Saturday 24 August 2013

Never Say Never - The Story of a Sequel: by Anne Cassidy

This time ten years ago I was probably reading through the proofs of my book LOOKING FOR JJ, which was to be published in the following January (2004). This was my seventeenth novel and truthfully speaking I hadn’t made much of a splash before then. LOOKING FOR JJ was to change that. It found a wide audience and won prizes and sold lots and was made into a play. I list these things lightly but it was the most fantastic experience. To have one’s work taken seriously and yet to find it had a mainstream appeal. Things couldn’t have been better. The result of this meant that I was able to write the kind of books I liked, crime fiction for teenagers.

Many people at the time asked me if I would write a sequel and I said an uncompromising NO. It was a book that people liked, I thought, why spoil it by doing a follow up that people would probably say wasn’t as good as the first one? Why do that?

Years passed and still, whenever I went to schools or met people at events, their first comment or question was about LOOKING FOR JJ. It was wonderful for a book to be still read and enjoyed even though it had been published so long ago.

Some years ago I began writing a four book series called THE MURDER NOTEBOOKS. This was a long project, a real joy for a writer. A crime story that unfolds slowly (too slowly for some) over four books. A series that raises the question, in a number of ways, 'Can murder ever be justified?' After I’d finished this I felt pretty wrung out and looked for a comfortable place to rest for a while.

I began to think again about LOOKING FOR JJ. I’d just read The Chocolate War by Robert Cormier and the sequel, written TEN years later, Beyond the Chocolate War. I’d been blown away by these books (how was it that I had never read them?). I also noted that Robert Cormier had allowed a ten year break between the two books. Ten years is enough time to stand back from the thrill, the feeling of invincibility that came about with the success of the first book. Ten years is enough time to feel humble again, uncertain. Can I do this? Can I take this character and write about her again?

Other things happened. A high profile case of a child who had killed another child had broken down and the offender had been returned to prison. It made me start thinking about Kate Rickman, the new name that Jennifer Jones had taken at the end of LOOKING FOR JJ. She was at Exeter University. Would her life be smooth? Or would she be destined to fail whatever she did? The new book is called FINDING JENNIFER JONES and is published next February by HOTKEY.

And many thanks to SCHOLASTIC, the original publishers, for giving me a lovely new cover to celebrate ten years since original publication.


Stroppy Author said...

Hooray! Small Bint will want it... (even though she is now 18)

Penny Dolan said...

Just spotted a mention of the forthcoming JJ over on Bookwitch, so how pleasing to find more news about it here on Awfully Big Blog! I'll be watching out for the new book in February. Great news.

Unknown said...

Congratulations, and very pleased to hear about your decision. I'm writing a sequel, always a tricky thing to do, and you have encouraged me.

Lynda Waterhouse said...

Can't believe it is ten years since Looking for JJ! I loved this novel and its dramatisation at the Unicorn Theatre. can't wait to read the sequel.

Sarah Taylor-Fergusson said...

Terrific news. I loved The Murder Notebooks - and I really loved the deliberate pace (I worked on DEAD TIME!) and must must must catch up with the end of the series and what you've written since.