I'm saying goodbye to the Georgia Monroes.
When I first dreamed of writing for publication, my inspiration came from authors who wrote a series: a recurring character and her adventures, a series of novels about a family. As a reader, I loved stories like that.
Wouldn't a series, I thought, be easier than coming up with a new set of characters each and every book? I wouldn't have to create a new town or new back stories ... It would be marvelous!
And then after five books in, I finally sold a series idea, the Georgia Monroes, a rowdy family of firefighters.
I was pumped! This was going to be easy!
The first thing I realized was that I had more people to keep straight. In absolute frustration one day early on, I had to sit down and draw up a complicated family tree of who was related to whom, which sister was older, which kids belonged with which Monroe.
I'd always pooh-pooed those family trees at the beginning of those 1980s family sagas. Couldn't the author keep it straight?
Ahem. THIS author couldn't.
And then, when I thought that was smooth sailing, I realized, shoot, I've got to figure out the layout of the town. My characters in one book couldn't be visiting a different downtown than they would in the next book. The courthouse had to look the same. The fire stations had to be the same.
After that, though, I thought I was surely finished with all my notes. Until ...
Until I realized that Ma, the gentle and wise matriarch of the Monroes, had a different kitchen in book 1 and book 3.
I've never re-read my prior manuscripts as closely as I did for this series.
I hope I got it right. And I admit I have a lot more sympathy now for, say, Rex Stout of the Nero Wolfe detective story fame. Stout inadvertently moved the famous brownstone his fictional detectives lived in at least once, just by changing the house number.
The worst part about writing a series? I still have it to face. I have to say goodbye.
I've grown to love this family I created. I thought by now, three books in and one to go, I'd be sick of them. After all, the only way Agatha Christie could keep writing Hercule Poirot stories is that she wrote one where she killed off the famous detective.
But I'm not at that point -- this family has gotten under my skin, and I love spending time with them -- especially wise Ma, who always has a warm, home-cooked meal at the ready, with a side of sage advice. Oh, yeah, as my sister, one of my beta readers, says, everybody needs a Ma.
I think writing this last book in the Georgia Monroes series will be hard because it will be bittersweet. After all, it's going to be one long goodbye for me.