Annie Sullivan: Raising the Stakes in Her Sequel, The Curse of Gold - Writer's Digest

Annie Sullivan: Raising the Stakes in Her Sequel, The Curse of Gold

YA author Annie Sullivan shares how she had to raise the stakes for everyone in her sequel to A Touch of Gold, why the writing process changed because of selling it on proposal, and more!
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Annie Sullivan is a young adult author from Indianapolis, Indiana. Her work has been featured in Curly Red Stories and Punchnels. She received her Master's degree in Creative Writing from Butler University.

Annie Sullivan

Annie Sullivan

(21 authors share one piece of advice for writers.)

She loves fairy tales, everything Jane Austen, and traveling. Her wanderlust has taken her to every continent, where's she's walked on the Great Wall of China, found four-leaf clovers in Ireland, waddled with penguins in Antarctica, and cage-dived with great white sharks in South Africa.

Learn more at AnnieSullivanAuthor.com.

In this post, Sullivan shares how she had to raise the stakes for everyone in her sequel to A Touch of Gold, why the writing process changed because of selling it on proposal, and more!

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Name: Annie Sullivan
Literary agent: Christa Heschke
Title: A Curse of Gold
Publisher: Blink/HarperCollins
Release date: September 22, 2020
Genre: Young Adult Fantasy
Previous titles: A Touch of Gold; Tiger Queen

Elevator pitch for the book: The cursed daughter of King Midas sets out to end the curse over her and her father, encountering gorgons, sea monsters, high seas adventure, and the trickiest god the world—or underworld—has ever known.

Curse of Gold cover

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What prompted you to write this book?

A Curse of Gold was inspired both by the Greek myth of King Midas and by the movie Pirates of Caribbean. Having heard the myth growing up where King Midas gains the ability to turn things to gold—and eventually turns his daughter to gold—I wanted to explore the story of King Midas' daughter. 

(The five-step process for reworking a classic story.)

She's merely a means to an end, such that she's the reason her father realized it was a curse to turn everything he touched to gold. So when she gets turned back into a living, breathing human being, not only does she have some lasting side effects—like magical gold powers—but she also has to deal with the broken relationship with her father. Not to mention she has to find the cure for the curse before her father succumbs to it. 

And that's where the Pirates of the Caribbean part comes in. As Kora sails the ocean wide on her search, she encounters everything from sirens to sea monsters—and there are always pirates on the horizon! Overall, I really wanted to create a whole new fairy tale with a female protagonist who finds her own inner strength in order to save her father and her kingdom.

How long did it take to go from idea to publication?

Since this book is the sequel to A Touch of Gold—and the end to Princess Kora's story—it was actually a little easier to write because I already knew these characters. And while I actively worked on A Touch of Gold for about four years, A Curse of Gold was written and edited within about eight months. 

However, there's a whole new challenge when writing a sequel, which centers around not letting characters slip back into traits and flaws they overcame in the first book. The characters have to always keep growing and learning, and the plot has to reflect that. 

So A Curse of Gold changed direction several times as I continually made changes to show how far these characters had already come and the new challenges—both within themselves and in the world—that they would have to overcome. Because as your characters get smarter, the villains they face also have to get smarter so as to pose a realistic threat to them so there's enough tension and enough at risk to pull readers through the plot.

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Were there any surprises in the publishing process for this title?

Since this is the second book in the series, selling the book on proposal (meaning I only turned in a few chapters and an outline instead of the full book as I did with the first one) meant a lot more back and forth with the publisher on how they saw the sequel progressing. So that was much more of a group discussion than anything I'd experienced in the past.

Were there any surprises in the writing process for this book?

Being a sequel, one of the things my editor drove home was the need for new threats with bigger stakes. Plus, characters couldn't rely simply on their earlier strengths. They had to develop new ways to address the threats before them. Plus, any scene or plot device that was too similar to the first book was out. 

(5 ways to surprise your reader without it feeling like a trick.)

So I really challenged myself to look outside the box to come up with some new twists and turns on Greek mythology—bringing readers characters and gods they're familiar with but giving them new twists or highlights to their personalities to keep readers guessing. 

And that turned out to be the most fun part because I could draw from what readers already knew and then amp that up in such a way that the Greek mythology references took the characters and plot to new levels.

What do you hope readers will get out of your book?

Books have a way of transporting us to different worlds, and I'm a firm believer that when the world around us is hard or depressing, books are one of the best refuges. They take us to new worlds where anything is possible. 

(How to write disaster stories infused with hope.)

And I want my readers to escape to the worlds I create and then emerge from them a little more rested, a little more sure of themselves, and a lot more willing to head back out into the world with hope in their hearts—hope they can overcome whatever obstacles they face in the real world because they just saw their favorite characters deal with and overcome them in a fictional world.

If you could share one piece of advice with other authors, what would it be?

Don't give up. The people who don't get their books published are the ones who give up. It might take you one, two, or 10 books. But with each book you write, you'll get better and better, and the better you get, the more likely you are to get a book published and grow your fanbase.