The Big Idea: S.A. Swann
How do you write a sequel for a book that you wrote without thinking of a sequel at all?It’s a pretty puzzle, and one that happens more often than you might think. S.A. Swann faced this problem with Wolf’s Cross, an unexpected sequel to his novel Wolfbreed. His solution to the situation? Read on, dear friends.
When I wrote Wolfbreed I wasn’t concerned for markets, or genre, or much else beyond having my muse promise not to beat me senseless. It was written outside of my contracts for DAW, so I had no real constraints on what I was doing, and no expectations of anything beyond its fiery conclusion. Everything had been wrapped up, the still-living characters all had their main conflicts resolved. All the plot threads tied up with a nice bow made of human entrails. . .
That gave me a bit of a problem when Spectra decided to by the book, as long as I signed a contract for a follow-up. How do you follow-up a book that wasn’t written with a sequel in mind? It’s very hard to read Wolfbreed as the first chapter in an ongoing series. This was especially true in the earlier drafts. The main plot engine was the relationship between the three main characters. Once that was resolved, there was very little that could be done to continue with those characters without seeming completely arbitrary or diluting the resolution of the book.
My idea then, with Wolf’s Cross, was to use a different main character. Simple enough. I could set the sequel in a different place and time, but in the same universe, and I would have a new set of characters to run through their paces. But I also needed Maria (the protagonist of Wolf’s Cross) to not just be a different individual from Lilly (the protagonist from Wolfbreed), but someone radically different in nature— or I was in danger of rewriting Wolfbreed and just moving it from 13th Century Prussia to 14th Century Poland.
So for Wolf’s Cross, I developed Maria as an inverse shadow of Lilly. Lilly was raised as an animal, Maria was raised as a human child. Lilly starts psychologically broken and tries to regain some semblance of sanity as the story goes on, Maria is about as well adjusted and normal as you’d expect of a medieval peasant girl. Lilly’s first major scene is tearing a bunch of knights apart, Maria’s is when she helps tend wounded knights from the same order. Lilly was denied her humanity, Maria is terrified of losing hers. This contrast worked its way throughout the whole of Wolf’s Cross, Maria becoming as dissimilar to Lilly as she could while still remaining a werewolf.
They are two very different women, with very different backgrounds, leading to two very different stories; but stories with very similar themes.