In the author’s note for If I Don’t Ask, I mention that this fourth book in the Ask, Tell series is basically all the things I wish I could have put into Ask, Tell—if I’d had a few hundred thousand words to play with, and a better understanding of how to craft a book back when I was writing my first novel.
When I first began writing, it was really just to fill a need I didn’t even realise I had. What began as a way to ward off boredom quickly morphed into such a part of my life that now I can’t imagine going through a day without having at least one book thought, even if I don’t write. And because writing is such a dominant part of my life, I often find myself being all introspective-y about it and how it’s such a part of me. Fairly recently, I decided that surely I must have gotten better at this author gig and reading my debut, Ask, Tell, and its sequel, Ask Me Again, in preparation for If I Don’t Ask made me realise just how much I’ve grown and learned as a word-maker since my first novel was published in 2017.
As I read through Ask, Tell, I felt so gosh-darned accomplished, while simultaneously thinking I sucked and wishing desperately that I could rewrite passages and that I could change whole chunks of the story and oh why not just rip it apart and remake it, but this time—make it better! It’s no secret that I don’t plan things when I write, and never was this more evident to me than when I had to take the plot in Ask, Tell and flip the PoV from Sabine’s to Rebecca’s. I realised very quickly that the things I’d just writtenwithout much deep thought as to how or why they’d happened now needed explanations. The horror! And it was doubly tricky, because I was actually taking things from both Ask, Tell and Ask Me Again.
But…I slowly untangled the web I’d tangled myself in, found a reason for everything that needed a reason (that wasn’t just “cos that’s how it was in my head”), and finished the other side of Ask, Tell. I’m hoping that Rebecca’s PoV, and a bunch of fresh scenes will bring some clarity, and also maybe a little closure—more so than the gaps that were filled in by Ask Me Again.
So, having been through this process of drawing from two books to create another book, I’d like to impart a piece of information upon you: Writing yourself into corners because you think you’ll never have to revisit things in sequel—and then you decide to write a sequel and then a “sidequel”—oof, no thanks, never again. Does this mean I’ll now plot out books, and write in-depth backstories for characters, and have every thread explained in detail even if that detail never makes the page? Psht, course not. That would be logical and easy.
If you’re curious about the best order to read the series (because I’ve done the mean thing of making the 4th book in the series jump back in time) my humble opinion is that they flow best:
For those of you who’ve hung out with me and the Ask, Tell series characters for all these years, I’d like to thank you. I love knowing my characters have found their home with all of you. And…I think If I Don’t Ask will be the last book in this series. Unless I can think of yet another title with “Ask” in it (although I’ve written “ask” so many times in this that I don’t know if I can bear to write it again). But if I can think of one, then who knows…?
E. J. Noyes is an Australian transplanted to New Zealand, which may be the awesomest thing to happen to her. She lives with her wife, a needy cat and too many plants (and is planning on getting more plants). When not indulging in her love of reading and writing, E. J. argues with her hair and pretends to be good at things.
If I Don’t Ask will be released by Bella Books on May 12, 2022.