Guest blogger: Jennifer Estep

We’re happy to have Jennifer Estep back with us. She’s been a favorite author of mine since I read her first book, Karma Girl, from her Bigtime series. She’s giving away a signed copy of Web of Lies to one lucky commenter. I’ll post the name of the winner in the comments tomorrow morning. Now, here’s Jennifer!

Greetings and salutations! First of all, I want to say thanks to the Magical Musings gals for having me back here on the blog. Thanks so much, ladies!

So I have a new book out this week – Web of Lies, the second book in my Elemental Assassin urban fantasy series. My assassin heroine, Gin Blanco, and the rest of the gang are back for more fighting, bleeding, loving, and dying in the fictional southern metropolis of Ashland.

I’m going to share a secret with you guys here today about Web of Lies – I always like writing the second book in a series better than the first one.

Why? Well, I just think it’s easier. For me, the first book in a series is all about coming up with the world building – the magic, the rules, the types of creatures, where the story takes place, etc. That’s what Spider’s Bite, the first Elemental Assassin book, was all about. Creating the dirty, gritty city of Ashland, with its dwarves, giants, vampires, and elementals, or folks who can control one of the four elements – Air, Fire, Ice, and Stone.

Now, with Web of Lies, the second book, I can take all that groundwork and really just have fun with the world, the magic system, and the characters that I’ve created. Whenever I write a second book in a series, it just flows a little better, and the writing and revisions go much faster – at least, that’s how it seems to me.

Plus, I like to see my characters grow, and writing that second book really lets me explore more of their feelings, history, and how what happened in the first book affects them now. Not to mention that every villain gets progressively bigger and badder with each book. You always want to present your heroine with new and interesting challenges. 😉

I’m not saying that writing that second book is problem-free, though. Because not everyone who picks up Web of Lies will have read Spider’s Bite, and if I don’t do a good job of explaining the magic, rules, and everything that I’ve set up in book one, then readers will be completely lost in book two. To me, that’s the trickiest part of writing a series – laying out the rules for new readers in every book without having the world building and magic system seem like a big info dump for folks who have already read the other books in the series.

Writing is always a balancing act of one kind or another – and it’s a task that I’m happy to undertake each and every time I sit down and start a new book. In the end, the goal is always the same – to entertain readers, something that I hopefully achieve.

What about you guys? Which do you like better? Writing that first book or the other ones in a series? What about you readers? Is the first book always the best one in a series? Share in the comments.

Jennifer Estep

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21 Responses to Guest blogger: Jennifer Estep

  1. Andrew G says:

    Hello Jennifer…I just finished Karma Girl and I am starting both Hot Mama and I am starting your Elemental series with Spider’s Bite. I am just LOVING your work so far. I am letting all of my friends and family know about you and your books…Keep up the good work!!!


  2. Bailey says:

    I haven’t ever written a series, so I can’t speak on that aspect -but as a reader, I’m definitely torn between the two. I love reading the structural parts of books, figuring out what the foundational aspects are in the story and in the story’s universe. But, I’m also a huge fan of individual characters, and I like to see them developed over time, which is a big part of the reason I like series so much. It’s a bit of a toss-up -in the end, it all comes down to how well it’s written, whatever it might be.

  3. Welcome back, Jennifer! I have just completed the second book in a series, set in the court of Henry VIII, with the same protagonists. I loved that I could explore my characters more, dig a little deeper inside their heads, but I also felt a real sense of pressure, I suppose because it was my second contracted book, and I wanted it to rock. LOL. I suppose we always want that, anyway.

    I was able to bring back the villain from book 1 and add a new villain. You are right about having to up the ante. Everything my characters, Parker and Susanna, had to face in book 1, I had to make it even harder for them in book 2.

    Because of the massive amount of research I have to do, to make sure my work is historically accurate, book 2 was definitely easier. I knew who was who in the Tudor zoo, and I had a very solid sense of place. That meant I got the book done a lot faster.

  4. Edie Ramer says:

    Jennifer, thanks so much for being our guest today. I haven’t written a series, but I do plan on it. My series will be stand-alones with the h/h from the previous book now secondary characters, and a previously secondary character now the main character. If you’re familiar with Anne McCaffrey’s Pern series, like that. Only completely different. lol And though the characters will be different, the paranormal world building is the same and I’ll have to put that in.

    I think when I do it, I’ll feel like Michelle, afraid that it won’t be as good as the last one, but hoping it will be as good or even better. I can tell you that her second book is amazing! Sometimes I think a little fear is good.

  5. Andrew G says:

    Hello all…I just stopped by to wish everyone a happy and safe Memorial Day weekend and I hope everyone saves time for some reading…Jennifer’s new book, Web of Lies is available now at most bookstores and online…Plus her other books are also available and are EXCELLENT reads…Take care everyone!!!

  6. Edie Ramer says:

    Andrew, thanks! I’m a huge fan of Jennifer and her books. She does everything right, and Gin is an awesome character. It would be great if everyone went to the bookstore over the holiday weekend (or today!) and bought Web of Lies.

  7. Hi to Jennifer and everyone at MM! 🙂

    I really love reading books in a series, but I’ve never tried writing one–at least not yet. Part of me would really like to, though, because I get attached to a setting and the characters that inhabit it. It would be fun to re-enter some of those story worlds again. The other part of me is scared I’d get the balance wrong and mess it up–LOL.

    Looking forward to your Elemental Assassin books, Jennifer!

  8. Andrew — Thanks! I appreciate that, and I hope you enjoy the Elemental Assassin series too.

    Bailey — I think that in the end it all comes down to the writing. The coolest concept in the world can’t save a bad book from being a bad book, no matter it if’s a stand-alone title or one in a series.

    Michelle — Thanks for having me back. I always think that it’s a little easier to write the second book in a series no matter what the genre just because you’re already familiar with the world/magic/characters. At least, that’s how it usually is for me. Good luck with your book!

    Edie — Ah, I see. That sounds interesting. I’ve never read the Pern series. McCaffrey is one of those authors that I’ve been meaning to try for forever now.

    I think every author has that second book fear. I know I do. I want everyone to enjoy each book that I write more than the last. That’s my goal, anyway, even if I know that everyone won’t feel that way.

    Edie — From your lips to God’s ears … 😉

    Marilyn — You should give it a try. It’s a lot of fun visiting with your characters again. And thanks! I hope you enjoy the books.

  9. Hi Jennifer! *waves* 🙂

    Although I’m a mere reader and not a writer, it makes total sense what you say that with the 1st book in the series the author has several tasks to accomplish at the same time: besides telling a great story (because the first book has to be great to capture the readers and make them want to read more), the author has to build the universe, establish the characters and define the rules of the novel’s world.

    No, the 1st book isn’t always the best, exactly for the reasons you have told. I love to read about the evolution of the characters and once the 1st book takes care of creating the universe and introducing the characters, the story and the characters get more “screen time” and can be dealt with in more detail in the subsequent books. (However, there is one series where the first book remains my favourite so far: it is Bitten yb Kelley Armstrong in her Women of the Otherworld series. That novel really resonated with me.)

    Congratulations on the release of Web of Lies!! 🙂

  10. LaDonna says:

    Hi, Jennifer! Great having you at Magical again. 🙂 I love series books. Like Edie, I plan on working on one at some point. I basically love revisiting endearing characters, and catch up on what they’re up to!

  11. Stella — *Waves back*. Thanks! I appreciate that. And I agree — often the second book is better. I know the second book in a series is usually easier for me to write than the first one just because I know how everything works already.

    LaDonna — Thanks for having me back. Exactly! I think revisiting characters is like sitting down with old friends that you haven’t seen in a while.

  12. Fedora says:

    Hi, Jennifer! I’ve been hearing great things about your writing and have been meaning to pick up your series! As for whether the first book is the best, that isn’t always the case–it CAN be, or it can do a great job of setting up the other books, which may eventually eclipse it. I think the first must be a bit hard for a writer because there’s so much background to include and weave together, whereas later books can rely somewhat on readers knowing some of the information, relationships, etc. already. Congrats on Web of Lies!

  13. Fedora — Thanks! I appreciate that. I know that I’ve had both experiences. I’ve been absolutely blown away by a first book in a series (like The Hunger Games) and then I’ve really enjoyed later books in a series more than the first one (like with Kresley Cole’s Immortals After Dark series).

  14. Liz Kreger says:

    Hi Jennifer. Thanx for joining us here at MM. I can faithfully say that your second book IS better than the first. I thoroughly enjoyed “Spider Bites” but you definitely went deeper in “Web of Lies”.

    Personally, I’m having a ball working on my first book. I love doing the world-building, making up my rules, seeing how well they stand to circumstances and incorporating everything into the plot. Will I like working on the second book more? Don’t know. We’ll see.

  15. emmad says:

    Hmm must say I had never thought of it from an authors point of view but can definately follow the logic 🙂

    Now I think about it I probably enjoy finding a new author and new series but going back for the second and third or more books can be better.
    Lack’s the not knowing if you will like the author but adds anticipation in that you are already familar with the world and wanting to find out what happens to the characters you’ve come to love.

    Much looking forward to Web of Lies and then Venom.

  16. Liz — Thanks! I’m glad that you thought so. That’s what every author wants to hear — that the new book is better than the one before. 😉

    I like world building too, but I also like playing with the rules/magic that I’ve created and coming up with new ways for my heroine to vanquish the bad guys.

    Emmad — I like being familiar with the world/characters too. That’s often why I like the second and subsequent books in a series better, especially if it’s a romance and I’ve been waiting for a secondary character to get his or her own story.

  17. Pamk says:

    I like it when the books just get better and better. there are several series I read that are like this.

  18. Sue A. says:

    I’ve jumped into the middle of a series and gone back to the beginning and discovered that not all books are equal. In a series with a new lead character in each installment I think you’re likely to find you may bond with one character more than you did with a previous one or even the next one. Whereas with a constant lead character each book may get better because the character becomes more developed with each consecutive book and you become more bonded.

  19. Edie Ramer says:

    Congratulations to Marilyn Brant! Marilyn, you won an autographed copy of Web of Lies. I’ll email you for your shipping information.

  20. Pam — Me too. A couple of series that I like right now are Jeaniene Frost’s Night Huntress series and Kresley Cole’s Immortals After Dark series.

    Sue — I agree. There are characters in a paranormal romance series that I’ll like better than other characters, so when they get their own books, I’ll usually like those books better than others in the series.

  21. YAY!!!

    Thanks so much, Jennifer and Edie! Can’t wait to read it. 🙂

    Wishing everyone at MM a fabulous long weekend!

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