March of the Sequels: A.K.M. Beach

19 Mar 2023

The Author/s

A.K.M. Beach

A.K.M. Beach

A.K.M. Beach is the shared pen name of a husband and wife duo living in upstate New York. In 2006, two undead priests came together to guard a tattered flag in Warsong Gulch, beginning a partnership that soon transcended universes. It was only a matter of time before they set out to create a universe of their own. Outside of writing, Ash spends her time yelling at health insurance companies and trying to pierce the cloud of unknowing; Matt orchestrates everything from sweeping plots to trifling intrigues, talking in funny voices all the while.

The Interview

First of all tell me a little about your series and introduce us to the sequel(s).
The Banshee’s Curse Duology is part love story, part gothic horror. It’s set in a high fantasy world ruled by dragons, semi-immortal emperors, and a rigid caste system where your lot in life determines your afterlife, too. It follows the story of Lady Rovena Vago, a banshee trapped with hundreds of other cursed spirits in the ruins of a castle. The first half of the duology, Lady Vago’s Malediction, shifts between past and present, following Rovena as she communes with a host of haunted objects to regain her memories of her life and death, her rise and fall.
Early, cozy scenes filled with board games, horseback rides, and tender courtship transition to smalltime court intrigue as Rovena navigates her sudden jump from horse merchant to baroness. By the end, things tilt into full-on horror as things go catastrophically wrong for everyone in the barony. Nothing in this paragraph is a spoiler, since the reader knows from the first page that this is a tragedy.
Hope does arrive in the final pages, though, and the quest to break the curse on Lady Vago and her subjects begins in earnest. Lady Vago’s Absolution follows Ysoldette, who works for an order of mystics tasked with laying the tortured souls of the empire to rest. Communing with Lady Vago forges a link between her and the banshee, as well as the primary antagonist of the duology. It’s up to Ysoldette to hunt the villain down, expose their true identity, and reclaim what was stolen to break the curse.
But since Lady Vago was a subversive figure in life, and is now a banshee who can kill with a scream, Ysoldette falls under intense scrutiny for agreeing to help this shady lady. Readers can look forward to a mystery-driven story full of existential anguish and terror, class struggles, creepy “things” in the woods, occult magic, and spooky doings in a remote and decaying quarry town. We hope readers find the conclusion exciting, layered, cathartic, and goth AF.


Do you find that most of your readers continue to read the whole series? Why do you think that is?
Absolution hasn’t been out for long, and it’s been a two year wait for our earliest readers, but we’re trying to get the word out and say, “Hey! Remember that book you read a while back that only felt like half a story? The other half is here now!” That’s a nice advantage duologies have over longer series, or even chonky trilogies. Sure, the first volume might end on a monster cliffhanger, but you only need to wait for one more book to get that satisfaction of seeing how it all plays out. It’s hard to know if we accomplished what we set out to do until people have read both books. They’re very different variations on the same themes, and for us, the compare and contrast between the two is an essential part of the experience.

How difficult is it to add new characters in a sequel into already established relationships?
This was the biggest challenge! Absolution is set several centuries after the main events of Malediction. Rovena continues to be a central figure, but the reader is no longer directly in her head for most of the story. Instead, she’s this massive shadow looming over an entirely new cast, who we had to make as interesting and compelling as the first set. That said, this is a ghost story, so you can expect that key characters from the past are not going to fade quietly.

Is it difficult to continue with worldbuilding for a world you have already built in book 1?  Do you find it easier to switch locations for the sequel and start again with worldbuilding?
One fun thing about setting the books hundreds of years apart was exploring how society could change and how it might stay the same. Worlds that remain in stasis for thousands of years is a common trope in fantasy. We didn’t discard that idea entirely. Sulthrizania is oooooold. Instead, we wanted to be deliberate about it. Things that happened in Rovena’s day would be unthinkable now, and the other way around. Some aspects of the culture evolved, others were doubled down on and are more entrenched than ever.

Have you ever been stymied by a worldbuilding or plot detail from book 1 that is very inconvenient to deal with or write your way around in subsequent books?
You know, it was the silliest thing that tied us up at the very beginning. When we wrote the last scene of Malediction, we still hadn’t nailed down what the opening of Absolution was going to be. Ultimately, it picks up right where Malediction left off, but we wanted to give some additional context. It was tricky to flesh things out and add new information while still placing all of the characters in such a way that everything still flowed smoothly from ending to opening. How many people are here? Who’s in charge? Where is the donkey? Pure micro logistics, and it’s wild how much we struggled with it.

Would you say your craft has improved with the subsequent books?
We learned SO much about plotting while working on Absolution. With Malediction, all of the focus was on the characters and the atmosphere. We were free to simply revel in that sense of tragic romance and inevitable, impending doom. Just straight vibing all the way through. But for Absolution, we owed it to our readers to fix what was broken. (To an extent. You can’t fix the inherent injustice of afterlife theology.) We had an investigation to complicate, try-fail cycles to pace, twists to seed and reveal in the most satisfying way. Mystery plots are great fun to read and watch, but writing one of this length for the first time was like going to boot camp. Even though we still have more to learn, we’re so proud of our progress.

Do you have all the timeline planned for the full series?
Rovena’s story is complete, but we’re not done with the world of Sulthrizania. We have the Platinum Order Mysteries, which follows Ysoldette’s climb up the ladder of her mystical order prior to the events of the duology. Right now we have the first novella out, The Haunting of Bardane Manor, and hope to have another short story, The Spirit Choir, out by the time spring is in full swing. We’re also outlining a series of novels all about the exploits of Henry, a gruff and somewhat exasperated mercenary with a big secret who we introduce in Absolution. The goal is for each set of stories to be equally good introductions to the world, and where to start just depends on your mood.

Do you have any marketing tips for sequels?
We’re so new to self-publishing that we should really be asking that question instead of trying to answer it! One thing we could have done better is really build up that ARC team. Especially when you’re a nobody in a small niche, you can’t assume you’ll hit the word of mouth lottery. If we could rewind time just a few months, we would have done more to secure early reviews that would be ready on release day. It’s so much easier for other marketing strategies, such as ad campaigns, to pay off when that store page looks alive with even just a half dozen reviews to get things started.