Why I decided to write a sequel to Future Leaders of Nowhere, and why All the Ways to Here won’t be about romantic complications.
All the Ways to Here (blurb below) might be a slightly selfish exercise. The sequel to Future Leaders happened because of that thing that always happens to me (and probably every writer) after I finish a book: I couldn’t stop imagining what would happen next for the characters. That’s part of the fun of writing (and reading), carrying the world of the book in your head for a while. Only this time, it was a more extreme version of it.
I think this feeling was more acute with Finn and Willa because there was so much of their lives I’d imagined that didn’t go into Future Leaders of Nowhere. This is because they weren’t living their ordinary lives, but instead were, isolated in this unusual future leaders camp scenario. They were removed from family and friends and their day-to-day existence. However, to render them as characters, I had to really think about their home lives and who they were when they weren’t at camp to make them real, fleshed-out people in my mind. But I never got to put much of that in writing.
So when I got to thinking (as I like to do) about what would happen next, I had so much more there to work with. And I had all these characters in my head who barely featured in Future Leaders. People like Willa’s grandmother and siblings, or Finn’s best friend, Dan. These people became characters in my mind, but never made it to the page. I wanted to write about them, and about the girls’ relationships with them.
Even though I have published a sequel before, that was actually just one mammoth story cut in half (and still probably too long!). The Sum of the Things was never intended as a sequel. It was half an original story that had to become a sequel to prevent me from publishing some teen lesbian angst version of Gone with the Wind.
This is the first time I have imagined enough of an ‘after’ to have be propelled to write sequel. With some books I might just think of a couple of moments after the book finishes. For example, I know what happens the first time Olivia and Liza see each other in Points of Departure, but not much more than that.
But it was different with Future Leaders. I thought so much about what would happen after that a whole new story about Finn and Willa took form in my mind almost as soon as I had sent off Future Leaders to my publishers to see if they were interested. I just kept writing their ongoing story more and more in my head. And when my publisher said yes, they wanted Future Leaders, I said ‘Hey, how about a sequel?’. Luckily, she enjoyed it enough to say yes!
Writing this one was particularly fun for me because this camp was supposed to be an experience that had personal impacts for Finn and Willa (not just romantically). And when you go through an experience that is isolated from your life, it’s always interesting to wonder how the parts of you will impact what happens when you get home. I also wanted to explore some of the elements of these two characters’ lives we hadn’t gone into yet.
I should warn you/reassure you (depending on what you like in a story) that All the Ways to Here is not a story of romantic complications. I know that’s what most people expect from a sequel when there’s romance involved. The thing is, Future Leaders was never intended to be a romance novel. Yes, it has a romance at the centre of the plot, but that’s not unusual for young adult fiction. It also has themes of self-discovery and personal ethics and friendship, which to me were just as central as the romance.
It’s the same in All the Ways to Here. Willa and Finn are starting a relationship, but that’s not where the issues or the main thrust of the story lie. Willa’s dealing with family stuff, her growing responsibilities, and with her need for stability for herself and her siblings. Finn’s still dealing with what it means to be a leader, and what it is that she actually wants to do with her abilities to help change the world and lead others, in contrast to the roles she’s in now. These are the shifts I was more interested in narrating.
Romance sequels are limiting. All you can do in a romance sequel is add a complication for the couple and then resolve it over time. That’s not what this story is about. Yes, Willa and Finn’s relationship is central to the book, but it is not what throws up the challenges and conflicts that I hope make the story. It’s still, as I believe it always was, about two girls figuring out who they are, what they want to be, and how they want to move in this world. And they do this while embarking on a relationship.
Also, for those who are curious, some of the Future Leaders characters are in this book, but not all. There are new ones, too, as Willa and Finn become involved in other things.
Anyway, All the Ways to Here is out in November, and you can decide for yourselves if you like it. I sincerely hope you do! I loved Finn and Willa and I just wasn’t ready to let them go yet. But now I’ve written this, I can.
Add it to your Goodreads TBR if you wish!
Read the blurb:
In this sequel to Future Leaders of Nowhere, Finn and Willa come home from camp to find everything is different. Even as they grow more sure of their feelings for each other, everything around them feels less certain.
When Finn gets involved in a new community project, she’s forced to question where her priorities lie at school. Meanwhile, her dad has moved interstate, her mother is miserable, and her home feels like a ghost town.
Willa’s discovering how to negotiate the new terrains of romance and school friendships when an accident at home reminds her just how tenuous her family situation is. Suddenly, even with her dad in town, she’s shouldering more responsibility than ever.
As they try to navigate these new worlds together, Finn’s learning she has to figure out what she wants, and Willa how to ask for what she needs.