The Sequel Dilemma Revisited


















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I can’t sleep.

It’s this dang sequel dilemma. Remind me never to write another one! I’ve done a few print interviews now about Secrets She Left Behind, and they’ve been easy because I could carefully choose what I reveal about the story and what I don’t. But the speaking engagements and the TV and radio interviews will be coming up soon, and then I’ll have to address what feels like an elephant in the room. Do I talk about the facets of Secrets that give away important elements of the first book, Before the Storm, or do I play coy and keep them to myself so someone who hasn’t yet read Storm doesn’t have her reading experience marred by knowing the major twists in the story. For those of you who haven’t read either book, Before the Storm has a major who-dunnit in its pages. Secrets She Left Behind is, in part, about the person who-dunnit. And either book can stand perfectly well alone.   

 When I first started thinking about this dilemma, I decided I would simply talk about elements in Secrets that leave out the “spoilers.”  That would be challenging, and would also make me sad, because the who-dunnit character has such a significant role in the story. (This approach is made even more difficult by the fact that that character’s identity is revealed on the back cover copy of Secrets, so anyone at a booksigning will know the answer as soon as he or she reads the back of the book).

But then I realized the real reason why I cannot talk about Secrets so cryptically. I can control what I say at a speaking engagement, but I can’t control what my audience says. The first question I get during a Q and A can be a spoiler, and the last thing I want to do is censor my readers.

So I’ve decided–I think–to talk about the story in all its gloriously messy form and let the chips fall where they may.

Some of you have now read both books. Some only one or the other. I’d love your input once again on this insomnia-inducing issue.

You’d think I’m talking about something that would alter the future of all mankind. Geesh. It’s just a book. I’ve got to get a grip!


  1. Themis on June 1, 2009 at 5:06 am

    Before starting the Q&A part let the audience know your feelings about letting spoilers out. Then simply ask them to hold those types of questions until later when you can answer one on one maybe?

  2. Margo on June 1, 2009 at 8:13 am

    I can understand how you feel Diane. As a fan and reader of yours, I would not want to know the important details if I had not read the book…this is a real dilema for a sequel but I would think most readers would feel the same way. This is one more reason why I quit reading jacket covers and backs of books…they give out way too much information. You are a pro at speaking Diane and I’m sure you’ll find a way to handle this. Typically, if I were listening to you speak and I knew you were discussing a sequel I think I would prepare myself for the fact that some spoilers are bound to be revealed…how can they not?…some things just can’t be prevented and I think your solution to let the chips fall where they may is the best answer.

  3. Gina on June 1, 2009 at 8:24 am

    Diane, please don’t worry about this. Like you said, “let the chips fall where they may.” Your fans will understand. Even the new fans. It’s okay! it’s okay!
    Now, get some sleep.

  4. Ingrid on June 1, 2009 at 9:12 am

    I just picked up “Secrets She Left Behind” yesterday and can’t wait to get started. I read “Before the Storm” when it first came out.
    I agree with you that you don’t want to censor your readers at live events, but more importantly, you don’t want to censor yourself. You won’t come across as authentic if you don’t speak from the heart. You could preface any spoilers as such, but I don’t think it’s going to take away from the experience for someone who hasn’t read “About the Storm” if you talk about it in conjunction with “Secrets”.
    When I read a book that I love by an author I haven’t read before, I usually want to read everything else by that same author, and sometimes, especially in the case of series type books, reading “backwards” can spoil some plot lines. It doesn’t take away from the pleasure of discovering more about an author for me.
    Hope this helps!

  5. ronnie on June 1, 2009 at 9:31 am

    Speaking for myself, being a woman who is starting menopause, I am having problems with my short term memory so I would probably forget what you said. I would limit my speaking engagements to women of that age group.
    What was the question?
    Diane “let the chips fall where they may”. Where did I hear that before?

  6. ronnie on June 1, 2009 at 10:04 am


  7. Ashley on June 1, 2009 at 11:46 am

    I may be biased, now that I’ve devoured both books in entirety and LOVE them! But saying that, let your audience decide- you know how some websites have “spoiler alerts”, maybe just make it clear that parts of the interview may divulge info that those who haven’t read “Secrets” yet may not want to know. If that even makes sense..
    Oh, and I haven’t had the chance to comment this weekend.. but I, also, would like to join the winners of the bookplates in saying “Thank you Thank you Thank you…. Thank you” 😛

  8. Gina on June 1, 2009 at 9:42 pm

    Finished Secrets tonight. I LOVED it! Diane you are truly a gifted writer. Thank you, thank you for a wonderful book.

  9. Diane Chamberlain on June 1, 2009 at 9:58 pm

    Ashley, but what do I do at live events, where I have 50 or so folks sitting in front of me? If I say, “Warning! I’m going to tell you what happened in Before the Storm as part of my speech about Secrets,” I’m afraid 25 will get up and leave.
    As I mentioned in my post, I just need to let go of this pathological need to please every stripe of reader. But I still am not sure how to handle it. I just SO appreciate all of you brainstorming solutions with me, even though none of you agree with one another. LOL.

  10. Diane Chamberlain on June 1, 2009 at 9:59 pm

    Thank you, Gina. I am so very glad you loved it!

  11. Mary on June 1, 2009 at 10:36 pm

    I’m not sure this will be any help at all, Diane, but it’s a thought. Can you in any way direct the discussion away from directly discussing the story of the book and maybe focus more on the process of writing it – and writing a sequel? Sort of the way you’ve been discussing your sequel dilemma here.
    I can only speak for myself, but I’m always much more interested in hearing about the process than the actual story. That’s what reading the book is for.

  12. Diane Chamberlain on June 2, 2009 at 12:52 pm

    Mary, I like this idea. Thought there’s still the problem of people reading the back copy on the book as they wait for me to speak. And I still can’t control their questions. Why are people so totally out of my control??

  13. Krysia on June 2, 2009 at 1:27 pm

    I don’t mind hearing a spoiler or too on something. It doesn’t ruin the whole thing. I haven’t bought Secrets yet. I went to Sioux Falls the day before it was released. I don’t know if the tiny book store here in town will have it. Gunnar is 11 months old already and quite a treat. He got tubes put in his ears this morning so I am hoping for no more ear infections. He is taking more and more steps so soon he will be walking.

  14. brenda on June 2, 2009 at 5:19 pm

    My copy has not arrived…it was not in KMART or WMART or any of the other stores-Kroger-pharmacy…etc.I am sure it is in the bookstore in the city-about 20 miles-but I am patiently (???) waiting for my copy. I am going to buy the first one I see though. You lucky people…

  15. Diane Chamberlain on June 2, 2009 at 9:32 pm

    Wow, Brenda, how frustrating! I bet the W and K Marts are waiting until the 2st to put it out. Oh, wait–today’s the 2nd. Now I’m frustrated myself. I love writing, but I hate the business part of this business!

  16. Krysia on June 2, 2009 at 10:54 pm

    Walmart here didn’t have it or the last one. It is a small walmart though. Kmart didn’t have it the other day but I haven’t been there. I plan on going to the “big city” and will probably get it there or just order it, pending on how much time I have.
    I am excited to read it, i haven’t started a new book in the anticipation. It would have been nice to have today, 3 hours waiting I could have had a lot done.

  17. Ann on June 2, 2009 at 11:34 pm

    I just turned the last page of Secrets!! It was SO GOOD and the fact that I reread Before the Storm last week it was like reading one book instead of two. I really enjoyed that. I will never go over the high rise bridge again without thinking of Ellen! There are so many good characters in these books – I will remember them! Thanks for the hours of reading pleasure – I look forward to your next book.

  18. Margo on June 3, 2009 at 8:11 am

    Brenda, I would be so upset if I couldn’t find Diane’s book!…I know you’re traveling soon so I hope the ordered copy arrives soon!…I’m reading the book now and am absolutely GLUED to it…I read slowly and am savoring every word/moment/feeling…basically, I’m LOVING MY SUMMER READ!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!…

  19. brenda on June 3, 2009 at 5:05 pm

    Ann-I will be in so many places that I will find the book. However, I don’t leave until the llth (school finishes the 9th), so I still have time…I will stay up all night if I have to…I will continue to search though and buy another copy…sounds like you are loving it.

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