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Tell Your Own Story

Two Journeys Home: The Derrynane Saga Continues by Kevin O’Connell

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Article by Kevin O'Connell ©.
Posted in the Magazine (Tell Your Own Story: , ).
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The proof copies of the “latest book” nestle side-by-side on a shelf in my study with those of the first one – now some eighteen months after Beyond Derrynane was published – positive reviews of Two Journeys Home are beginning to appear, the creative team is happy, friends, colleagues and strangers are saying nice things.  Yet, there is this strange sense of unreality – much like when one notices that the second child who’d arrived seemingly days ago is now walking, talking . . . almost a feeling of how did this happen . . . and so quickly?

Obviously, it has happened, just as it was hoped, contemplated it would.

Yet it seems terribly different – because it is.

Writing a second book – any second book – is challenging; to say that writing the second one in a series – in this case, the Derrynane Saga – is rather daunting is an understatement. As I quickly came to learn.

Will the second one be a stand-alone volume – one that a reader can pick up and enjoy, perhaps even savour, without having read its predecessor? Or, must it, in effect, somehow manage to re-tell the original story – without one way or another boring those who have read the first book? Trying to figure this out, even as the writing had begun, and then execute on the conclusion proved to be more than a wee bit intimidating.

Yet somehow it does get done and one is able to “write on”.

Such would not be the case absent having a gifted, insightful – and caring – editor, like Randy Ladenheim-Gil, at one’s side.  What I feared would be endless “how to” discussions proved to be blessedly brief, because she knows “how to” do just about everything in terms of writing books.  It was as a result of the wisdom shared, imparted by Randy that I understood one cannot hope to re-tell the entire bloody story of the first volume, but that there are subtle devices, methods open to the author which, if properly used and carefully written, can “educate” or “re-educate”, whichever the case may be, the reader of the sequel in a way so as to inform, to the extent, necessary, as well as entertain anyone who might choose to read it.

In the case of Two Journeys it was through a combination of a limited number of carefully-written (edited and then re-written) reflective flashbacks by the principal character, along with again precisely-crafted conversations between and amongst several key characters that the most salient elements of the original, the now-continuing story were included.

That, to my relief, this effort has apparently proven to be successful is evidenced by two reviewers, neither of whom had read Beyond Derrynane, who directly addressed the issue, saying “Although I had not read the previous novel in the series I had no issues with getting into the flow of the story and feeling connected with the characters . . .The story flows flawlessly with every scene and every page turn. . .” and “Reading the second book in most series, especially if you have not read the first, can be a little difficult. However, Two Journeys Home is easily understandable with much of the first book being reflected upon (by the characters).”

Whew!

In terms of “second book” reviews I believe the other primary concern is that an author’s second effort, whether in a series or not, is apparently more often than not frequently viewed as being not quite as good as the first one – the reasons for this being seemingly as varied as there are readers.

At least as of the time of writing, the two reviewers – both of whom had indeed read and reviewed Derrynane before reading Two Journeys –  who spoke to this topic are divided – one saying, “Overall, I was hooked from page one. I honestly think this was better than the first book…which is rare . . .” whilst the other concluded “. . . but this is a novel driven by characters and I must admit that I did not enjoy this book as much as I did the first. This book seemed a bit more of a diary/travelogue than a fully fleshed novel to me. I just didn’t find myself as invested in the characters as I was in the first story. . .”

An additional challenge facing the author of a “second book” – and, again indeed, perhaps an even greater one for one writing a series, saga, trilogy, quartet –is to be able to end the book at a logical time and place and in a believable manner – recognising that there is a delicate balance between alluding to that “more is coming” whilst at the same time providing “closure” to the casual reader who may have picked up the book, perhaps even enjoyed, it but not so much so that she will ‘read on”.

Lastly, if one is to be fully candid, especially with one’s fellow writers, despite my general affection for them, I must admit to at least a small measure of what I have chosen to call “character fatigue”, including some degree of annoyance with my principal characters. Perhaps it is that they are largely relations (albeit centuries and degrees off), but one is acutely aware of how long-staying relations can be!  Whether this is the determinate factor or not, the truth is that I am at just this moment distancing myself a wee bit from the lot of them. The manuscript of the third volume is in better-than-good (though nowhere near ready to be submitted to the editor) shape, my story line is clear – at least until one or more characters’ elbows come out, and they demand more page space or refuse to go where I’d wanted them to next – so it is a good point at which to step away for a while. Which I have.

Instead, as Two Journeys Home will be on a “virtual book tour” in the coming month this “creative time” is now being taken up by writing the requisite guest posts, responding to interview questions which have been posed and working with a wonderful American consultant, Stephanie Moore Hopkins, on the tour prep itself as well as the “social media” aspects of the overall project.

All of this said, I happily admit to experiencing a generally-pleasant sense of both finality and accomplishment – as great as, or perhaps even more profound than I did after Derrynane.  So, to those of my fellows contemplating – or even in the early stages of writing – that daunting “second book” I would say “write on!” – it will be an extraordinarily memorable experience!

(c) Kevin O’Connell

About Two Journeys Home:

It’s 1767. As the eagerly anticipated sequel to Beyond Derrynane begins, Eileen O’Connell avails herself of a fortuitous opportunity to travel back to Ireland. In Two Journeys Home, the O’Connells encounter old faces and new—and their lives change forever.

Amazon review:

Two Journeys Home is an intriguing tale that picks up where Beyond Derrynane left off, taking us back to the 1760s where family honour and respect are more righteous than love and emotional happiness and the youngest sister Eileen is struggling to fulfill her wishes and dreams amongst an abundance of betrayal and violence.
The prose is captivating and vivid. The characters are bold, resilient, and willful. And the plot takes us from the 1760s through to the 1770s, from the dazzling courts of Austria to the green hills of Ireland where upheaval, acceptance, and familial strife weigh heavily on the heart and mind.
Two Journeys Home is a well written, sophisticated novel that certainly highlights O’Connell’s outstanding research, incredible knowledge, and enormous passion for his family’s history and genealogy.

Order your copy online here.

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Kevin O'Connell is a native of New York City and a descendant of a young officer of what had—from 1690 to 1792—been the Irish Brigade of the French army, believed to have arrived in French Canada following the execution of Queen Marie Antoinette in October of 1793. At least one grandson subsequently returned to Ireland and Mr. O'Connell's own grandparents came to New York in the early twentieth century. He holds both Irish and American citizenship. He is a graduate of Providence College and Georgetown University Law Centre. For more than four decades, O'Connell has practiced international business transactional law, primarily involving direct-investment matters, throughout Asia (principally China), Europe, and the Middle East. The father of five children and grandfather of ten, he and his wife, Laurette, live with their golden retriever, Katie, near Annapolis, Maryland.
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