It’s not a spoiler to say that my first book, Beyond the Ruby Veil, ends in a dark place. The book is a young adult fantasy about a girl named Emanuela who tries to save her city and become their hero, but instead, ends up becoming their villain. By the time we reach the last page, a lot of things have burned down, literally and figuratively.

I always knew the series was going to have a second book, but actually writing that book was a daunting task. Going in, I knew that Into the Midnight Void had to expand on a lot of the mysteries raised in the first book. Emanuela lives in a spooky, fantastical world where water doesn’t exist naturally, but has to be magically transformed from blood. This process can only be done by an immortal woman who rules over the city—but by the end of the first book, Emanuela has figured out that this woman’s rule is built on a web of lies that goes much deeper than anyone ever imagined. As the author of the sequel, it was now my job to show readers, once and for all, just how deep that web could get.

Also, I had to figure out what to do with my main character—a girl so ruthless and chaotic that by the end of the first book, she had destroyed everything she could get her hands on. If I let her have a second book, what was going to happen? The prospect was a little worrying.

Beyond the Ruby Veil tells a story about the creation of a villain. There’s a central question driving the narrative: how far will Emanuela go to save her city and get what she wants? By the end of the book, we have an answer: she’ll go as far as it takes.

I didn’t want Into the Midnight Void to be a repeat of the first book. I wanted the sequel to feel like an evolution—to show us something we didn’t already know about the characters and the world. Since we already know that Emanuela has no line she won’t cross, I wanted to challenge her in another way. I wanted the central question at the heart of the narrative to be different, and that meant I had to figure out what that question was.

It took many attempts for me to get a complete draft of the sequel down on paper. Many, many, many attempts. At some point, I started to worry that I was broken as a writer, that my creative spark was gone and that I would never write a coherent narrative again. I was completely lost in the weeds. Due to the way publication schedules work, at the time I was deep in a sequel draft, the first book was released to the public. I worried about disappointing people who liked the first book. I worried that my main character, whose whole deal is that she always goes too far, was going way, way too far in the sequel, and everyone was going to think it was totally ridiculous. I worried about anything and everything out of my control.

The only way that the sequel came together was when I decided to let go of my worries and expectations and focus on one thing: what the story was really about. Because that was the reason I’d wanted to write it in the first place. There’s a reason that writers stay in and sweat over our keyboards when we could be out doing literally anything else. Stories have beating hearts that we find impossible to ignore.

Into the Midnight Void is about a girl who would do anything—and I do mean anything—to get what she wants. But then comes the question: what if you get everything you want, and it still isn’t enough?

When I talk about these books, I often find myself stressing that Emanuela is not a role model. She’s not someone I would ever want to be like, and she’s not someone I would ever want to know in real life, not even as a casual acquaintance…because she definitely murders a lot of her casual acquaintances. But one of the things about novels that I find so fascinating is the ability to get fully inside someone else’s head. The way Emanuela’s mind works, and the way she rationalizes her awful decisions, is fascinating to me. But deep down, she has a human vulnerability at her core. Into the Midnight Void takes us on a full journey of Emanuela’s head as she’s challenged to figure out exactly what sort of person she is, and what really matters to her in life. I hope it’s a journey that readers enjoy.