. But Fred uncovers far more than he bargained for, including a dangerous plot that could leave Fred’s family in even more serious trouble. The young detectives from the bestselling The Fossil Hunter of Sydney Mines shine in this fast-paced mystery for middle readers. 

You can check out JoAnn’s Facebook Author page here for signing events.

Without further ado , here’s JoAnn .

Thanks so much, Laura, for inviting me to do a post on writing a sequel. I am sitting on the deck with our wild backyard groundhog, Sam, sitting on his rock keeping me company as James paints. It’s been a hectic summer with the move, but we are settling in and the words are starting to flow again.

Buried Secrets at Louisbourg, my new book, is the 2nd with the same characters as The Fossil Hunter of Sydney Mines.

A book with the same characters. Should be easy, right? I mean, so much is already established: where they live, their history, their likes and dislikes. No agonizing over character traits. Will she have blue eyes or brown? It was also nice slipping back into that world again after Lost on Brier Island, my 2nd book, which had all different characters and was aimed at a slightly older audience, YA. I was back visiting with old friends and I’d missed them.

But it turned out that the 2nd book had some major challenges I hadn’t expected.

Initially, my plan was to do a mystery series with the same protagonist, Grace. She was the main character in The Fossil Hunter of Sydney Mines. However, for those of you who’ve read it, Fossil Hunter, while a mystery, had lots of emotional drama for Grace as well. It wasn’t about a neighbour with a missing cat. It was deeply personal to Grace. Her dad was presumed dead and the story centered around discovering what happened to him.

So, when doing another story, I was left with the puzzle of how to achieve the same intense emotional stakes? Her mom dies? Dog? Best friend? The answer is, I couldn’t. If sticking with a mainly plot-driven mystery series, like Nancy Drew, you can have the characters basically suspended in time (not aging), and solving crime after crime. Not that I’m criticizing my beloved Nancy Drew books…they were glued to my hands growing up. But there was not much depth to the characters in those stories. So, because I had intentionally added an emotional and personal layer for the main character, I had inadvertently created a major hurdle for book two.

I did try it, though. I wrote several chapters. But it was hard slogging – the words were not coming easy. I also found myself trying to bridge the time from the last to the current book. If it’s not a continuation of the first book’s plot, you don’t just pick up where you left off. It has to start with something interesting and relevant to the current plot. What’s this book about? I was finding it hard to jump into the action. In other words, it was boring. I thought maybe I was being too hard on myself. We writers tend to do that to ourselves at times (always). But I read it out loud to my writing group and…it was still boring!

So we rolled up our sleeves to brainstorm this crisis. I love my writing group! And out of that session came the solution. Why don’t you try another point of view? There it was. The missing link. This wasn’t Grace’s story – it was Fred’s, one of her best friends. It was Fred’s mom who was sick, his dad who’d lost his job, and it was Fred’s treasure to find. Telling it from Grace’s point of view was watering it down. So I unraveled it like bad knitting back to the first stitch. A few key strokes. Painless, right? Not at all. Watching the words disappear, I mourned all those wasted hours. But in the end, they weren’t wasted. I had direction and purpose. And the story flew with new wings.

I also got to see what the other characters looked like through Fred’s eyes. He has a crush on Mai, so everything she does is golden. He finds Grace bossy, where from her point of view she came across as self-confident. And Fred is not a fan of Jeeter, so Jeeter doesn’t get as much air time. Sorry in advance to Jeeter lovers. I found this aspect fascinating!

I definitely grew as a writer through the experience. I’m currently working on the third in the series, this time from Mai’s point of view. Danger in Iceberg Alley is set in Twillingate, NL.

A little plug for Buried Secrets at Louisbourg. It’s the 300th anniversary this year and The Fortress of Louisbourg is the #1 vacation destination in Canada. I will be there for signings August 24th 3-5 pm and August 25th  12-2 pm. It is one of their main event weekends.

Thanks JoAnn for agreeing to guest blog. Congratulations on your new book and best of luck with the other books in the series. I’m looking forward to reading them!

Now, to win your very own signed copy of JoAnn’s book you simply leave a comment on this post. To help get you started here’s a question. What’s your favourite summer vacation destination? Have you ever been to Fortress Louisbourg?  The contest is open until Friday August 23. Good luck! 

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21 Comments

  1. 1959duke

     /  August 14, 2013

    Reblogged this on Change is Never Ending.

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  2. Loved this fascinating post about writing the sequel and how changing POV helped make the story flow better.

    My favourite vacation spot is definitely Cape Breton Island where my parents have retired. I’ve been to Fortress Louisbourg a few times and have loved it each time. I’m always fascinated with Canadian history which is actually interesting and not the dull fare we studied in school back in the 1970s. I love how history comes alive in places like Fortress Louisbourg, Avonlea Village and Upper Canada Village.

    The book sounds great and I would love to read it.

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  3. christicorbett

     /  August 14, 2013

    I’m just starting the sequel to my debut novel, so this was an especially informative post for me. Thanks for sharing!

    Favorite summer destination? The Pacific Ocean.

    Christi Corbett

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  4. Glad you found the post informative Christi and Cate! Good luck on the contest! 🙂

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  5. Nice, JoAnn – lots of FOOD FOR THOUGHT there (inside joke). And, yes – our grade 12 class took a two-day trip to Louisbourg (in 1978!), and it was memorable – yikes! Favorite summer vacation place – Lunenburg! Thanks, Laura:)

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  6. Marlene Boutin

     /  August 14, 2013

    Yes I have been to Louisbourg over many years ago and loved it. My favorite place to vacation is close to the ocean so I can walk along the sand and find all kinds of interesting shells and things.
    Marlene

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  7. Haha Jan, I get the joke! 🙂 1978 eh? Time for a return trip, I think!

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  8. Helen Cormier

     /  August 14, 2013

    My favourite vacation destination is at our cottage in Shediac. It really reminds me of where I was born and raised beautiful Cape Breton. Listening to the sound of the waves and the smell of the ocean air brings back lots of great memories. I know now that the saying You can take the girl out of Cape Breton but, you can’t take Cape Breton out of the girl. The home of my heart Cape Breton. Louisbourg is truly Amazing..

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  9. We’ve visited Nova Scotia twice, but we’ve never made it to the Fortress of Louisbourg. We tend to get hung up in Cape Breton, because it’s such a tough place to leave. This year we discovered Mahone Bay NS where my husband’s Minuet was built several decades ago. Our ‘just one more day’ there meant we couldn’t make it to Louisbourg before heading back to Ontario. Maybe next time! Yes, Nova Scotia is one of our favourite holiday destinations.

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  10. Also want to say thanks for sharing your sequel challenges. I’m in the process of editing the first draft of a sequel, and your comments are timely! I definitely know what you mean about saying goodbye to all those words and the time you spent writing them. Ah, the writing life!

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  11. You are welcome, Heather. I am glad it’s useful to you! 🙂

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  12. chrissy

     /  August 15, 2013

    sounds like a very intriguing book! I commend anyone who can put pen to paper and tell such wnderful stories. My favorite vacation spot is Rissers Beach on the South Shore.

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  13. Thanks for the peek at your sequel-writing experience, Jo Ann. I haven’t tried what I think is a true sequel, although what I’m writing now is in the same setting as my previous story, but focuses on one of its other characters as the protagonist.

    I hate to think of how many years it’s been since our family did a cross-Canada RVing trip with friends. We loved all the maritime provinces for many different reasons, but the Fortress of Louisbourg was a highlight. Our favourite vacations now are probably the ones we take at our rustic little lakeside cabin in BC’s Cariboo country. But we still have a fifth-wheel trailer and love to get away in it, too.

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  14. Sounds very much like what I ended up doing, Carol. Best of luck with it!

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  15. Congrats on the 2nd novel! 🙂

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  16. This book sounds right up my alley. I do hope I win a copy. I enjoyed reading about how Jo Ann came up with the idea for her second book in the series. Writing groups are so great!
    No, I have never been to Fortress Louisbourg but would love to visit one day. Right now my favourite summer vacation destination is Alberta because that is where my grandchildren live.

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  17. Thanks Darlene and Jibby! Writing groups are wonderful! I don’t think I’d every have finished a book without mine.

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  18. cluculzwriter

     /  August 16, 2013

    Excellent interview, Laura. Thanks for sharing JoAnn’s book and her thoughts on sequels. JoAnn, I just sent my sequel to my publisher and won’t hear back until next month whether they think I pulled it off. Exactly as you pointed out, it was a tough book to write. I worried constantly on what would happen if a reader read #2 before #1. Because even though it’s a separate story, so much of #1 is incorporated into it.

    Best of luck on your career.

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  19. Thanks so much, and best of luck with your sequel as well!

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  20. My favourite summer destination is anywhere new! I look forward to reading the book!

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