Guest Post: Gregory D Little, Unwilling Souls/Ungrateful Gods

Last year I read Unwilling Souls by Gregory D Little.  This was one of my favourite books out of the 30 I checked out as part of an event called the Self Published Fantasy Blog Off.  My review is here.  Luckily Greg accepted my invitation to visit and provide a guest post and today, I’m really pleased to welcome him to my blog.  Thanks for taking part.

First off, huge thanks to Lynn for welcoming me to her blog! When she so kindly offered to let me do a guest post after my book, Unwilling Souls, narrowly missed the finals of #SFPBO 2, I jumped at the chance. With the release of my next book in the series, Ungrateful God (which comes out March 24th, 2017), I figured a perfect topic would be to discuss the challenge of writing sequels.

Ungrateful God is the first sequel I’ve actually put to paper. As with most things you do for the first time, reality frequently failed to conform to my expectations.

Greg’s Misconception #1: “Book 1 was a big chase across multiple crazy cities. Nobody is going to want to see that again.”

Unwilling Souls focuses on Ses Lucani’s plight as the secret daughter of a terrorist mastermind and a business magnate in a society on the cusp of industrialization-by-magic. Early on she has the misfortune to be present in the prison of the gods (where she apprentices to be a kind of smith that functions as one of their jailers) during a terrorist attack trying to break open the prison. Her father is the natural suspect, so Ses is forced to run and is pursued incessantly by agents of the Centrality government. While trying to find asylum with one of her parents, she flees from a city carved entirely into an immense crocodile skull to a city built into the skeleton of a titanic snake draped across a mountain pass to a city built into the dead husk of a gigantic tarantula whose horse-sized offspring serve as a kind of police force.

For Ungrateful God, I worried that repeating this format would come across as boring or self-indulgent with regard to the worldbuilding. I wanted to narrow the focus in Ses’s story to a single location, a barnacle city studding the husk of a vast ghost crab, and really dig into a single, driving mystery: why can’t anyone remember what happens there at night?

But my editor was concerned. Had I drifted too far from the brand expectation my first book had set up? Would people expect another rollicking world-tour novel and be turned away by the slower-burning mystery? I took his concerns to heart and rewrote much of Ungrateful God’s first third, attempting to amplify the sense of danger and menace Ses faces and introducing the main villain earlier on. I’m very pleased with the end result, and while the book still feels different than its predecessor (a goal of mine for the series), I think the build up to the ABSOLUTELY INSANE back half will keep readers fully invested.

Greg’s Misconception #2: “This will be easy! I’ve already done the worldbuilding legwork in the first book! Now I can just reap the rewards!”

Oh, past-self, what a fool you were. While it’s true that I laid the groundwork in the first book, a sequel has to catch readers up on all that to make sure it is fresh in their minds. Also, people forget important plot points and there is always the chance a reader will pick up and read the second book in the series first, so not only did I have to catch readers up on the worldbuilding from the first book, but the plot as well. (Note: while I’ve done my best to bring readers up-to-speed on events and I’d rather you buy the second book than none of them, I can’t recommend strongly enough starting with Unwilling Souls. This is a serialized, not an episodic, series.)

In addition, I obviously wanted to expand upon—and on occasion, subvert—what Ses knows or believes she knows about how the world around her works. This keeps the sense of wonder (sometimes horror) fresh for both her and the reader. So where she gains a kind of mind control power she barely understands in Unwilling Souls, in Ungrateful God she learns a bit more about it and the hazards, both moral and mortal, it can pose. If I do my job right, each book in the series will reframe the reader’s view of the world.

Greg’s Misconception #3: “I’ve written books with tons of POVs before! Surely adding a second POV to this series won’t create too many problems.”

Adding secondary POVs has been the plan since early on, as I want the series to grow more epic in scope with each installment, and one way to do that is to increase the number of vantage points who can impact and inform the plot. For readers of Unwilling Souls, I’m pleased to report that you’ll very much recognize the new POV character, and should have some strong opinions about them.

Aside from expanding the overall scope of the series, my goals for this secondary POV were to provide another look at a controversial character we’d heretofore only seen from Ses’s POV, and to spend some more time in the Pit, the hollowed-out center of the planet in which the gods have been imprisoned. I had multiple calls from readers to set more scenes there. My editor liked the secondary plot, but said I needed to find a way to better (and earlier) tie it back to Ses’s story. Since the two plots are physically separate, I turned to that old staple of tension, dramatic irony. Now something one character overhears can inform the reader of a crucial bit of information regarding the other plot without tipping off that character too early, and two separate but related plots can gradually thread themselves together while retaining their autonomy.

If you’ve made it this far, thanks for reading and I hope you’ll check out my work! I can’t wait to see the challenges a third book will bring. Thanks again to Lynn for the generous offer and all her effort in the #SPFBO!

Greg.  Thanks so much for the guest post – hope everyone enjoys reading about your experience writing a sequel.  I’m looking forward to picking up No.2 soon.

And finally, a few links:

Goodreads: Unwilling Souls and Ungrateful God

About the author:

Rocket Scientist by day, fantasy and science fiction author by night, Gregory D. Little’s short fiction has appeared in The Colored Lens and A Game of Horns: A Red Unicorn Anthology. He is currently working on his fantasy YA series Unwilling Souls, set in a world where technology is powered by the souls of the dead, the gods are locked away in the hollowed out center of the planet, and what remains of humanity has rebuilt its cities out of the corpses of the great beasts that destroyed them.

Gregory D. Little is a member of and regular contributor to the Fictorians writing blog (www.fictorians.com). He lives in Virginia with his wife and their yellow lab.

www.gregorydlittle.com
www.facebook.com/gregorydlittleauthor

Purchase Links:

Unwilling Souls
Book 1 of the Unwilling Souls series

Ungrateful God
Book 2 of the Unwilling Souls series

Unwilling Souls by Gregory D Little #SPFBO

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Unwilling SoulsToday I’m reviewing my chosen book from the second batch of books.  For the SPFBO I split my books into 6 batches of 5 with the aim of choosing one favourite book from each and then to pick an overall winner from those final 6.  When I wrote my original update for the second set of books I had two potential books that I wanted to continue to read: Unwilling Souls by Gregory D Little and Vergence by John March.  I’ve revisited both these books now and read further and having done so my book choice from batch No.2 is Unwilling Souls and today’s post is my review of that book.

I originally had a bit of a slow start to Unwilling Souls and in fact in my original post I mentioned that I had a few niggles but as I read on the author managed to iron most of those out and did a good job of keeping my attention in what turned into a very enjoyable read with a complex and unique world.

At the start of the story we make the acquaintance of Ses Lucani.  Ses is being trained to forge wrightings, tools that help to keep imprisoned the Gods that were banished many years earlier.  She lives at the core of the planet, a strange hollowed out cavernous place where the gravitational pull seems to be more akin to what you would expect in outer space.  As the story commences Ses is forced to flee the prison after a terrorist attack throws suspicion on her.  Ses is the daughter of two powerful people.  Put in very simple terms her father is the iconic leader of a terrorist network and her mother is one of the top officials of the centrality which basically means they are on opposing sides and when her parentage comes to light obviously Ses falls under suspicion.

On the run Ses returns to the home of her grandfather but finding that this is unsafe she is forced to move on and seek out the parents who have, for most of her life, denied her existence.  Ses has a dangerous road to travel, pursued by the government and a host of their operatives, attacked by cultists and befriended by a boy from a shady network her adventure is going to go a little wild and she will encounter revelations, home truths and treachery along the way.

This is an intriguing world and one that I would definitely like to revisit.  I don’t think I fully have a grip of everything, even now at the conclusion of the story, but I think that’s because there is quite a lot going on and the author has had to make a decision about not slowing things down by trying to cram in too much information.  I would like to have a bit of a trip down memory lane, as it were, and find out some more about the strange cities and the way that they have grown out of the bones of mammoth beasts – I was especially intrigued by Arach Arbor – which is the realm of spiders – and spiders there are aplenty!  I’d also like to know more about the war and subsequent imprisonment of the Gods.

In terms of the characters I found myself liking Ses.  She’s a very believable protagonist, she isn’t perfect, she’s not totally kick ass and she certainly isn’t capable of getting out of every situation without help but she’s resourceful and determined and it makes a great combination.  We also meet Ses’s parents and a young man called Murien who befriends Ses in her hour of need.  I can’t say too much about those at the moment as they’re not quite as well developed as Ses but nonetheless they’re a good supporting cast.

Overall I found this a well written and enjoyable story, I found Ses easy to like, there’s intrigue and deception and lets not forget walking skeletons, soul driven magic and huge spiders – really, what more could you possibly want.

My books so far:

  1. Batch 1: Rebel’s Honor by Gwynn White
  2. Unwilling Souls by Gregory D Little
  3. As the Crow Flies by Robin Lythgoe – review to follow
  4. The Amber Isles by Ashley Capes
  5. Outpost by F T McKinstry – review to follow
  6. My book from batch 6 to be forthcoming soon!

My aim is to review As The Crow Flies/Outpost and my final book from batch 6 over the next 3 days so that I can then announce my final book.