I suppose we all think we know what a sequel is: a follow-up to a narrative concluding in a way the first one couldn’t. We usually feel it picks up threads of the original story, carrying them on to form a new realm we hadn’t imagined with the initial tale. New characters appear, adding their weight to the thickness of the plot, while old ones we befriended in the first story shift their stripes until we feel we hardly know them—changing back again, we hope, to redeem themselves in our eyes and the morality of the novel’s message.
I mean for the sequel to Certain Liberties to do all these things, and I believe it does. One of my editors also called it a historical saga, giving it more of an epic cast than I’d intended, but one I’d hardly turn down. One of the reasons I love historical fiction is because of its ambition to present a classic story-line in a way that parallels the flow of current events. We can’t help but be drawn in by characters living centuries ago who struggle against many of the same challenges we have, with the same fears, succeeding and failing in the same ways we recognize in ourselves today. But what draws people most deeply into the world of imagined protagonists is the pull of meeting people who can teach us about things that came before. We want to learn something from them. Following them through that maze of events is even more enticing because we know how it all turns out. And yet, if the characters are compelling enough, we care more deeply the longer we’re with them because their personal fates matter to us as much as, or even more than the historic events do. Continue Reading