Mystery Mondays: Susan Toy on Dancing the Sophomore Slump Two-Step

I “met” Susan Toy  when she agreed to host me on ReadingRecommendations. I was nervous approaching her and requesting a guest spot. But she generously welcomed me and showed me the ropes for guest blogging. Today, I finally get to return the favour by having Susan on Mystery Mondays.

Dancing the Sophomore Slump Two-Step

by Susan M. Toy

… or I’m Writing as Fast as I Can!!It’s been four years since I published my first novel in the Bequia Perspectives series. Four long years. I began writing Island in the Clouds in 2001 with the intention of eventually writing and publishing a quartet of novels all set on the Caribbean island of Bequia and involving murder and mystery of some sort or another. So I gave the first novel that sub-title, suggesting the books that followed would be written from various perspectives of people living on the island. My cover designer, Jenny Ryan, further sealed the deal by adding a “1” to the top of the spine of the print edition. There was no going back on my word.

cover susan full colour jan2012 - large - Copy

In 2004, I completed the first draft of One Woman’s Island. 2006 saw the major completion of Number Three, Tropical Paradox (I wrote this for the Humber School of Creative Writing program). Number Four in the quartet (working title: Menopausal Mamas) began as a NaNoWriMo project, but it quickly developed into another novel set on Bequia. 2007 was when I wrote the bulk of that novel.

I tell you all this, because it’s not for lack of material I haven’t yet published another novel in this Bequia series.

I just happen to be the Queen of the Procrastinators. Heck! Writing this guest blog post is another means of procrastinating!! Procrastination is not my only problem, however. It’s what leads me to procrastinate that I want to address here. After all, it’s not like I’ve just been too lazy to get that second novel prepared and published. (Well, I have been sort of lazy, but there have been other mitigating circumstances.)

Over the past four years (I ePublished Island in the Clouds in Feb. 2012) I have promoted myself and my book, continued promoting other authors through Alberta Books Canada, looked for and developed new ways for all authors to promote themselves and their books; moved from Canada back to Bequia; developed the idea behind IslandShorts and ePublished (Oct. 2013) several short stories by J. Michael Fay and my own novella, That Last Summer.

I created the blog Reading Recommendations (Nov. 2013) and have promoted close to 300 authors from around the world (including Kristina Stanley! through that site. I have beta-read a number of author-friends’ manuscripts and helped them prepare for publication. I’ve been working with a new writer who will be ePublishing a full-length non-fiction book with photographs through IslandEditions. Bought a trailer in Ontario where I will now spend my summer months. I contributed a short story to Tim Baker’s collection, Path of a Bullet, and I’ve written a number of guest blog posts as well as series of posts on my own blog that have proved to be very successful. I even took part in a discussion on self-publishing held at the

I even took part in a discussion on self-publishing held at the Calgary Public Library when I was visiting the city last October. Oh, yeah – and I read A LOT of books! Drank buckets of coffee. (AND WAS SUCKED INTO THE FACEBOOK VORTEX FROM TIME TO TIME, OF WHICH I AM SORELY ASHAMED.)

So cut me some slack!

Truth told, though, I’m not being entirely honest with you about the real problem of what’s held me back from rewriting and publishing that second novel, and I’m here now to confess my sins. Much of what I mentioned above that has kept me busy during the past four years is indeed busy-work … and an excuse on my part. (Whoa! I just went into the kitchen to begin washing dishes in order to avoid writing about this problem of mine! Housework signifies serious work avoidance.)

The real problem lies in this being my second book – my sophomore novel. Let’s face it, I have been extremely lucky and blessed with the response to Island in the Clouds. Really, only a couple … okay, three, reviews that were less than stellar. The rest, and many written by readers I didn’t know before publishing, were nothing short of excellent and praising, and so many of those readers have been asking for another novel about Bequia, because they enjoyed the first that much. An author can’t ask for anything more!

Jenny Ryan has already designed a cover and it’s been sitting on my desktop ever since – for inspiration. That was the reason I placed it there, anyway.



I did receive some feedback about a few aspects of the first novel that have helped me make changes to the second. I had always intended the second to be written from the perspective of a different character than Geoff, the narrator in the first, but I’ve also decided to change a number of the secondary characters who were in the first novel and introduce new ones that are solely figments of my imagination. (No more “Is this so-and-so?” from readers who know Bequia.) I spent a lot of time, especially during this past year, recreating characters and adding new material to the story line. I’m just about finished with that, am finally working on the last chapter, and will send the entire manuscript on to my editor Rachel Small to have at it. I know there will be necessary rewrites after that, so my dream date of May 1st for publication has already faded away. I’ve decided not to make any more promises. This novel will be finished and published when it’s good and ready!

But all this does not explain my real reason for taking my time. In all honesty, I am downright scared of the dreaded …

Sophomore Slump!!!

You know, the second novel not living up to the enthusiastic reception of the first, that it’s all wrong and readers are going to hate it. My fear has kept me from the keyboard, has caused me to find other things to do – anything at all! – to avoid finishing and publishing, actually proving that my fears are true!

So that’s what it’s all about, Alfie. (And Tim and Rachel.) And the more often well-meaning friends ask, “When will your next novel be published?” the more I dig in my heels on my way to the computer, do an about-face, and find something else to spend my time on instead. Oh, look! Another author who needs to be promoted!

This guest blog post for Kristina’s Mystery Mondays was originally intended to be a little shove in the right direction, to encourage me to finish, because I now had a deadline to meet. When we discussed my writing something for her blog, I really did believe I’d have One Woman’s Island published by this date, so my post should have acted as a promotion of the book. Instead, I’m leaving you, Kristina’s readers, with a link to the first novel (in case they haven’t read it yet) and a promise that the second novel will be finished and published … soon. I hope. But not before it’s time.

Reminds me of this old Orson Welles commercial …

But right now I do believe it’s time to make another pot of coffee.

SusanToy-1Susan M. Toy has been a bookseller, an award-winning publishers’ sales rep, and is a promoter of books, authors and reading. You may learn more about Susan here.

For more information about her published books, click here for Island in the Clouds and here for That Last Summer.







27 thoughts on “Mystery Mondays: Susan Toy on Dancing the Sophomore Slump Two-Step

  1. Great article Susan! That second book is always a challenge. I wrote my first one in three years and it took me five years to write the second. I am getting better at it now and try to publish one a year but it is still a challenge. There are so many distractions!! By the sounds of it you have been busy with writing and writing related projects, so it is all good.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Thanks so much for posting my guest post, Kristina! I just want to update your readers … Writing this piece must have loosened something for me, because I began working on that second novel again the very next day, completed the draft and sent it to Rachel within three days! So I guess just addressing I had a problem was enough to get those creative juices flowing again. Thanks to you, Kristina, for giving me the opportunity of writing this guest post for your Mystery Mondays!

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Reblogged this on Books: Publishing, Reading, Writing and commented:
    Thanks to Kristina Stanley for hosting me on her Mystery Mondays blog feature! And, in the funny way things have of working out, writing this piece seemed to dislodge something in me that had been blocking my writing, so that the very next day I was able to begin again and finish the MS – in only THREE DAYS!!! So, even more thanks go to Kristina for providing the opportunity to get my butt in gear and complete this second novel!

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Great post, Susan. I empathise with the fear of the second novel slump. Glad to read you’ve been motivated to finish it – well done.
    Whenr eading about how you are going to be changing characters a bit in subsequent novels my first thought was, “Oh, god, I hope she’s not going to get rid of The Brethern!”

    Liked by 2 people

  5. Anyone who knows anything about your body of work in various areas, Susan, I’m sure has no doubt you’ll finish that book. All the best on your excellent work. Thanks, Kristina, for having Susan as your guest. Good piece. 🙂 — Suzanne.

    Liked by 2 people

  6. Hi Patricia, Thanks for stopping by and for your encouraging words. I’ve been so lucky with the authors who have been generous and posted writing tips and thoughts on Mystery Mondays. Every week I learn something new.

    Liked by 2 people

  7. Thanks for having Susan on your blog, Kristina. Having enjoyed her, Island in the Clouds, I’m curious what she’ll come up with for #2. And Susan … can’t wait to read that next one … when it’s good and ready, of course!

    Liked by 2 people

  8. It’s good to know I’m not the only one who thought she was ‘queen of procrastination.’ I had my first two books published within a year of each other, but it took me a further four years to write the third in what became a trilogy, and by the time it was edited and went through the publication process it was actually five years before it saw the light of day, entirely my fault, not my publishers. I do blame social media for some of it, you have to get your name out there and between Facebook, Twitter, Blogging, a website etc etc, not to mention being deluged in emails, sometimes the writing time just slips away. Anyway congratulations on your series and the second book has a great cover and I’m sure you’ll finish a story that’s well worthy of it. Good luck, and keeeeeep writing!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Hywela Lyn, it’s so true that social media takes a lot of time. I try to do only focus on it twice a day. First thing in the morning, and then later in the day when my focus is fading. Today. I’m doing the final proofread of Avalanche before it goes back to the publisher and then to print. I needed a little break, so here I am on my blog…

      Liked by 1 person

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