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Saturday, July 30, 2011

So Series: Yes or No?

Series can encompass a variety of different things.  As a kid growing up, I loved the teenage mystery series—Trixie Belden, Donna Parker, the Hardy Boys, Encyclopedia Brown, heck, even the horribly dated Bobbsey Twins.  Nancy Drew was the one exception. Never could stand her. These books followed the same characters through a variety of adventures, hopefully learning a little something with each episode.  I graduated to Agatha Christie’s Miss Marple and the Mrs. Pollifax books when I was a little older, and those are much the same, except with adult characters and situations.  Then I discovered fantasy and science fiction. The Narnia books, Lord of the Rings, Robert Aspirin’s Myth Adventures, and so many more. Still the same concept though—same main characters, different stories.

But in romance, series usually don’t work that way. For a romance to be a romance, you have to take two (or sometimes more) characters from not being together, to their happily-ever-after. That’s pretty final. Although I have read a few great books where the romance continues to grow and evolve in a second book, (Jayne Ann Krentz has a couple good examples of this) that’s about the limit if each story is really a romance. So a series takes a different turn. Usually it’s a common world, town, family, or group (a Navy Seals team, perhaps) that have overlapping stories. Each book of the series features a different character finding that HEA.  So each book as a unique hero and a unique heroine. One of the great features of this kind of series is that you get to peek at the HEA of earlier couples. It can be kind of like catching up with old friends.

From a reader’s standpoint, I love series.  I love seeing that couple A is still together a few years later, maybe with children, or still helping to save the world.  I still have the first romance series I ever collected, Roberta Gellis’ fabulous Roselynde Chronicles.  She broke a rule in this series, too. The first two books had the same heroine. Yep. Her first HEA wasn’t so ever-after. Husband number one was much older and died while she was still in her 30’s, leaving her to remarry a man much closer to her own age.  I’m not sure you could get away with that in today’s market, but as Ms. Gellis was one of the founders of the historical romance genre as we know it, she did. I had the chance to meet her at last year’s RT convention, and practically genuflected at her feet.

Series have problems though. They can go on way too long. Then they run the risk of being repetitive or jumping the shark. There are a couple of very big names that I used to run right out and buy on release day. Now I get them from the library if I bother at all.  I totally respect author Linda Howard who said she wasn’t writing any more books in her MacKenzie (sp?) family series, because she didn’t want to have to kill off the parents.  Sometimes, you just have to let go.  And who knows? If she hadn’t, we might not have had all the NEW wonderfulness she’s written since.

As an author, I am learning about the pitfalls of series. Writing the last of any series is hard. There’s always a lot I’d written in that can’t be changed, so I have to write around things I might have changed if they hadn’t been set in stone by previous books.  I have to really work to make the final heroine different from the others—can’t have them all blending together.  Even names are a bigger challenge. But sales-wise, there’s a definite plus. When a new book comes out, sales do spike again for previous books in the series. And when you’ve written a character who’s just too cool to say goodbye to, it’s nice to be able to give them their own HEA. Right now I’m writing the last (planned) book in my Urban Arcana  series from Carina Press, the first of which, Motor City Fae, introduced a whole new world, with elves and werewolves and wizards in Detroit.  Motor City Witch was number two, and book 3 Motor City Wolf, comes out in August. I’ve pasted the blurb below. Right now I’m writing Motor City Mage, which wraps up the story arc and is scheduled to be released in March 2012. It is hard to say goodbye to old friends.

So yes, I’d have to say I’m in favor of the series concept, both as an author and as a reader. But if I ever drag one out to the point of absurdity, will somebody please let me know?

Right now, I'd really love to hear your thoughts about series in romance. Long ones? Short ones? None at all? Can a series go on for too long, or do you keep loving it no matter what?
Meanwhile, here's the blurb from Motor City Wolf,  just to whet your appetite.

Motor City Wolf
Urban Arcana Book 3
By Cindy Spencer Pape
Coming to Carina Press, August 29, 2011
Preorder link:

Less than a year ago, Fianna Meadows was a pampered noble in the Faerie court. Then she was exiled, turned mortal and forced to work for a living—in a werewolf bar in Detroit, no less! Still, Fianna has to admit her new life isn't so bad...particularly when it comes to Greg Novak, the bar's sexy owner.

For Greg, keeping his hands off Fianna has been a challenge. But his sense of honor won't let him get involved with a woman put in his care, even if Fianna is eager to explore her new feelings of lust. Resisting the temptation to claim her gets even harder when Greg's grandfather, the region's Alpha, orders him to marry and Fianna agrees to pretend to be his chosen mate.

Fighting his attraction to Fianna isn't Greg's only problem. Someone is killing werewolves and attacking other paranormal beings in Detroit. He vows to do whatever it takes protect both his pack and Fianna—even if that means giving her up...


rojo13864 said...

I love the series. I do have to agree on the Trixie Belden books..loved them and still do( and this is at 60 plus..ROFL!) Your series is new to me so I will be getting it soon!!

Cindy Spencer Pape said...

Rojo, I still love Trixie, too!

Anna said...

I adore reading series, but all the things you mentioned make me afraid to write one.

I haven't read your books yet, but I will definitely look into them. Always liked reading books set near my hometown.

Cindy Spencer Pape said...

There can be headaches, Anna, but they can be fun to write, too. I've been dying to write Greg's story since I first introduced him as the comic relief in Motor City Fae.

Jenny Schwartz said...

I love reading series. When you emotionally connect with a character, it's lovely to continue the journey.

On a side note, whenever I see the gorgeous covers for Motor City... I remember youtelling me Detroit is over 300 years old -- and there was I thinking it was only as old as cars! Ignorant Aussie ;)

Jeanette J said...

I always wanted to be like Trixie Belden and solve mysteries

Mara said...

I do love a good series. When I first started reading them, I didn;t get the whole different hero/heroine in each book. I was used to the same characters throughout the series. However, I've since really gotten into it and love when one of the heroes that I love finally gets his own book!

marajbrandon AT earthlink DOT net

Robin said...

I enjoy series, love seeing more of side characters from earlier books and earlier main characters, now side characters. They can go on too long, but that depends on the specific story.

Robin D
robindpdx (at) yahoo (dot) com

Stacie said...

I do love series. I think between 6 and 9 books is the ideal length. I'm dreading September 6th when two of my favorite series come to an end. The downside of a series is that you have to say goodbye to characters you love.

User1123 AT comcast DOT net

Cindy Spencer Pape said...

Thanks so much, everyone. Yes, Jenny, Detroit started as a French fur trading post, as it's located at one of the narrowest points in the St. Lawrence/Great Lakes system. Nothing's left of those early days, as fire destroyed it more than once, but there's still a lot of history here.

Laura Kaye said...

As a reader, I love series. I adore the opportunity to get immersed in a world I love again and again. As a writer, your thoughts are so spot on. I'm finding that now with the first series I'm writing. But it's also very exciting!

Good luck!

Laura Kaye
laurakayeauthor at gmail dot com

Na said...

I really like the covers for your books! I like series because I get to re-visit characters I care about and step into a familiar world. Even though everything is familiar I still want stories that are fresh to keep me interested. I want some sort of back story that will connect the books together.

Cindy Spencer Pape said...

Laura, despite the issues, I still go back to writing series almost every time. I can't help myself, I want to spend more time with my characters. And Na, good to hear about wanting the backstory. I tend to put in enough to catch you up, but not enough to put you to sleep.