March of the Sequels: Interview with Ricardo Victoria

March is a month-long celebration of great sequels, organized by the great blog, Sue’s Musings. Today I’m happy to be able to talk with Ricardo Victoria, author of The Tempest Blades series. Both book one titled The Withered King and its sequel, The Cursed Titans, are available now.

Thank you for joining me!

Thank you for having me again on your blog. I even brought my own coffee mug this time.

Smart! Coffee is the stuff of life. Will you talk a little about your series, particularly the sequel?

Ah! The most difficult question you can ask a writer. Quoting myself, in general Tempest Blades is a series of stories where the characters have to learn to deal and work through their personal struggles on par of them going into adventures that put them in the position of saving the world –a world where magic and science coexist-. 

Each book has several POV, but each one has a main POV, which is centered on one of my main 3 characters: Fionn, Gaby and Alex, are blessed or cursed –depending on whom you ask- with the Gift, which grants them special superhuman abilities. The first book centered about Fionn learning to accept his past, learning to move on and recognizing that he was getting a 2nd chance at life, while saving the world and mentoring a new generation of heroes. The second focus around the consequences for all characters after the events of the first book, and in particular the struggles with depression that Alex undergoes and that were exacerbated by the past events. So while he tries to save a city from a villainous monster, he pushes himself beyond what’s healthy and there are consequences of that. The way things happen on the book set in motion larger events for the next two. Apologies for being a bit vague, but I’m trying to keep this spoiler free.

Do you find that it is difficult for readers to continue a series? Why do you think that is?

Kinda, there are several factors at play that can make a reader stop following a saga. Finances are one, not everybody can afford to keep buying books from a really long series (although Public Libraries are a godsend in that case. Sidenote: support your local Library if you have one). Other is interest, the longer a series grow, if the readers feel there is no real sense of progression, that things are stalling, padded, then they are more likely to drop it. 

And then there is the elephant in the room: authors that take so long between books –if they ever release the next one- that readers feel like they will never see the end of a story, especially when the author is a well-known pantser. I mean, I’m not going to attack a fellow author for taking so long between books, because that can happen for multiple reasons (although I find that less defensible if they are full-time authors, as those who has a day job have to juggle a lot of things in order to write and yet they manage to do it). And we all are well acquainted with Gaiman’s comment of “Martin is not your bitch”, regarding readers’ entitlement. Regardless, I don’t blame readers from dropping incomplete series that don’t seem to make progress for the next release. My beta reader for example, refuses to buy any new book by certain famous author, because he hasn’t finished his main series and the last book came out almost a decade ago. I can understand that feeling. It’s like never being able to watch Avenger Endgame and get closure for the Infinity saga because Marvel decides to produce another X-Men movie without finishing the saga first.

Finally, is the daunting task of tackling a large series from the start, moreover when the books are doorstoppers. It’s kinda like asking an anime fan to watch One Piece from the start, with 1000+ episodes to go. And One Piece has no filler episode, all are relevant to the plot!

Is it easier to fully develop characters that you have already written in previous books?

Oh yes. The sequel allows you to build upon the previously shown aspects, dwell more on what makes them tick. Especially since the first book of a series is often an introductory book to a large plot so we get at times a cursory glimpse at who the character is. Sequels allow you to explore that, to even change the main POV to see how things are perceived by them.

How difficult is it to add new characters in a sequel into relationships that have already been established in the first book?

It’s like introducing a new friend to your old friend group, or like adding a new player to your ongoing-for-years D&D campaign.  It’s far from impossible, but the new character has to adjust to the already establishes dynamic –unless it is introduced to disrupt said dynamic- there are inside jokes, shorthands, shared experiences to which the new character has to be introduced. But since the reader is in a way already part of that already established group, you need to be careful with not repeating much information that has been already given.

That makes perfect sense! Is it difficult to continue with worldbuilding for a world that you have already created in book one?

It depends, if you are like me, someone who enjoys worldbuidling but has the memory of a shrimp for most things, yes it can be hard to keep track of your own continuity and timeline. There are times when I wish Tempest Blades had its own fan wikia, it would make my life easier. No, really, I need one. Please!

Leaving that aside, sequels are a godsend for worldbuilders because they allow you to showcase more of your fictional world, to come up with more and more interesting details, or simply rescue stuff you had to cut from the previous one due space and flow.

Have you ever been stymied by a worldbuilding or plot detail from book one that is very inconvenient to deal with in subsequent books?

Have I? I’m staring at a couple of them as we speak, cursing at myself from the past. I’m planning to solve them through unreliable narrators and self-deprecating jokes. Thankfully my editor and my beta reader are really helpful with those things and have advised me on how to use them to enhance the original plot.

Have you noticed your craft improving from book one through subsequent books in a series? If so, how?

Yes. As I get to better know my characters and my world, I can focus more on the finer details of the plot. Also, I feel like I write with more fluidity and with better grasp of the subtleties of the language, which in my case I hope is more noticeable given than I’m writing in my second language.

Do you plan out the entire series at once?  Or do you plan one book at a time?

A bit of both. Tempest Blades is my first series so I can’t about entire series in plural. For this one I had a long arc –just the general ideas, not a full plan with details- but decided to take one bit that could work as a single book write it, and see if it got published and if it worked. Once my publisher got onboard with the idea of a series, I took the next bit of that general idea and wrote the second book, with the idea that if it didn’t work, I wouldn’t leave many open threads. Then the discussion for a third book came and by then I realized that a) I don’t want to spend my whole life dedicated to a single series in particular and b) I want to finish this one in a reasonable time so this time I did planned most of the final two books ahead, so once I finish writing the 3rd, I take a brief break and start writing 4th right away. This time I even did a chapter break for each one of those two.

Side note, originally I was going to finish the series in 3 books, totaling 5. But I decided to merge two of them as I didn’t feel I had enough ideas for 5 long books, or that the story could be expanded that much.

Do your characters ever surprise you, causing you to change previously planned-out details or plotlines?

Yeah, in big ways *stares at Sid*. But that’s part of the fun of this. I even discovered things I have never ever considered about the lives of 2 of my characters previous to the books that actually make sense on how they act around each other, and more about the personal life of a third one. And then there is Sid that has this knack to find ways to interject himself in the plot that is not his.

 Do you try to make sequels readable as standalones or do you design a series so that readers have to read the whole thing to get the completed story?

My approach with this series at least is to emulate the MCU model: each book is a standalone, but at the same time is part of a larger plot, with the final book probably being the only one that can’t be a standalone but still can be read if you have the basic grasp of what’s going on.

Originally, I wanted to make something like Sir Terry Pratchett did with Discworld, but I’m nowhere as good as a writer as he was.

Do parts of your books ever reflect what is going on either in your life or in the world at the time of writing?

Some bits, yes. When it comes to real world events, yes there is some inspiration drawn from there. But when it comes to stuff from my life, they come from previous experiences or my long term dealings with some issues, such as depression.

The way you tackled mental illness is one of the things I really enjoyed about The Cursed Titans.

Do you have any marketing tips for sequels?

To be honest, not really, I’m learning this on the way. I guess draw on the aspects that readers liked of the first one to amp the next one.

About the author:

Ricardo Victoria is a Mexican writer with a Ph.D. in Design –with an emphasis in sustainability- from Loughborough University, and a love of fiction, board games, comic books, and action figures. He lives in Toluca, Mexico with his wife and pets, working works as a full-time lecturer and researcher at the local university. He writes mainly science fantasy.

His first novel, Tempest Blades: The Withered King, was released in August 2019 by Shadow Dragon Press, an imprint of Artemesia Publishing. The sequel, Tempest Blades: Cursed Titans was released in July  2021. He is currently working on the third book of the saga. He has a number of stories published by Inklings Press, and other indie outlets, and has collaborated with the horror podcast The Wicked Library.

His short story Twilight of the Mesozoic Moon, jointly written with Brent A. Harris, was nominated for a Sidewise Award for short-form alternative history. He co-authored a chapter (No elf is an island. Understanding worldbuilding through system thinking) for the book “Worlds Apart: Worldbuilding in Fantasy and Science Fiction, currently nominated for the BSFA.

You can find out more at his website, http://ricardovictoriau.com, or follow him on Twitter, @Winged_Leo

Purchase Links:

Amazon: The Tempest Blades

Publisher’s Site: The Tempest Blades

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