My name is Lauren, I’m a fantasy author of character-driven stories and epic adventure. My books usually contain dragons, bucket-loads of magic, and are typically fun and hopeful.
I have a degree in Psychology and a fascination with MBTI (I’m an INFJ!). I’m a petrol head and thalassophile, and adore castles, sunshine, and dragons. I’ve always lost myself in fantasy worlds, and it’s been an incredible achievement to publish my own.
First of all, tell me a little about your series and introduce us to the sequel
Hello! Thank you so much for the opportunity to take part in March of the Sequels!
My latest book, The Shadow Gate, is the sequel to The Iron Crown. It’s book two in the Dragon Spirits Trilogy, and due to release at the end of April 2023 (as long as there are no last-minute hiccups). The series is epic fantasy, with multi-POV and an eclectic cast of characters.
In the magic-drenched world of Tassar, dragon spirits form wherever there is an abundance of life (such as a forest or lake) or an abundance of a particular material (like iron or gold). They are spirits of life and consider themselves Guardians of Tassar.
In opposition to them are the Myr, which are spirits of death. Caught in between these two eternal forces are the people of this world, many of whom are influenced by one or both types of spirits - some are blessed, others cursed, and others still seem to be dealing with some form of corruption.
It’s light-hearted escapism fantasy, with lots of adventure and best enjoyed with a warm beverage and a snack!
Do you find that most of your readers continue to read the whole series? Why do you think that is?
I can’t speak for the Dragon Spirits series as I haven’t yet released the sequel. There seem to be a lot of people excited and waiting for it, though, so I’m hoping lots of readers will give book two a try!
However, in my other epic fantasy series, The World of Linaria, read through has not been great historically (this is partly why I re-wrote book one, Moroda, and published a second edition) - the second edition is much better and more people are moving onto book two, which is encouraging!
That being said, the majority of people who read book two go on to read books three and four, so for a lot of people, getting through the first two books often means they’ll continue reading the whole series!
I think a book needs to end in a satisfying way, but leave some things open for people to want to continue to the next book in the series. Whether it’s a cliffhanger ending or something more subtle, there needs to be room for more expansion, more questions, more characters, more twists etc. to get people invested!
How difficult is it to add new characters in a sequel into already established relationships?
I don’t find it particularly difficult! It’s easier if any new characters have some sort of connection with existing characters - be they friends, family, have a history together etc. It can be a nice way of exploring other sides of existing characters through a different lens.
Overall, any new characters brought in must have a purpose. Usually, that’s furthering the plot, but sometimes it’s to add a new dynamic into the existing cast, or replace any main characters who have died, or some other element that can’t be explored with existing characters.
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?
Worldbuilding is actually my most favourite part of writing, and the main reason I write fantasy! I don’t think I’ve ever started worldbuilding again for a sequel - a series will be set in the same world, so if anything we probably get to explore new locations that we didn’t get to see in book one.
I don’t only world build for book one and stop. It has to be a rich, living breathing world, that continues outside the scope of the first book. So it’s not difficult at all to continue, if anything, it’s more fun to expand upon places that weren’t touched upon in book one.
Dragon Spirits is your second series. Your first one was the World of Linaria. Did you find the start of a second series easier after the first one?
It’s actually my third series! I mentioned worldbuilding is my favourite part of writing, so it isn’t really any easier or harder to start something new, as I just get to explore some other ideas I’ve had that wouldn’t work for existing books.
The problem is often having too many ideas and not enough time to write them all down. My worlds are also quite different (Tassar gives birth to dragon spirits and there is a strong, almost religious, worship of different spirits for different benefits - only humans around, whereas Linaria has airships, sky pirates, and various races including shapeshifters) so it’s just about getting to create different things for the different worlds.
I have a dozen other ideas where worldbuilding creations would be a better fit than anything I have existing already. So if anything, creating a new series makes things easier for me because I get to find homes for all the worldbuilding and characters!
As we are talking more about The Shadow Gate, let me ask. The Iron Crown was a SPFBO7 finalist; how is the pressure of delivering with that in mind?
There is sooooo much pressure!
I am always very harsh on myself, very self-critical, and hold myself to high standards. I want to ensure every book I write is better than the one before, so as I work on The Shadow Gate, I’m consciously trying to make sure it surpasses The Iron Crown in every way. For those people who enjoyed The Iron Crown, I want to make sure the sequel has everything they love and more.
For those who were on the fence with book one, I hope they find more things to enjoy in the sequel, and continue reading the series.
Because of The Iron Crown’s success as a finalist in SPFBO7, it feels like there are more people watching me/my books than ever before, and that brings an extra layer of pressure, too! I want to delight as many people as possible, not disappoint them!
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?
Oh yes! I try and write relatively open worldbuilding ideas or magic systems, but a sequel has to naturally work within the framework of what’s been put down in book one, otherwise, it won’t make sense.
Sometimes a plot detail or part of the worldbuilding can naturally grow from that foundation, but often it can be limiting! So many times I’ve been annoyed at myself for writing (or not writing) something that ends up affecting book two!
It’s also about balancing ideas and not getting too carried away by introducing too many new characters or concepts etc. Then it can turn into a sprawling chaotic mess! So I try and plot things out in a way that allows room for expansion, but without losing too much structure. Occasionally there will be roadblocks, but I just bank those ideas for future books in the series, or a different series altogether.
Would you say your craft has improved with the subsequent books?
Absolutely! I’ve published over one million words since my debut in 2017, and if you look at my books now compared to the original version of that book (I recently re-wrote it and published it as a second edition, with a new cover), you’ll see the quality is worlds apart.
My processes are also a lot more refined now. I have a trusted team to help polish the finished product - editors and beta readers chief among them. Plus an ARC list of people hungry for my work that give excellent early reviews and help me make any final changes I might need before publication!
Do you have all the timeline planned for the full series?
I have hopes, but nothing set in stone! The Iron Crown published in 2021 and The Shadow Gate will be published in 2023. I’m hoping for the third book in the trilogy to be published in 2024/5.
As far as The World of Linaria is concerned, I have four books out already with two more to go - I’m hoping to get the final two books out at the end of this year/early 2024.
Do you have any marketing tips for sequels?
Things change from year to year, even month to month, so the advice that works for one author may not work for another.
However, I always advocate for curating an ARC list so when the book releases, it isn’t to crickets. Word of mouth is the best marketing tip, so if you can get as many people talking about it as possible, that will have a snowball effect!
I sometimes put the first book on sale, either 99p/99c or free, to boost visibility for that, as part of the sequel launch. A book tour is also a nice way of drawing attention to the series, too!