First of all a HUGE CONGRATULATIONS to the Riskies’ own Diane Gaston, the recipient of a Washington Romance Writers Award for her body of work. I have not read the citation that accompanied the award but expect she may share it eventually!
And now back to the regular schedule:
Series are my favorite thing to read AND write. They must be the single best way to develop a market for books. I wonder if the idea for series grew out of the way stories were serialized in the nineteenth century (you know, Dickens.) If anybody has an answer ton that question please leave a comment.
I have no doubt that series are a great way to develop a reader base because I love them as both reader and as a writer. Here’s why: because it lets you get to know characters better. And if I like the protagonists in a book there is nothing I want more than to know what happens next to them and in their world.
As a writer I like series for the same reason but from a different perspective. I know what happens to my characters after the story ends. One couple is not as happy as I would wish and in another the wife dies in childbirth and she haunts her husband until he finds someone else to love and also someone who will love their daughter. Nope, not gonna tell you what books they are because no romance reader I know wants to hear that the HEA is not quite perfect.
The Pennistan Series I wrote for Bantam (TRAITOR’S KISS is the first) is still in my mind, years after I have technically finished the series. It’s a series where family members appear in each others books and secondary characters find their own romance.
My favorite scene is the final one in the final book (ONE MORE KISS) when the whole family gathers for Beatrice and Jess’s wedding. As the Duke, his brother says, “having Jess here makes us a family again. Having every one here for his wedding to Beatrice completes us.”
It was my chance to give readers a look at each couples life since marriage. Elena makes the Duke laugh more. Gabriel’s wife Lynette is still uncomfortable at the thought that her brother-in-law is a duke. Mia and David “make bickering seem romantic” and Olivia Garrett would rather be in the kitchen coming up with a recipe for salmon that will appeal to her almost sister-in-law, Beatrice.
And Michael Garrett, Olivia’s husband, has the time to talk to everyone who approaches him, and in the process learns more secrets than anyone else in the room. The fact he is the Vicar of the Church in Pennsford might have something do with why people are so willing to confide in him.
Michael and Oivia are the launch point for a new series I am starting as soon as I come home from vacation. The stories (I’m thinking 40K word novellas) will be set in Pennsford and each story grows from a secret a parishioner shares with Michael. He never betrays a confidence but we, as readers in his point of view, will see the story develop from the perspective of what he knows.
For sure you will hear how the stories progress right here.
So what do you like best about series as a reader and/or a writer?
I do like series, partly because one gets to know a whole little world in which the various characters move. I prefer series in which one couple dominates each book, with only occasional cameo appearances from others. Certainly they should not always pop up in every book in the series, except at (say) a family party.
And they do not all have to appear in the first book, either — there’s a reason why people refer to “sequel bait”, and it’s because it isn’t always very convincing when all the men, or all the women, are fully established as individual characters in a book when they’re not really necessary to the story of that particular book.
Not all my series are character based, HJ. I’ve written a series of novellas in anthologies with lead author JD Robb. In that series, also Regency set, the continuing element is a magic coin, aka Poppy’s coin. The characters rarely know each other.
First, thank you, Mary, for the congratulations! It was a total surprise, but if there was a formal citation, it completely went out of my head. The BIG crystal award says for “Outstanding Achievement.”
I LOVE series (especially Mary’s). At the Retreat (Washington Romance Writers conference), Jennifer Enderlin (St. Martins Press) said she loves to be pulled into the story, like passing through a glass into the story world. When I’m in that world (either writing or reading) I get to know all the characters and I want to know their stories, too.
I love Mary’s story idea about the secrets told to the vicar. That’s a series that could go on forever. Bella Andre who was also at the Retreat told of writing the Sullivan series – 16 books! (Beat that, Mary!)
Mutual admiration here, Diane. You do series with a flair and a focus on parts of the Regency that are unique and fascinating. I’m so sorry to have missed the Retreat this year and look forward to “wisdom gleaned” in a future blog.
Mary, I enjoy reading series. I’ve only written one very loosely connected series, but I’m planning another in which the stories may be more connected. I’m not sure yet. Is there anything you do to plot out series ahead of time, or do you develop each plot individually as you get to it?
You’ve never done a series, Elena? Is there a reason or do ideas just not come to you that way? To answer your question the only thing I know in advance is the names of my family of characters who are siblings though I do have some sense of their personalities. Their stoies grows as I write and often surprise me. A real punster writer here!
Most of my story ideas don’t come to me that way. I did do one trilogy, “The Three Disgraces”, because I wanted to write a story about three friends who met at a select girls’ school. I had some idea of their issues from the start, but the way they worked out evolved, as the stories were sequential.
My writing process is somewhere between plotter and pantser. I need some idea of the characters and the conflict of the story to get started, but I allow things to evolve in the writing. So maybe the same approach will work again.
It was too hot here to thoroughly search my book storage area, but I just went and found my copy of Traitor’s Kiss/Lover’s Kiss. Somehow I missed the 2 sequels, so now I can go get them for my e-reader!
Never too late.
Susan in AZ
Hi Susan and I hope you enjoy the next THREE in the Pennistan series. Strangers Kiss, Courtesan’s Kiss and One More Kiss. It is going to be so much fun to venture back into their world through Michael and Olivia.
one advantage of this time is that when you read a book that you like and realize that it is the third (or fifth or tenth) book of a series, you can (after checking your local library) go on line and find the previous books – either a physical book or on an e-reader.
an addition to my previous comment – I do wish authors who write series would write a summary of the important parts of the earlier (tired of typing previously) book(s) before the current book begins. sometimes I have read all of the books in the series and still forget some important detail 9r details.