Sequel Bait-Or When Secondary Characters Take Over
Experienced romance readers are experts at sniffing out sequel bait. They can tell instantly when a side character-whether it’s the heroine’s best friend, the hero’s brother, or the mysterious widow/single mom who shows up in town with her little girl and catches the eye of the local beloved pediatrician -is destined to get their HEA next in the series. It’s definitely one of my favorite aspects of reading a romance series, trying to figure out whose story is next and the ways the author is laying groundwork for future couples down the line.
As an author, I have enjoyed creating the From Sunset Park, With Love universe and having characters and previous couples pop up in later books. But one of the unexpected surprises I’ve discovered is how I sometimes don’t have control over those side characters. While writing this series, there were characters who appeared on the page, announced themselves, and took over. “Hey I’m here! And by the way, I’m getting a book, just so you know.”
Luke and Rachel, the hero and heroine of The Rachel Experiment are a perfect example. We first meet Luke Trudeau near the end of The Year of Cecily when Cecily goes on a blind date in an attempt to move on from Jeffrey. An attempt that fails spectacularly, even as Cecily acknowledges that Luke is funny, handsome, smart, charming, and ticks all the boxes. But as I was writing that scene all I could think was, “Hmmm, he’s such a nice guy and was such a good sport about the blind date. I really should make it up to him.”
Rachel Bai was a character who appeared later on in the editing/revision process as I was writing Cecily. So often, when a heroine in a romance has a nemesis/enemy, the “other woman” is almost always a Mean Girl and awful. Instead, I wanted to turn that trope on its head. What if instead of remaining nemeses, the two women actually became friends? I have to say, the minute Rachel appeared on the page, I fell in love with her. She was so funny, refreshingly blunt and direct, and the scenes between her and Cecily were a joy to write. I immediately thought about a book for her too.
After The Year of Cecily was done, it was time to figure out whose book was next, and Luke immediately came to mind. At first, I considered pairing him with Adrienne, Cecily’s BFF. But the more I thought about it, the more it didn’t feel right. I kept trying to figure out how their story would work, but it just wouldn’t gel. It wasn’t working. I realized what the problem was-in my mind, Adrienne and Luke were too similar, it would be boring. There was no story there. Then I thought to myself, “How about Luke and Rachel?” Charming, people person, smooth talker Luke with awkward, blunt, decidedly NOT a people person Rachel? I could just picture those opposites attract sparks flying and I was off to the races.
The Rachel Experiment wasn’t necessarily an easy book to write-I made some missteps along the way and had to correct course, but in the end, writing Rachel and Luke’s journey to HEA was an incredibly rewarding experience and I’m so happy with how it turned out. I learned a lot and grew as a writer. And one of the main things I learned is that sometimes, if you’re doing your job right, the characters take over and the only thing you can do is buckle up and go along for the ride. I hope you all enjoy Rachel and Luke’s story. Here’s to those secondary characters and sequel bait!
Are you a fan of series and revisiting characters from previous books or do you prefer the focus remain on the main couple in each book? Are you good at sniffing out “sequel bait” and figuring out who will be paired with whom?
About the Author
Lisa has been an avid romance reader and fan since she read her first Nora Roberts novel at the age of 13 after wandering the aisles of her local bookstore. Lisa loves that romance has the power to inspire, and believes that HEAs are for everyone.
Lisa writes light contemporary romantic comedies with a liberal dash of snark and banter. She enjoys delving into the complexity of Asian and immigrant family experiences, and celebrates female friendships in her trademark dry, witty style. As an Asian-American author writing own voices Asian American stories, Lisa hopes that her books will show the diversity of the Asian-American experience, and the importance of every reader being able to see themselves represented on the page.
Having grown up in Pennsylvania and helping out at her parents’ restaurant, Lisa has never bothered to learn to cook. She has two liberal arts undergraduate degrees and a J.D, and in her former life she was an intern, then Legislative Assistant for a PA State Representative. She also worked as a paralegal at a boutique law firm. Lisa is a politics junkie (don’t get her started on the wonder that is The West Wing!), indulges in naps whenever possible, and believes Netflixing in her pajamas and ordering take out qualifies as the perfect weekend. As a self-described Twitter addict, you can tweet her @laforesta1!