Next weekend, my small hometown will be transformed into a virtual Hogwarts as we celebrate our first annual Potter Festival.
While excitement and anticipation are reaching a fever-pitch in the James' house, it also leaves me contemplating the impact of J.K. Rowling and her Harry Potter novels on my own writing. Admittedly, I'm not a Potter superfan like the rest of my family, but there are certainly lessons to be learned from this extraordinary series.
One of my takeaways from the Harry Potter universe is the way in which J.K. Rowling grows her novels with her audience. The first novel in the series, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone (or Philosopher's Stone for all you Anglophiles), clocks in at just under 77,000 words and it serves as a fun adventure about a boy adapting to a new, magical world. However, the final entry in the Harry Potter series, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, tips the scale at over 198,000 words, and it reads like a war story littered with the bodies of beloved characters.
So, for J.K. Rowling, both the depth and the tone of her novels has changed to meet the demands of her audience. This make perfect sense when you consider a decade passed between the release of the first and final book. After all, very few of us would choose to read the same novels at the ages of 10 and 20.
I've tried to adapt a similar strategy with the Rainbow Princess Chronicles. Kira and the Rat Queen, the second book in the series, is currently just over 37,000 words... that's 10,000 more words than Kira the Rainbow Princess.
Likewise, just like J.K. Rowling, I've tried to mature the tone of my novel while still keeping the spirit of the original. This, more than increasing word count, has proved the more difficult challenge. It becomes a fine line between "more" and "too much".
I wanted Kira and the Rat Queen to be scarier... but not scary. I wanted the risk to Kira and her friends to be greater... but never overwhelming. I wanted the tone to be darker... without descending into Roald Dahl territory. Hopefully the efforts will prove successful.
I've planned SEVEN books in the Rainbow Princess Chronicles, one for each color of the rainbow. That's a minimum of seven sears. I want to keep writing stories that Aidan and Fiona will enjoy as much when their 17 and 15 as they did when they were 10 and 8.
Just like Harry Potter, maybe Kira and her readers will grow up together.
A couple of weeks ago I invited everyone to send in their questions regarding my newest novel, Kira and the Rat Queen. I received a number of responses and I'm going to try to answer some of the more common questions today.
Q: When will Kira and the Rat Queen be available?
A: This is far and away the most common question I've received since announcing the Kira sequel. Unfortunately, at this stage of the writing process, it's still impossible to specify an exact release date. That being said, I'll be happy to talk through the remaining hurdles as we work towards publication.
On Monday, October 9th, I will send my third draft of the Kira manuscript to my editor, Liam Carnahan, at Invisible Ink Editing. Liam will spend the next 2-4 weeks picking my writing apart, and eventually, he'll send me back a much better novel. Then it's up to me to review Liam's proposed changes and put the finishing touches on my fourth and final draft. At that time, I'll be comfortable settling on a release date, even as I work to get the cover designed and the novel formatted for Amazon.
The good news is, Kira and the Rat Queen is on a very similar schedule to Kira the Rainbow Princess from last year. Hopefully the novel will be ready for release by Thanksgiving, and we can plan on a launch party in early December, just in time for Christmas.
Q: Do you need to read Kira the Rainbow Princess to understand Kira and the Rat Queen?
A: Kira and the Rat Queen picks up three days after the end of Kira the Rainbow Princess. I've tried to include a brief backstory about what Kira is doing in this magical world (she's there to rescue her parents), but it's really just enough so that a reader won't be completely lost if they haven't read the prequel. All of Kira's friends appear in this novel, and not a lot of time is devoted to introducing Snugg, Fred, and Ben. So the short answer is, it's not necessary... but I think you would like Kira and the Rat Queen much more if you're familiar with the events and characters in Kira the Rainbow Princess.
Q: Are you still available to visit schools/give talks about your writing?
A: After the publication of Kira the Rainbow Princess, I had the opportunity to visit a number of local schools and classrooms to talk about my novel and the writing process. Honestly, it was probably my favorite part in the entire novel writing experience... getting to share my passion and excitement for these characters with young people who were just as invested in my story as I was. Hopefully, I'll get to visit again this year. I'll include a link to my One Sheet (a single sheet of paper with my background and contact info) and I'll post the One Sheet to the "Media" page on the site. Feel free to share this information or to reach out if you would like me to arrange a visit to your student's classroom.