On Reading – Forgetting What You’ve Read

There’s a photo meme going around on Facebook that has a great deal of truth in it:

FB Wall 5


I do this! I read something that’s part of an ongoing series, rave about it, profess that I can’t wait for the next book and then, by the time it comes out, I haven’t a clue who’s who or what’s going on. For example, about two and a half years or so ago, I read The Hanged Man: Book 1 in the Gabriel’s World Series by my author friend AR Fiano. It was a great book. I couldn’t wait for the next one. The second book in the series came out in September of 2013 but I was in a different life place at that time and I didn’t read it.

AR just released the third book in the series, The Book of Joel and I’m trying to jump into that. I have to say, the writing is tight and the premise is interesting but I’m really having a hard time following everything that’s going on. Though the overall plot is a completely new case for Gabriel and crew, there are multiple assumptions made about what the reader knows of the characters and their back stories. I think I’m really missing something by not having read these in order or by not re-reading the first book again before diving into this one.

Lots of authors write books in series format. To me, the word ‘series’ means a set of stand alone parts. For example, you could take any one of Sue Grafton’s mysteries involving Kinsey Milhone and get pleasure out of reading it cover to cover without losing much in the way of character development. Is it better to read them in order? Hell yes! Do you have to? No. You can follow the story easily without doing so you just don’t have much of the back story of Kinsey and crew. Other books in other series, like the one I referenced above, really should be labeled as sequels. The word ‘sequel’ lets the reader know that there’s important stuff that went on before this installment.

What’s the fear of calling something a sequel in genres outside of Fantasy, Sci-Fi and things labeled as sagas like historical romance? Do authors feel they’ll lose sales to new customers of a book appears that it doesn’t stand alone? Can’t they see that the opposite is true? Sequels and sagas hook readers on the works of an author.

Fellow authors; Let’s help our readers out. Let’s call a spade a spade and a sequel a sequel!



About Anne Hagan

I'm an East Central Ohio based government employee by day and a fiction author by night. I specialize in mystery fiction featuring lesbian sleuths and cozy fiction featuring women sleuths. I also dabble in romance especially romantic lesfic. I live with my wife and our dogs in a tiny town that’s even smaller than the Morelville of my first fiction series and we wouldn't have it any other way. My wife grew up here and she has always called this little village home. Though it’s an ultra-conservative rural community, we're surrounded here by family, longtime friends and many other wonderful people with open hearts and minds. My wife and I are the co-owners of a commercial haunted house: Hagan's House of Horrors. Much as my dream has always been to write fiction, hers has been to create it through the medium of horror. We went full commercial in 2015. Watch us as we grow!
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2 Responses to On Reading – Forgetting What You’ve Read

  1. AR Fiano says:

    Lol, it’s true. You gave me something to really think about. I don’t like the term sequel for myself, but I will say it in my own terms of an overarching mythos. Like Harry Potter, Lost, the X-Files, or Person of Interest. I think the cases stand alone but you can get more out of it by starting from the first. So I’m good with that description. One of the things I think independent authors grapple with on their own is what is my stuff? Who’s my audience? What kind of book do I have? And the categories given us aren’t always helpful. At first I wanted to be a series and a stand-alone (like Lew Archer or Nero Wolfe or VI Warshawski, my favorites) but I love the idea of interconnecting books–going back and seeing where something started, putting hints in about what’s to come. So I’m moving forward with what my series is.

    I don’t fit completely in mystery–I’m not good at keeping an actual question about whodunit in the air as Anne is. I’m more thriller/suspense–but when you have a private eye, you’re in the mystery genre. Amazon’s categories could use some work, such as an LGBT category rather than just ‘gay.’ –AR


    • Anne Hagan says:

      AR, why not call it a trilogy which is a more accepted way of saying that you have an initial book and two sequels without having to use the word sequel? Doing that somewhat limits you should you decide to write a 4th or subsequent books but it would give readers the idea that there’s a whole framework to your madness, so to speak.

      Back when I was running my little book review site and I read your first book, I also read the first book in a sci-fi trilogy by Michael Offut, Slipstream. I had burning, unanswered questions with that book, the first in the series, that I felt like Michael left out. He explained that his original manuscript had been 50,000 words and included a lot of that detail but his editor made him cut it down to a more manageable for paperback publication 100,000 words. The net effect was that I had to then go and buy book two, Occulus, just to fill in the missing puzzle pieces but it, like all sci-fi series books do, left me hanging at the end and waiting impatiently for book three (which Michael still hasn’t released). You could read his 2nd book alone but it certainly works better to have the bulk of the back story that’s in book one and that’s the way I feel about Gabriel’s World too. They all work better together.



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