Why So Series-ous?

First, you’ll have to forgive the horrible pun–I’m still braindead from my recent trip to New York City and susceptible to bad judgement calls. Puns, the temptation to cut my own bangs, watching Sharknado 3 last night…

But I didn’t actually want to discuss the series of increasingly outrageous shark movies. I wanted to talk about book miniseries. I have a new book coming out! FALLING FOR THE SHERIFF will be available for download as an e-book starting August 1 and should be hitting bookstore shelves by mid-month. It’s the first book in my new small town series Cupid’s Bow, Texas.

It’s funny because for the first dozen books of my career, I only wrote “standalones.” It never occurred to me to keep writing about familiar characters or settings even though some of my favorite authors do just that. Kresley Cole’s Immortals After Dark hot paranormals? I am a HUGE fan girl. (Seriously. I have no dignity at all when I talk to her.) And, after discovering the first two, I read every Harry Potter book the day it was released, saw every movie and may or may not have attended the screening of Deathly Hallows Pt. 2 dressed as Luna Lovegood. (You don’t have the photo. You can’t prove anything.)

But it wasn’t until an RWA conference like the one I just attended that I heard Eloisa James give a workshop on writing your own miniseries that I had a lightbulb moment.Aha

I love fictional communities. I love picking up a JD Robb “In Death” book and seeing how the characters’ lives are progressing, whether it’s Eve & Roarke’s marriage, Peabody making detective, or Eve’s best friend having a baby. And let’s not even talk about the four zillion “Sweet Valley High” books I read when I was twelve. My favorite television shows are usually ones with a tight-knit community of characters, whether they’re the quirky employees of Pawnee, Indiana’s Parks & Recreation Department or a vampire slayer, her best friends and her Watcher. So why wasn’t I building my own community, book after book?

I have now done a few miniseries, such as the Colorado Cades trilogy and Four Seasons in Mistletoe, but those were finite. I knew before I started them that it would only be a certain number. Then I had to start all over, reinventing the wheel–coming up with a new place and all new people. My editors and I have left the Cupid’s Bow series open-ended and I hope to be writing them for a long time to come.

But if you’re going to write a series, there are a few things to keep in mind.

1) The sooner you start a record of all the characters, the better. Details will trip you up. Decide early when a character’s birthday is and what color his eyes are. Mistakes later will jar readers from your story. A record of overlapping plot timelines is also critical.

2) You’re stuck with the facts you create. If you have a secondary character who has five kids and you want to write her book later but five kids is too many to keep track of on page, you can’t suddenly pretend that one of them didn’t exist. Perhaps the child can go stay with Grandma, but you have to acknowledge the absence. Similarly, if you have an anti-hero type who would make an interesting protagonist down the road, make sure you don’t have them do anything in an earlier book that you can’t redeem.

3) If you don’t subtly create expectations, readers will develop their own. Sometimes I give a minor character a few great lines of dialogue and readers will attach to that character, sending me emails like “Will the cranky old postman have his own book?” It would be very difficult for me to convince my editors to buy a book where the cranky postman is the hot hero. So while I like all of my characters to be interesting and have some great exchanges, I’m working harder to make it clear with each book who the hero and/or heroine of the next book will be. That gives readers something specific to look forward and hopefully they’ll be invested enough to pre-order the next book!

Currently, I’m working on Book 2 in the Cupid’s Bow series (Falling for the Rancher) but when I’m done, I plan to go on a massive reading binge. What are some of YOUR favorite book series that I should check out?

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