In late 1996, I woke up from a nightmare, thinking about the character who would become Melinda Sordino in Speak. I never thought the book would be published, but it was. More than a million people have read it. Go figure.
A couple of times a week for the last ten years, readers have asked me when I’ll be writing a sequel to Speak.
No. That’s not entirely correct.
A couple of times a day, nearly every day for the last ten years, readers have asked me when I’ll be writing a sequel to Speak. Many of them have given helpful plot ideas. I could write about the trial, when Andy Evans is convicted of Melinda’s rape and sent to jail. I could write about Melinda’s therapy sessions, in which she confronts her parents for their emotional neglect. Or I could have her face a new trauma: she could start smoking meth, or develop amnesia after a car accident, or be kidnapped by a cult of perverts, or, or, or….
My favorite suggestion came from a ninth-grade boy in Southern California who told me I should write about how she got through the rest of high school without killing anyone. And I should call the sequel Spoke.
Actually, that’s not such a bad idea.
Here’s the thing: most sequels suck. Take a look (if you dare) at Jurassic Park 2, Jaws: The Revenge, or Rambo 15. Sequels are too often a crass attempt to make money off something that worked the first time, but without the care and attention that made the first movie or book so special.
Book sequels seem to work best when the author had planned a follow-up from the beginning and left a few story lines dangling that could be picked up and woven into a new plot. Yes, I know I didn’t wrap up everything at the end of Speak. I rarely do in my books. I like my last pages to be somewhat open-ended because that’s the way things are in real life.
But despite all of that, here’s another thing: I’m seriously thinking about writing a sequel. I’ve been thinking about it for a very long time. I loved writing about Melinda and it would be wonderful to hang out with her again. We caught a glimpse of her in Catalyst, but we saw her through the eyes of another character, Kate Malone. She couldn’t tell us what was going on inside Melinda’s heart.
I sometimes feel like Melinda is hiding in another closet, this time in my mind. She’s waiting for me to find the right path to her door. The questions swirl. How serious is her relationship with David Petrakis? Will she ever have a girlfriend she can trust? Is art her only salvation, or will she join the basketball team? Are her parents going to split up? Would she be happier if they did, or would that shatter her? What does she want to do after high school?
So here’s the last thing: I can’t write the sequel until I stumble on the right story and Melinda wakes me up again in the middle of the night. So it might never happen. Or it could happen next year. Or more likely, somewhere in between those two possibilities.
I’ll speak up when Melinda is ready.