Writing a first novel - at least, in my experience - was a bit like getting my first tattoo: very moreish! As soon as the scabs had healed, I was searching for the next thing to be inked into my skin. And thus, soon after the first copies of my debut novel, Sleeping Through War were released into the world, I was itching (enough skin analogies!) to get on with the second one.
In the music business, which I was part of for many years, there's this thing about the 'tricky second album.' They say that it takes your whole life to write your first great bunch of songs. Then, if it's a success, the pressure to do it all again is huge, and the second album can often end up featuring either songs that didn't make it the first time, or those that were knocked out in a hurry. Is it the same for novels?
Music was a big part of my life for a long time, and I often find myself comparing the life of a musician to the life of a writer. So, I thought about this a lot once I'd finished writing The Seventh Train; I worried that I might fall into this trap. There are lots of examples of dodgy second albums from brilliant bands, but what about books?
Luckily, I found lots of great examples of second books that made me feel better: Pride & Prejudice by Jane Austen, Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens, Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte (her first novel to be published, but actually the second that she wrote), One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez, plus one of my favourite books of all time - Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury. All of these were second novels and, arguably, all classics. There are many more.
So, why the difference between music and books? The conclusion I've come to is that a novel is NOT an album...it's a SONG! It's one song in the first album of a writer's life. Some authors may only get to write 'Track 1'. For some, that might be all they need to do. But for many, like myself, there's a whole album in there with at least ten tracks, and all of them have taken my whole life.
A bit over-poetic, perhaps, but I know that my second novel had been in me at least as long as the first one was. And now that The Seventh Train has been released into the wild, there's a third and a fourth itching to get written. And as for tattoos? Well, I've got three so far. It must be time for a little more ink!