|A Hobnobber Squirrel|
Is Sir Nathan, the Hero of Mariskatania, shouting about goodness and honor and smiting enough? Is his horse, Tupolev, always walking the fine line between friendship and complete frustration with the Hero and his headstrong ways? Are the characters they meet silly and interesting and fun?
When I wrote the first book, it was pretty much just a stream-of-consciousness sort of effort. It was initially written just for me to give to my young nieces and nephews for fun and I had no real plan to follow. Now, 9 years or so later, after I've dusted it off and re-written and re-edited it, I've had to be more careful and strive to create something that a general public would enjoy.
So when I started writing book #2, I found that I needed to be much more stringent in how I attacked things. The book needed to seem familiar to anyone that had read book 1, but still stand out on its own. The first book was written in five parts. Part 1 introduced us to the world and the Hero and explained that Queen Gobbledeegook was missing. There! Easy! Now he's got somewhere to go and Parts 2 through 5 took him to four distinct locations where he met up against four distinct adversaries.
So, with book 2, it should be the same way, right? Because kids want some of that formulaic process, to ground them in the known while at the same time you whisk them into the unknown? Right? Maybe not. Who am I to say? But that's my plan and I'm sticking to it.
So now I had to stick to plan. Another five part book. Another adventure for the Hero. Part 1 to explain the problem and four other parts for him to solve it, each with their own distinct locale and antagonist.
And don't forget the Hobnobber Squirrels! Perhaps my favorite thing to come out of the first book was Hobnobber Squirrels:
"The Hobnobber Squirrels scampered through the branches of the Huckle Nut Trees, looking for Huckle Nuts to eat. This was an odd thing for them to do because Huckle Nuts are extremely poisonous to Hobnobber Squirrels. Maybe that was why there were so very few of the fuzzy, blue creatures to be found."
They're fluffy. They're cute. They're ridiculous and the name rolls of the tongue in a somewhat silly way. They turned out to be a great bit of set-dressing to sprinkle into the book here and there, especially contrasted against the pink leaves of the Hootentoot Trees. If ever my books are popular enough to warrant plush toys for marketing, you can bet the Hobnobber's are going to be first in line.
So, do we just keep shoving the squirrels at the reader in book 2? Or do we come up with something different? Remember, we're trying to follow a formula here - something for the reader to look forward to now that they're familiar with my writing style.
Eventually, about halfway through writing the first draft, I came up with something that I'm just as giddy about as I was the Hobnobber Squirrels. It's new, it's different, it's cute ... possibly cuter than the squirrels. Would it happen to make a good plush toy? Yes, but that's only by accident. Am I going to tell you what it is?
A writer has to have some secrets, after all.