Story Behind the Story #7:
Encounter at Easton

At the end of my book, Night Journeys, the two runaway indentured servants, Elizabeth Mawes and Robert Linnly, manage to escape, and flee north. True, Elizabeth was wounded, but she was free, and the protagonist of the book, young Peter York, comes to an understanding with his master, the pious Quaker Mr. Shinn.

But then something happened in my head once the book had been completed: I began to worry about the fate of those two young people. Were they truly free? Did Elizabeth survive her wound? Where did they go?

Easton, PAIn short, I had created fictional characters who had become so real to me that I wanted to know what happened to them. I even did some research about the area to which they presumptively would have fled, Easton, Pennsylvania. In so doing I learned about an outcast woman who, in Colonial times, lived in a cave in the woods near Euston.

I am not one who dreams much, or at least, I don’t remember my dreams very well. Nonetheless, one night at that time I had a dream which, as it were, informed me what had happened to my young characters in Night Journeys. That is to say, I dreamed the whole plot of Encounter at Easton.

Encounter at EastonWith that gift in hand (and mind) I wrote the book. It is the only time I have ever dreamed a book.

One curious aspect of the book’s publication was that from the time I first started to write it, until I had the published book in my hand, it took only eleven months. Never before or since have I published a book so quickly. The normal publication time is at least twice that length.

Another odd thing about the book: When it was done, I realized that the boy in the story, Robert Linnly, could have easily become the main character in an earlier book, Captain Grey. All that was required was to make a few changes in Captain Grey when that book was reprinted. Thus I created a series of four books, but, alas, I never wrote what should be book number three.

That’s the trouble with dreams: you wake up.

Encounter at Easton went on to win the Christopher Award for that year.

“Will you do a sequel to …”

I frequently get requests from my readers that read “Will you do a sequel to….”

I take this as a positive response as it suggests that the reader has taken the characters to heart and desires more of them. So, first, thank you.

Strictly speaking I have done two series; the Poppy books (six in number) and Crispin (three in number).

the Poppy books

Night Journeys, Encounter at Easton, and Captain Grey are, I suppose, a series, but there is one book that would complete it, which is something I never wrote.

night journeys encounter at easton captain grey

Midnight Magic and Murder at Midnight constitute a two book series.

Murder at Midnight, Midnight Magic, Beyond the Western Sea

Beyond the Western Sea, though written as one book, was divided and published as two.  I was asked by a publisher to do a sequel. I said yes, but then could not recapture the voice.

When I wrote the Poppy series I had no intention of writing a series. It just grew into one. While I loved writing the characters, six books seem to be enough.

Crispin Cross of Lead

The Crispin books, however, from the beginning, were imagined as a four-part series. The editor did not want that fourth book. Still, someday I would like to write the concluding fourth volume.

And I wish that Beyond the Western Sea had been published as one book.

At the moment I am currently writing a book which has been conceived as having a sequel.

Speaking for myself, I can only write a sequel if I feel deeply enough about the characters to write more about them. There are times I think I’ve explored a given character or characters enough, and generally speaking, I am much more interested in characters than plot. To go on feels as if I’m just repeating myself.

In short, thank you for suggesting I write a sequel. I won’t say never, but the likelihood is, if I’m not already doing it, I won’t.

Will there be a sequel?

Book without WordsHaving written as many books as I have, and series books and sequels being so popular among readers these days, it is not surprising that I am often asked something like, “Are you going to write a sequel to The Book without Words?” . Among other books about which I’m often asked a similar question are The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle, The Good Dog, and Beyond the Western Sea.

In many cases I have thought of writing sequels. (Midnight Magic has a prequel, Murder at Midnight). To continue on with a story, I need to feel a compelling need to go on. The sequel to Night JourneysEncounter at Eastoncame about because I truly worried about the fate of the protagonists on the first book. I worried so much I had a dream as to what happened—and that dream became the plot of Encounter at Easton.  (The only time that ever worked!)

Sequels also have to be justified by the publisher. The sales of book one have to be sufficient to justify book two. That doesn’t always happen, even though book one has passionate readers.

Also, for me, since I’m always engaged in a new project, a sequel requires me to rediscover the voice and style of a particular book, something not always easy to do. The Poppy books were an exception. I enjoyed writing about the characters so much I wanted to write another and another book in the saga.

The best way for me to think of sequels is to plan to do so from the start. The Crispin books were thought of originally as a multi-volume story. In fact, the fourth book is in my head, but yet to be on paper. At the moment I am working on a new book that assumes a sequel.

All this said, regarding The Book without Words; yes I have thought of a sequel. But alas, I have no plans (or time) to write it.