Summary from Goodreads
‘Tense and witty drama’ Sunday Times ‘High-concept sci-fi series with shade of Michael Grant a strong shot of black humour’ The Bookseller Just when you thought the apocalyptic detention was over…Having fought their way back to what they believe to be their home world, Rev, GG and The Ape discover that they’re now stuck in the nightmarish world of doppelgangers, surrounded by a town of super-powered killing machines. Johnson, Billie and the Moth are still trapped in the empty world. Alive, but with no way home. Can Rev get the misfits back together? And even if she can will she be able to do it before the world ends. Time is running out…And believe it or not that’s the least of their problems.
I recently recorded a conversation with another Jeff Povey who is also an author of a book called Shift. He is from a parallel world and his career path is slightly different to mine. But we spoke about sequels and how you make them work. Non-Jeff Povey seemed to get angry when I brought it up but the following is a transcript of the discussion that took place.
NON-JEFF: What d’you mean by a sequel?
JEFF: To SHIFT.
NON-JEFF: You wrote a sequel?
JEFF: Obviously. It’s part of a trilogy.
NON-JEFF: My book isn’t.
JEFF: Oh. You didn’t write one called DELETE?
NON-JEFF: Called what?
JEFF: DELETE. There’s going to be a third book. That’ll be called ESCAPE. And it’ll answer all of the questions I’ve posed about character, story and plot. Maybe. That’s the plan anyway. To reach a brilliant conclusion that no one will ever see coming.
NON-JEFF: I obviously missed a trick there.
JEFF: I think a lot of it comes from my background in television. I spend a lot of time thinking of stories and how they develop and what twists and turns I can incorporate to try and keep the viewer on the edge of their seats.
NON-JEFF: You sound brilliant. You really do. Can you play the trumpet? Only it sounds like you can.
JEFF: I’m just illustrating where my storytelling skills come from. If you work on a continuing drama then you need ups and downs, a rollercoaster of happenings and emotions that you then weave hooks into. Hooks that make an audience have to come back to see how the next element of the story plays out. We call them cliffhangers. I’m always talking about them. I love them. It draws you in and leaves you dangling, hopefully desperate to know what happens next.
NON-JEFF: I don’t watch soaps.
JEFF: Everyone says that. With a soap opera the story never ends. So what you have to do is take all of the stories within the main story and make it seem like they end, but they never really do, unless a character leaves or dies. And to keep the character alive we plant what we call bombs into their stories. Bombs that could go off in a month, or a six months. Or even longer. These bombs could be a secret that will be discovered, like a lovechild, or a murder, or just something the character has done that will come back to haunt them big time. These are ticking dramatic time bombs and it’s how I approached writing SHIFT. I posed a lot of
questions but didn’t answer many, if any because I have learned to keep my powder dry until the most dramatic moment possible. It’s always best to ask a question and then answer it as late as you can.
NON-JEFF: So the answers are in DELETE?
JEFF: Some of them. But not the biggest ones. They’re for the third book.
NON-JEFF: My book SHIFT was about kids trapped in an empty world and then they met their doppelgangers. But these doppelgangers were weak and they didn’t have talons or any sort of powers so my kids killed them before going home. That’s pretty much it.
JEFF: That was what you wrote?
NON-JEFF: It worked for me.
JEFF: Well my book was the opposite. They didn’t make it home. In fact they never will until I’ve finished telling the story. I’ve set up all these characters and put them in as much peril as I possibly can. And I’ve done that to make it really hard for them to survive or escape those perils. There can never be an easy way out of any predicament. But under all of that is the real story. A simple love story. It’s a classic will-they, won’t-they scenario between Rev and Johnson. And Other-Johnson of course. It underpins the whole trilogy because I’m a sucker for romance. But although it sounds simple I’ve made it almost impossible for them to be together. So it’s a version of Romeo and Juliet. Just like half the films and books you see and read, if not more. When will two people get together? Which is the biggest and simplest question I’ve posed amongst all of the other questions.
NON-JEFF: I’ll bet you twenty quid they get together in the end. They always do.
JEFF: Maybe not this time. Because I know that’s how it’s meant to go but I’m not so sure it will turn out that way. After three books it should but I’m still debating it. Maybe there’s an element I can bring in that will change everything.
NON-JEFF: You don’t know!? What sort of a writer are you?
JEFF: I’ve got lots of ideas and I just need to settle on the right ones. I knew that after writing SHIFT certain things needed to happen. And now after finishing DELETE, there are still certain things that need to happen. Like Rev’s dad and his role in everything. Is he what we think he is? Or does he have a whole other plan that will shock and surprise you? Maybe. Maybe not. Also some characters are dead but they could get healed. Do I do that? It seems too easy and my biggest problem, not only as an author, but as a human being, is I hate the obvious. I loathe it and I have spent my whole career avoiding it like the plague. But I’m also up against tried and trusted clichés, conceits that always work, so do I give a reader what they’re expecting or do I surprise even myself?
NON-JEFF: I’m getting worried, you do know what happens in the third book?
JEFF: Yes. And no. If I knew everything then a reader could second guess me so it’s best not to know everything. The important thing is that I have an ending and I even have an epilogue. But inbetween I have to deal with all the bombs I planted going off – and I won’t know how the characters react to that until I write it.
NON-JEFF: You should have stuck to one book, it’s loads easier.
JEFF: But I’ve got this great story and I want to wring every good thing I can out of it. I wake up with new ideas every day and I have to let them settle and then I have to think them through and it’s like you’re having a romance with the idea, will it work out, or will it crash and burn, and that takes constant analysis. I want to achieve a page turning roller coaster but not only action and plot-wise but also character-wise. I have to sustain that for three books and again it’s about what you tell and what you hold back.
NON-JEFF: My book’s easy. Empty world. Kids meet. Kids fight. The end.
JEFF: Which is what I started with. The first version ran to about 700 hundred pages until it dawned that I had actually written one and a half books. I had to make decision. Do I keep going and write one massive 1200 page novel or do I consider breaking it down into three parts? The thing that determined that was my old friend the cliffhanger, I saw a perfect one for the first book, and then almost immediately I saw one for the second book which is even more edge of your seat than the first one.
NON-JEFF: Like I say I stopped when I wrote ‘The End.’