A second book on needles
When I’m not writing or traveling or tweeting or cooking, I’m usually knitting. And lately, I’ve been making jokes about something all knitters know too well: Second Sock Syndrome. This happens when you knit one sock, and you are super proud of your awesome sock with all the lace motifs and self-striping and what have you. But then you wander off and lose interest and never finish the second sock. Many knitters have houses full of lonely single socks longing for mates.
Thing is, you need that second sock, or else you don’t have socks at all, just Christmas stockings for Lilliputians. Socks come in two.
My brain has made a strong connection between sequels/series and Second Sock Syndrome.
I always knew that The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland had a sequel. Not when I put the first sentence down, but by the time I got to the final chapter, I knew the next part of the story, the other side of the mirror. That’s why I ended it the way I did: For when she lifted her daughter up out of the threadbare couch, September cast no shadow at all. I wanted a second book, a book in which to talk about consequences, moral complication, the underworld of Fairyland, and September’s shadow. Socks come in two.
Fairyland is now a five book series, and I know a lot of how it’s going to go. I have a plan. Some of it I’ve known for awhile and some new thing falls into my head every day. Sometimes it’s hard to get out that second sock—you forgot the pattern, you screwed up the gusset right out of the gate and don’t remember how you got it right the first time around, you ran out of the original color of yarn. Origin stories are always easier than middle books. But if you don’t make that second sock, you’ve got nothing. You’ve got something incomplete. And that’s why I wrote The Girl Who Fell Beneath Fairyland. There was a loose thread, and it was the color of a shadow. And now it’s not a question of just socks—obviously, you need mittens and a nice hat to go with it. Five—the number of limbs coming out of the torso, plus the head. It’s a mystic number, a powerful one.
Sequels have a whole host of challenges attached—I learned so much writing this book. I’ve written series before, but usually only a few characters follow from book to book. Not so with September and Ell and Saturday and the lot coming back. Sequels are tricksy and daring beasts: You have to shepherd beloved characters but give them an arc, make them fresh again. You have to comment on the first without being a complete retread (ok, the sock metaphor falls down a little, since the second sock can never be exactly like the first). You have to lay the map for the next books while telling a complete and satisfying story. You have to make continuing on as interesting as the magical beginning. There are a lot of dishes to spin. I hope I’ve managed to do it--I am so happy that I got to tell this other story of September’s life and adventures, that I got to return to Fairyland. That I, and everyone, gets to keep going back for awhile yet. When I think of this pair of books, sitting on the shelf in scarlet and violet side by side, when I think of their relationship and their conversation with one another, I think about it most in terms of matching, of opposites, of sets. Socks, colors, seasons. They may seem silly, but I always think of my books this way, ask myself ridiculous questions about their nature. What color are they? What season? What kind of tree?
The first novel is full of light, the second full of shadow. The first is a persimmon tree, the second a dark yew. The first is wish fulfillment, the second faces the complex net of cause and effect that wish fulfillment always brings. The first is summer, the second autumn. The first green and orange and red, the second blue and silver and violet. They go together; they match. They are like two little girls standing back to back. September—and her shadow.
What a brilliant post. Thank you Catherynne
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