Towards the end of last year I completed and self-published my first novel, ‘A Justified State.’ Even as I was finishing the writing and editing of that story, an idea was growing in my mind to continue the story of the main characters in another novel. After a bit of a break and some complimentary feedback about the first book, at the start of summer I sat down to start writing a sequel.
I had a plot in mind, I knew what I wanted to focus the story on, and I knew where I wanted to pick up the returning characters and where I wanted to take them in their own stories. But I also wanted to ensure that I wasn’t just re-treading the same ideas and stories that I had already explored in ‘A Justified State.’ In order to make sure the new book seemed fresh and stood out in it’s own right, I set out a few guiding principles to stick to.
Firstly, the new book needed it’s own theme. The first book was a political thriller set in the near future, but it was also, at it’s heart, a noir-ish detective crime story. With the new book, which I titled ‘State Of Denial’ from the beginning, I wanted to continue the political story, but this time I decided to concentrate more overtly on the political situation and rather than have a detective at the centre of the book, I brought in an investigative journalist as a new main character. This allowed the story to explore issues around press freedom and political corruption – think ‘All The President’s Men’ and the Watergate scandal – and move away from the straight detective plot of the first book.
Next, I decided to open the new book with this new female journalist, Maxine Aubert, and dedicate the opening section to her. She was also located in a different city from the setting of the first book, allowing a change of scenery. Splitting the novel into four distinct sections, based on location and then arriving at a climactic election day, also provided a different structure to the straightforward narrative of the first book.
Of course, I wanted to bring back most of the characters from the first book, especially the main detective, Danny Samson. But again, to make sure I wasn’t just repeating or retreading the first story, I decided to locate him in a completely new setting to begin with. I also moved the action on three years from the end of the last book, so that Danny could have found time to grow and change as a person after the events of ‘A Justified State’. He has fled the city and survives in the wilderness. He is no longer a police detective, but is on the run from the authorities. Once I had established him having moved on, I had to then find a way to bring him back to the city, where he could join Maxine and the political intrigue picks up.
A sequel also gave me the opportunity to build on some of the ideas mentioned but not expanded on in the first book – so in ‘State Of Denial’ I was able to explain a bit more about the global war that has shaped society for decades, and the world beyond the borders of The State, things that were background in the first story. I also decided to give the ‘baddie’ of the novel more of a personality. In ‘A Justified State’, the real enemy – the government of the country, the ruling elite – where mentioned and spoken of only in the abstract. Now I introduced the Chancellor and gave a face to that corrupt power – but I also wanted to show that it was not as clear cut as good vs. evil. Hopefully there is enough nuance in the politics, the people and decisions made to show plausible motivations for some of the corruption that has occurred. Similarly, without giving too much away, one of the characters who was ostensibly a ‘goodie’ in the first story, I decided to make more ambiguous this time round. Nothing, and no-one, should be as simple as black and white was my theory.
I also had the worry, which developed more as I wrote the first draft, about how much backstory from the first book needed to be included and explained in order for the reader to understand or remember what had gone before. This was a tricky balancing act – too much exposition slowed down the new story, while too little may leave the reader lost. Hopefully I got the balance right. In the end, I found it was best to write the story as I wanted to and leave it up to the reader to go back and fill in the blanks if they needed to.
I look forward to seeing how readers react to the second book, especially now that they have their favourite characters, and I hope they will be happy with how I have developed things (and are not annoyed at what has happened to the characters they now know and have invested in already!).
And of course, while writing ‘State Of Denial’, a plot emerged to continue the story into a third novel, so look out for the concluding part of the trilogy next year!
State of Denial
Book Two of The State Trilogy
by Iain Kelly
Election time in The State, the citizens prepare to vote. A journalist from the Capital City heads north to report on growing resistance to the powerful ruling Party. An ex-police detective returns to the City he once fled. Together they become entangled in a burgeoning opposition movement. Soon they learn the Party will do whatever it takes to remain in power, and one life is all it takes to spark a revolution.
Available in Paperback and for Kindle
About the author
Iain Kelly lives in Scotland, UK. He is married with two children and works in the media industry as a television editor for the BBC. When he is not creating stories through sound and vision, he is writing them. ‘A Justified State,’ published in 2018, was his first novel.
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A Justified State
Book One of The State Trilogy
In the future, The State is ruled by the socially reformist Central Party Alliance. Poverty and homelessness have been eradicated, but overpopulation, an energy crisis and an ongoing overseas war are threatening the stability of the country. When a local politician is assassinated, Detective Danny Samson finds himself thrust into the middle of the investigation. Still grieving for his dead wife and children, Danny tracks down the assassin, an ex-military sniper called Gabriella, only to discover she may not be the real villain. The secret behind the murder of one politician may bring down the entire ruling Party, and Danny soon learns those in power will go to any lengths to protect The State. Joining forces with Gabriella and the mysterious government agent Phillips, Danny must unearth the truth and bring the guilty to justice, before they catch up with him first.
Excerpt of Amazon Reviews:
“What if the government controlled the population ? What would that mean for ethics? for privacy? and for individual choice? What happens to the human mind when the body no longer functions properly. What is truly free about free will? What if you found out everything you believed was a lie?” Laurie J. Bell
“This is a superbly well written fast paced, suspenseful mystery. A page turner as the action in the book makes you gasp and the witty one liners, brings you some smiles amidst the tension happening with the story. A story that I wanted to continue when I got to the last page for I was drawn to the characters and believe they still have a story to tell!” Carolyn
“Author Iain Kelly has created a fascinating near future world in which police investigation, as we know it, has been rendered moot by technology. Enter Detective Danny Samson, handed the most important case of his life, a case requiring old-fashioned detective work–the kind of work that can get a man killed.” CV
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