Hi, it's Lisa here today. No, you're not going crazy; I'm not supposed to post this week. It's Dan's turn but he is gracious enough to let me cut in line.
I've been thinking about writing a sequel on one of my novels - for which I already have an epilogue, so I thought it might be tricky getting around that - and thought I'd see what other people's thoughts were on writing a sequel after you've already told your audience what happens three years after the book ends. Guess what I found. Nada. There's so much talk about prologues on Twitter, on craft blogs, at writer seminars, on book comments/criticisms. But there's virtually nothing on epilogues. And guess what I decided would need to happen. There needs to be more blogs about epilogues of course.
So here's where we put our thoughts about them - negatives, positives - and can you effectively write a sequel after having one? Are they necessary? Is the "necessary" question even applicable here? Is it just like a desert, unnecessary but nice to have, so no harm, no foul? Or are they an aggravation and you don't read them?
Dan: That's a great question, Lisa. Short answer: I have no idea. I do most of my reading in science fiction and fantasy, where stories can span several books. Epilogues are rare, and maybe that's a good thing. It feels a little bit like cheating (to me) to drop in a chapter that quickly wraps up everything in a pretty bow. There's far less emotional impact.
That being said, I think that there's always room to write a good story, even if people know where it's going. In fact, the series prequel faces a similar challenge: we already know what happens later in the series. But with a series, world, and characters that readers enjoy, I think either a prequel or a post-epilogue book is a viable option.
Caitlin: With HEARTSICK, my agent asked me to add an epilogue. With RED BLOODED, my editors did. I tend to like to keep at least some aspects of the story open-ended. Even with the epilogues, though, many reviewers wrote that they were looking forward to the sequel to HEARTSICK (um...no sequel is in the works yet...:-/), and I've already gotten one reviewer who thought RED BLOODED ended too quickly. So I guess I tend not to wrap things up, even when I'm told to, heh. But, as I said, HEARTSICK had an epilogue but also left many things open-ended, things that could be explored in a second book. Does your sequel take place after the epilogue, or does it cover what is already covered by the epilogue? If the former, I don't see any problem at all! If the latter, that is a little unusual, but, like Dan said, readers often want to "experience" stories even when they already know the ending to. So, if you want to write the sequel, I say go for it. :)