Welcome Back Mia P. Manansala!

Mary C is the winner of Homicide and Halo-Halo. Watch for an email from Mia!

I so happy to welcome back Mia! It’s been such a joy to watch her go from unpublished to published author. And I’ve been lucky enough to work with her on Sisters in Crime’s two big awards — the Eleanor Taylor Bland Award for Crime Writers of Color and the Pride Award for Emerging LBGTQIA+ Crime Writers. Mia is here celebrating the release of Homicide and Halo-Halo.

The Dreaded Second Book Syndrome (plus giveaway)

By Mia P. Manansala

Hello, everyone! Mia P. Manansala here, on the release week of my second book, Homicide and Halo-Halo, to talk about something many writers dread: Second Book Syndrome.

I knew what it was before I got my book deal. I’d been lucky enough to build a writing community long before I sold my first book, and had the guidance of friends who were further down the path than me to warn me about the various ups and downs of publishing. And part of that guidance was hearing about Second Book Syndrome and how they were dealing with it.

For those of you not familiar with the term, Second Book Syndrome is when writers learn that writing their second book is often much, MUCH harder than their first. It can also refer to an author’s second book not being as good as their first, but that can usually be explained by the first definition.

To be clear, when I say second book, I mean second book under contract. Many authors write multiple books before finding an agent to represent them and/or managing to sell a book to a publisher. Arsenic and Adobo was my debut, but it was the second book I ever wrote and the easiest book I’ve written so far. Go figure.

Anyway, why is that second book so much more difficult? After all, you’ve already proven that you could complete a book. You’ve even proven you could sell the book. Shouldn’t it just get easier every time? To that I say, Oh you sweet summer child…

All joking aside, the reason second books tend to be more difficult is due to two things: Time and Pressure.

Before you sell your first book, you have all the time in the world to make it right. It took about two and a half years to finish my first book (which got me my first agent but never sold) and close to two years to finish and polish the book that would become Arsenic and Adobo. Do you want to know how much time I had to write Homicide and Halo-Halo? About nine months. Which doesn’t sound too terrible, until you take into account that I’m a slow writer. I was also editing and promoting my debut, not to mention working a day job (for part of it, more on that later) while drafting this second one.

This brings me to the pressure aspect. Before my deal, I focused on writing books that I wanted to read. I got into mystery writing because I loved the genre but couldn’t find books that featured people like me or rang true to my life. So when I started writing, the only person I had to please was myself, and hope that was enough to get the attention of an agent and editor. Amazingly, it was! But now that I was a soon-to-be published author, the expectations for my books changed completely.

I saw how excited other Filipinos were to see themselves in a mainstream book. I remembered all the kindness and help I’d received from other mystery writers. And I thought about my pub team, who believed in me and were doing their best to push my book and make it a success, and I just…couldn’t bear the thought of letting any of these people down.

I believed in Arsenic and Adobo. It wasn’t perfect, but it was a good, solid book that I was (and still am) immensely proud of. But what if I couldn’t do it again? What if I gained readers only to lose them immediately with a shoddy second book? What if I’d finally achieved my dream of being a published author only to lose it all because it turned out I didn’t have any other books in me?

Take these feelings of anxiety and throw in a global pandemic, plus a bit of job insecurity for good measure (the entire branch of my former company got laid off the same day I signed my contract, yikes, but I eventually got a part-time job), and it’s a wonder I got any writing done at all!

BUT I DID IT. It was unbelievably difficult and there were many times where I thought it was never going to happen, but now my second book is out in the world and I love it. Hope you all do too!

To celebrate, I’m giving a signed paperback copy of HOMICIDE AND HALO-HALO (U.S. only)! To enter, please comment and let me know of a series whose later books are just as good, if not better, than their first. I’ll start: Sherry Thomas’s Lady Sherlock series. I don’t understand how every single book is so darn good (I think it’s up to six now?) but it’s my current favorite.

Here’s a bit about Homicide and Halo-Halo:

Death at a beauty pageant turns Tita Rosie’s Kitchen upside down in the latest entry of this witty and humorous cozy mystery series by Mia P. Manansala.

Things are heating up for Lila Macapagal. Not in her love life, which she insists on keeping nonexistent despite the attention of two very eligible bachelors. Or her professional life, since she can’t bring herself to open her new café after the unpleasantness that occurred a few months ago at her aunt’s Filipino restaurant, Tita Rosie’s Kitchen. No, things are heating up quite literally, since summer, her least favorite season, has just started.

To add to her feelings of sticky unease, Lila’s little town of Shady Palms has resurrected the Miss Teen Shady Palms Beauty Pageant, which she won many years ago—a fact that serves as a wedge between Lila and her cousin slash rival, Bernadette. But when the head judge of the pageant is murdered and Bernadette becomes the main suspect, the two must put aside their differences and solve the case—because it looks like one of them might be next.

Bio: Mia P. Manansala (she/her) is a writer and certified book coach from Chicago who loves books, baking, and bad-ass women. She uses humor (and murder) to explore aspects of the Filipino diaspora, queerness, and her millennial love for pop culture. Her debut novel, ARSENIC AND ADOBO, is nominated for the Agatha, Barry, and Lefty Awards, and the sequel, HOMICIDE AND HALO-HALO, just came out.

Find her on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram: @MPMtheWriter Or check out her website: www.miapmanansala.com

49 Thoughts

  1. Just to name a few, Lee Hollis’s Hayley Powell Food and Cocktails Mystery series and Lucy Burdette’s Key West Food Critic Mystery series. I can’t wait to read Homicide and Halo Halo. I loved the first book, 5 stars. Thank you for this chance at you giveaway! pgenest57 at aol dot com

  2. Welcome back, Mia! My indy bookstore just called to say my copy is in.

    I just finished reading all the way through Jacqueline Winspear’s Maisie Dobbs series – yep, each book better than the one before. That’s seventeen, with a new one out next month!

    1. Edith, The Maisie Dobbs books are what reminded me how much I enjoy mysteries. I have followed Maisie from a young girl working in the “big house” all the way to the present. Winspear’s Maisie is a character embedded in my psyche.

  3. Mia, congratulations on book 2’s arrival!

    As for my answer to your question, I had a difficult time with the first two books in the LIGHTHOUSE LIBRARY series by Eva Gates. I was going to give up on the series but I decided to give book 3 a shot. Lo and behold, it was just a fantastic read and some of the things that bothered me in the first two books had cleared up. I’ve been a fan of the series since that point and every book after the first two has been quite entertaining.

  4. Congratulations on your new book! I’m adding it (and the first one) to my TBR list. One series that keeps getting better for me is the Maine Clambake series by Barbara Ross.

  5. Congratulations, Mia! It has been such a joy following your writing path.

    Series that are wonderful no matter what book you pick up? There are so many. Three of my personal favorites are from writers that are no longer with us. Lea Wait’s Mainley Needlepoint series, Margaret Maron’s Bootlegger’s Daughter series, and Sheila Connolly’s Apple Orchard series.

  6. Congratulations on the release of ” Homicide and Halo-Halo”! It’s most definitely on my TBR list and can’t wait for the chance to dive in reading.

    There are so many authors who have a running series that I love and look forward to each new book. The first series that comes to mind on always delivering a fabulous book is Edith Maxwell’s Quaker Midwife Mystery series. LOVE IT!
    2clowns at arkansas dot net

  7. Mia, congratulations on your new book. I love the premise of HOMICIDE AND HALO-HALO. Having many cousins myself, I know that there can be rivalries and worse, especially among cousins of similar age and close proximity. I love it that you have Lila helping Bernadette clear her name but, can’t help wondering if Bernadette will be grateful to Lila afterwards. We’ll see.

    The first book that I read by Deborah Crombie was one of her most recent books in the Gemma James, Duncan Kincaid series. It was SO good that I looked for the first books in order to read from the beginning. I was amazed to see how the books improved from book one, how they became more sophisticated and intricate, and how the characters acquired back stories and depth from book to book. It remains one of my very favorite series.

    I love what you told us about writing book #2, but I think that this is an opportunity to tell us more about the characters you have created. This book sounds like it will be the perfect next step.

  8. Big time congrats on your new release, Mia! Yeah the second book is tough in the best of circumstances. Three cheers to you!

  9. Congratulations Mia on your second book release!!!
    The series whose later books good that good or even better are Ellery Adams Book Retreat, C.J. Archer’s Glass and Steele, Lynn Cahoon Tourist Trap, Kate Carlisle’s Bibliophile, and Sofie Kelley Magical Library Cats.

  10. Congratulations on book #2!! Can’t wait to read it! I absolutely loved the first book. Sheila Connolly’s Apple Orchard series, Leslie Meier’s Lucy Stone series and Joanne Flukes series are books that I enjoy that keep getting better and better.

    Thank you for the chance! ❤

  11. MIA: Congratulations on your second book in the series. I enjoyed reading Arsenic and Adobo and I am sure you did not have a sophomore slump with Homicide & Halo-Halo!!

    Yes, there are several long-running mystery series that seem to get better with each book.
    Some that come to mind include: Sara Paretsky’s VI Warshawski, C.J. Box’s Joe Pickett, Gregg Hurwitz’s Orphan X series.

  12. Congratulations on Homicide and Halo-Halo, Mia! I can’t wait to read it.

    In The Last Voyage of Somebody the Sailor, John Barth writes that the second voyage is the most dangerous because it’s the one where you THINK you know what you’re doing. What writers discover with second books is that they still don’t know. They discover the same things with third, fourth, fifth books ad infinitum.

  13. Congrats on pushing through the Second Book Syndrome. Everything you’ve said makes sense. And congrats on getting a new job. I’ve been part of layoffs, and it is never fun, even when you see it coming. (Yes, please enter me in this giveaway.)

    1. I didn’t answer the quuestion. Sherry Harris is an author whose books just keep getting better. While there are some sub par books, Sue Grafton’s Kinsey Millhone series is consistently good. As is the Mrs. Pollifax series.

  14. I believe that the later books of Joanne Fluke’s Hannah Swenson mysteries as well as Tess Gerrison’s Rizzoli and Isles books were better in the later books. Thank you so much for sharing. God bless you.

  15. Congrats on getting through the Second Book Syndrome and having a successful series (ongoing? I hope!) I love the Haunted Library Mystery series by Allison Brook (aka Marilyn Levinson) that get better with each new book! Of course, I am partial to the Cozy Corgi Mystery series by Mildred Abbott! Those are just two of thousands of favorites and that’s just in the Cozy Mystery genre! That you for the opportunity to win! 🤗💖

  16. Thanks for this. I have just, finally, finished the second book in my Kirkwood Clues mystery series, so I can relate. As far as books that get better, I’d say the Cat Who series is at its best after Book 3. (But don’t read the last one, which I understand she didn’t write.)

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