Second Novels are Murder by Sue McGinty

Hi Marilyn, thanks for hosting me today. I’m going to answer your questions about getting that second novel off the ground.

What were your assumptions when you started your second novel, “Murder at Cuyamaca Beach?”

Like most writers with a successful first novel, I assumed the writing, publication, and marketing of my second Bella Kowalski California Central Coast (5 adjectives, count ‘em!), mystery would be a cinch. I was wrong on all counts.

How was the writing process itself?

I assumed that because I’d written one novel, the second would be faster and easier. If anything, it was harder. Novels are like children, they don’t all behave the same way. Some let you sleep peacefully all night long, others keep you up all night. The challenges I faced with my recalcitrant child, “Murder at Cuyamaca Beach” were: Choosing a different location on the Central Coast that fit story's plot, creating a believable plot with means, method, and motivation, and how much backstory to include from the first novel, “Murder in Los Lobos.” 

The biggest challenge was revealing another side of Bella’s character the reader hadn’t seen in the first book. I decided to showcase her empathy for the homeless population and for physically and mentally challenged young people. She was a nun, after all.

Is any of this based on your real life?

Well, as you know, I was never a nun. In fact, I was such a teenage rebel I couldn’t make it through all four years in a Catholic high school and was "invited" by the Mother Superior to transfer to the local public high school for my senior year. It was a huge school, most everyone had been together since grade school, and I had no friends the entire year. But that, as they say, is another story.

Concerning the homeless population, and challenged kids, I have quite often volunteered for an overnight stint in one of the excellent homeless shelters run by our local churches. And after my retirement from McGraw-Hill, I worked part time for a grassroots agency that provided help and support to mentally challenged kids and their parents. Both of these life experiences found their way into “Cuyamaca Beach” and helped to build Bella’s character.

Was the writing process faster for “Murder at Cuyamaca Beach?”

Oh heavens no, my second “child,” took me almost a year and a half to produce a workable draft because of the aforementioned challenges. I wrote “Murder in Los Lobos” in  nine months in a white heat (for me anyway) of creative energy.

Part of the second novel angst was the monkey who sat on my shoulder during the entire process, whispering that I could never repeat the first novel’s success. I’m glad to say that wasn’t true, but that monkey still makes an occasional appearance now that I’m working on the fifth Bella book.
Links you may like:

Tomorrow I’ll discuss publishing and marketing that pesky second novel.



Sue McGinty said…
Thanks, Marilyn, for the excellent presentation of my post. Looking forward to seeing the rest tomorrow. --Sue
You are such a delight, Sue! Loved the post.
Lida Sideris said…
Thank you, ladies, for a right-on-target post. For me in particular, as I'm in the process of revising Book 2. Sue, I can SO relate to the little voice saying you did it once, but no can do the second time around (insert deep sigh). Taking baby steps...
As you both known I am a huge fan of both your work (s). But I didn't know about your work in the community that helped the non-fiction base of this book! Keep Bella coming!
Diane Broyles said…
Your comments about your past are always intriguing. We always find out a little bit more about what makes you and your books work. Good job!
Mar Preston said…
I've enjoyed Bella in all her incarnations.
Rolynn Anderson said…
It was fun to hear about your process, Sue. I agree, no two books are alike..especially if we challenge ourselves to take risks with each story. Each novel puts me in a place of 'What? How did I get my characters into this mess?" We seem to demand more of ourselves than we intended...but that's probably a good thing!
Sue, you've certainly have been my mentor and a great friend. I've learned a lot from you. Thanks so much for sharing.
Anonymous said…
Sue - great post. I've often wondered if a mean writer's block grows from a successful first book. As if juggling all those writerly thing at once, we now have to contend with the sabotage of our mind about a follow up success. That's a real bummer no one needs. Glad to know it even happens to the best.
JoAnne Lucas in Clovis, Ca
Jackie Houchin said…
These are both great books, and I've reviewed them in the past. I've known that "Monkey" that says you can never write a book like the first.... or EVEN finish that one you thought was so great a decade ago but didn't finish. Would my voice be different, what about the characters.... eek! I'm so glad you showed the way! That it is possible.
Best of luck on all your endeavors, Sue,
Anne R. Allen said…
It's certainly true that later books aren't any easier. Some of my books came in a "white heat" as you say Los Lobos did, and others were slow and difficult. I've got one now that's taking forever. Everytime I get in flow with the writing, other obligations take over. It's as if I'm a marketer who only occasionally is allowed to write fiction, not the other way around. It can be so frustrating!

Thanks for these two enlightening pieces!

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