Have you ever wondered about picture book sequels? How does it work—do you write the manuscripts together and hope to sell them as a package deal, or does the second book come later? Is it easier to write a new story for a familiar character? Or, is writing a sequel just as tough as drafting a brand-new manuscript?
Ashley Franklin, author of Not Quite Snow White, is on the blog today to talk about the story’s upcoming sequel, Better Together Cinderella, out from HarperCollins on September 7 (and available for pre-order now)! Both books are illustrated by artist extraordinaire Ebony Glenn.
LL: Welcome, Ashley! First, tell us about Not Quite Snow White, which you know I adore. For readers who may not have read the book: what’s the story about, and what inspired you to write it?
AF: Not Quite Snow White features a young, Black girl named Tameika who loves to act, dance, and sing. She loves the theater and often gets starring roles, but she’s never played the role of a princess. Naturally, she jumps at the chance to audition for her school’s Snow White musical. Unfortunately, Tameika’s confidence is shaken when her peers question if she is right for the part because of her appearance. Tameika must decide if she will let what others say keep her from pursuing her dream role.
LL: When you were writing Not Quite Snow White, were you already thinking about additional adventures for Tameika, or was your mind solely on the original story?
AF: Yes and no. Being a completely new and unpublished author, I wanted to give my all to Tameika’s first story because you never know how these things will work out. I gave Tameika a big personality because I believed there could be numerous ways to see her personality shine brightly.
LL: Tell us about how the sequel came to be. What did the process look like logistically? Was your publisher looking for a particular sales goal for the first book before moving forward with the second?
AF: Not long after Not Quite Snow White came out, I did ask my editor about another Tameika adventure, and she was honest. She said they would need to see how sales went. Fortunately, they went well enough and here we are.
Once my editor gave me the okay, things went smoothly. We bounced around ideas about which princess to pick next and how to include aspects of the story without making it a retelling.
LL: What was the hardest part about writing a sequel? Did you find it easier or more challenging to write a new story for an existing character?
AF: It was definitely more challenging! I wanted to keep the sweetness of Tameika’s character while also showing her struggles of not being the center of attention without her coming across as unlikable.
LL: Did you use any sequel mentor texts for inspiration, or was it more about going with your gut?
AF: I used I Used to Be Famous written by Becky Cattie and Tara Luebbe and illustrated by Joanne Lew-Vriethoff. Though it’s not a sequel, but I loved the fabulousness of this character, I also used Mary had a Little Glam (written by Tammi Sauer and illustrated by Vanessa Brantley-Newton).
Aside from that, I am a big sister. That means I had plenty of my own memories and emotions to pull from.
LL: I always like to end with some practical writing advice, so what are your top tips for writers hoping for a picture book sequel or series?
AF: Find a logical way to expand. Because there are many popular princesses, I hoped to be able to use more than one. It doesn’t have to be that on the nose though. Create an endearing character, and readers may want to see that character in more and more situations (like the Mother Bruce series by Ryan T. Higgins).
LL: Thanks so much, Ashley! Readers, if you want to connect with Ashley and learn more about her upcoming projects, you can find her here:
Facebook: Ashley Franklin
Ashley Franklin is the author of NOT QUITE SNOW WHITE (2019), “Creative Fixes” from the anthology ONCE UPON AN EID (2020), “Situationally Broke” from the anthology WHAT WE DIDN’T EXPECT (2020), BETTER TOGETHER, CINDERELLA (2021) and more. Ashley received her master’s degree in English literature from the University of Delaware. She is an adjunct college instructor, freelance writer, and proud mom. Ashley currently resides in Arkansas with her family.
Hey, reader! If you enjoy this blog and want to connect with me (Laura Lavoie), you can find me on Twitter and Instagram: @llavoieauthor