Polly Holyoke on Second Novels

Welcome to another of my fabulous acronym-based interviews. The second novel is no easy feat, and with that in mind I put together a series of questions for debuts who are tackling the second obstacle in their career path. I call it the SNOB - Second Novel Omnipresent Blues. Whether you’re under contract or trying to snag another deal, you’re a professional now, with the pressures of a published novelist compounded with the still-present nagging self-doubt of the noobie. How to deal?


Today's guest is Polly Holyoke, author of The Neptune Project. When she isn’t writing, Polly loves reading, camping, skiing, scuba diving and hiking in the desert (where she quite stupidly got herself bitten by a rattlesnake). She lives with three rescue dogs, two spoiled cats and a nice husband who is tolerant about the piles of books all over their house.

Her fantastic debut, The Neptune Project, has been nominated to reading lists in both Maryland and Texas. It releases in paperback - today!

Is it hard to leave behind the first novel and focus on the second?

I didn’t have problems with this issue as The Neptune Challenge is a sequel to my first book, The Neptune Project. I had the plot for the sequel all planned out before I submitted the first book in the series, so it was fun and easy to dive back into the story (so to speak)!

At what point do you start diverting your energies from promoting your debut and writing / polishing / editing your second?

Ah, now this was harder for me. I was overwhelmed by how much promotion all my fellow debut authors seemed to be doing through social media. I had to learn how to use much of that media from scratch, and that was very time consuming. If they are serious about selling and promoting their work, I think writers should be building their social media platforms before they start submitting their manuscript. If I’d been more familiar with that side of promotion, I could have focused on writing my sequel earlier. I did make my deadline, but it was tight, and that was partly because I was so distracted by trying to promote the first book. 

Your first book landed an agent and an editor, and hopefully some fans. Who are you writing the second one for? Them, or yourself?

I still write the story I would have loved to read when I was twelve or thirteen. That approach seems to working for me because I keep running into enthusiastic fans that age who hug my book and announce that they’ve read The Neptune Project five or six times already. 

Is there a new balance of time management to address once you’re a professional author? 

Absolutely, but I still haven’t found the proper balance. One could spend an infinite amount of time on promotion. Now The Neptune Project has made the Texas and Maryland state reading lists, I’m also getting lots of requests for school visits. I love teaching and presenting at schools, but I’m finding it’s really hard to get much writing done on school visit days. I’m also a mom and a wife, and making sure I do those jobs well along with producing new work and promoting the old is one tricky business.

What did you do differently the second time around, with the perspective of a published author?

For so long I’ve wanted to be a published author, but during much of my debut year, I was way too stressed about the small stuff. A few months ago, I put a post-it note on my computer that says, “Enjoy the ride,” and that’s exactly what I’m doing these days!