One of the books I’ve been most looking forward to reading this holiday season (once I finish writing the novella) is The Rules of Magic, Alice Hoffman’s prequel to her book Practical Magic, which I fell in love with in its film version nearly two decades ago.
The two aunts in Practical Magic were such strong and fascinating characters that I confess I wondered, even then, about their own lives and past stories, so when I heard Alice Hoffman was writing a prequel that featured the aunts as young women, I added the book to my wish list (and, this past week, to my reading pile).
And it occurred to me that the next book I’ll be writing—The Vanished Days—could be considered a prequel of sorts to The Winter Sea.
Which got me thinking of prequels.
Sequels are common enough in the book world—some characters just go on living beyond “The End”, and find their way into one story after another. But prequels, when I started thinking about it, aren’t thick on the ground.
For me, a prequel (or a sequel, come to that) only works when the original author writes it. That’s just a personal quirk of mine, and I realize others may hold different views, but I’ve always considered Wide Sargasso Sea, for example, to be a derivative work of Jane Eyre, as opposed to an actual prequel.
On the other hand, C.S. Lewis’s The Magician’s Nephew—the last book he finished writing in the Narnia series, although it was the second-last published—is a true prequel, filling in the backstory of how Narnia was created, and introducing the boy Digory Kirke, who will grow up to be the Professor with whom the Pevensie children are sent to stay at the beginning of The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe.
Going backward, and not forwards, seems to be a rarer thing in fiction, but when it’s done well, it can be wonderful and satisfying.
Do you like prequels, or do you prefer to imagine for yourself what happened before the beginning? Are there any characters or books you’d want a prequel to? Or are there any prequels you can recommend?