Thursday, April 20, 2017

A series of ripples...

Helen DePrima

We’ve all heard: “Write the book you want to read.” To that I’ll add – create the characters you want to know, individuals you quickly come to care about, to cheer their triumphs or weep with their woes. Even better, by design or accident, characters who allow you to follow their lives beyond The End – a series.

I’ve always been a great fan of novels which continue in a series; my favorite is Elisabeth Ogilvie’s Bennet’s Island books, nine in all -- a multi-generational saga of a lobstering community off the Maine coast. Ms. Ogilvie wrote High Tide at Noon while still in her twenties and the final episode, The Day Before Winter, at age 80.

When I wrote Into the Storm, the first novel in the Cameron’s Pride series, Jake Cameron’s sons and daughter acted as supporting characters in his and Shelby Doucette’s drama. At The End, I regretted telling them all goodbye, but not until my agent presented with me with a three-book contract was I able to give each member of the family star billing. It’s been a thrill to receive letters from readers asking, “When are you going to write about Tom or Luke? Or Lucy?” Even more gratifying, I get questions about my characters’ personal lives, as if they have indeed come to life and continue to work cattle and horses on Cameron’s Pride in the shadow of the Colorado Rockies.


The third book in the series, Luke’s Ride, was the hardest but most rewarding to write – how to tell a story of great challenge while still promising hope and redemption. I hope I’ve delivered – my readers will have to decide.

Liz Flaherty

I didn't--ever--set out to write a series. For a bunch of excuses reasons. My attention span is too short. I'm too disorganized. I might get bored. I might not be able to finish what I started. I might run out of stories or people or houses for them to live in--I do write rural/small town after all.

But then I wrote Every Time We Say Goodbye. About this pretty little lake in central Indiana where the businesses are named with Cole Porter song titles and a wreck that happened on prom night all those years ago. I loved the book, and there must have been some subliminal reason that there were 11 people involved in that accident...

It Was Written in the Stars (working title) will be a December Heartwarming release. It's the second book about Lake Miniagua and the people whose hearts have been broken and healed there. I'm working on the third one.

Poet Seamus Heaney saw life as "a series of ripples widening out from an original center." That was how my experience with writing a series came about. Although most of those excuses in the first paragraph have come to pass, I am having such fun with those ripples.

29 comments:

  1. It is hard to say goodbye to our characters, isn't it Helen? Often, I like to create characters I'd be friends with in real life.
    Liz, my attention span appears to be shrinking, the older I get. :(

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    1. Mine, too, Jill. So many things to pay attention to and so little time! :-)

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  2. I didn't set out to write a series, but my K-9 Trilogy turned into the San Diego K-9 Unit series, with the upcoming release of Home to Stay. As Helen said about her series, huge thanks to readers who wanted me to tell rookie K-9 officer Shannon Clemens' story. So, Helen, I'll add my voice to say I hope there's more to come in your series!

    And Liz, I am happy to know that the second book will release in December, and hopefully there'll be nine more books to follow! :)

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    1. Lol. Not nine for me, Kate, but hopefully a few!

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    2. Hi Kate -- I imagine a series dealing with police work of any kind offers endless possibilities for continuation, with new characters appearing on the scene. I'd love to write more about Professional Bull Riding -- so many fascinating personal stories, like Bonner Bolton now competing on DWTS after a paralyzing neck fracture.

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  3. It's so wonderful to read how other authors find inspiration and motivation. Like you, Liz, I've never thought of doing a series but it's so hard to say goodbye to our characters and especially, some of our secondary characters. As you two have discovered, the joy of writing is creating a whole community of people. Looking forward to these new additions to your worlds.

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    1. Community is the right word, Janice--the writer sure does get invested in it!

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    2. Hi Janice -- Yes indeed, creating a complete world is one of my favorite parts of writing. I belong to the "use a real locale and then research the hell out of it" school of thought. I research endless: where are the thrift shops in Durango, what's the name of the supermarket there (Albertson's), could my heroine really hear the Animas River from her bedroom window? And as you say, I love my secondary characters, especially the Cameron's Ute connections.

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  4. I have to add a fangirl comment here. Like Helen, I cut series-reading teeth on Elisabeth Ogilvie, starting with her books for teenagers. I still think she's written some of the best fiction there is. She turned Maine into one of my favorite places, regardless of the fact that to this day I've never been there.

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    1. Liz, Maine is just as wonderful as Ogilvie describes; I'm lucky to live close enough for day trips and weekends from New Hampshire.

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  5. I hadn't set out to write a series, either, but I did with my cowboy romances in Western. I liked having the same town to come back to--the same streets and stores. It's funny, because I liked the familiar geography first, and then the familiar characters second. While having the town peopled by previous heroes and heroines can tie my hands a bit when writing the next story (Sorry, she doesn't have kids! Or, he's too young to have been around when that happened, etc) I do like the challenge. :)

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    1. It definitely has its challenges, doesn't it? I admit that when it comes to writing preferences, I like a blank canvas best, but there is real joy in a series--both the writing and reading of it.

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    2. Hi Patricia -- Oh yes, the all-important time line. I take great care with that because I love mystery novels. Mystery readers are relentless nitpickers so any discrepancy sets my teeth on edge. I also keep a log of characters' names beginning at page one as well as animals' names and characteristics, important factors in writing about ranch life.

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  6. Ladies, this post made me smile. I didn't start out to write series either and here I am in the midst of two different ones. I envy those writers who can see far ahead, coming up with proposals for multi-book series and outlining numerous books at once. I can barely focus on one. (I struggle to think past the next chapter.) Congratulations on both of your series. Looking forward to many more books from you both, set in the Rocky Mountains and on the shores of Lake Miniagua.

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    1. Thanks, Carol. It's amazing the directions being a writer takes you, isn't it? :-)

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    2. Hi Carol -- I'm in awe of a writer who can handle two books simultaneously. I'm obsessively sequential, can't start a new tube of toothpaste until the old one is squeezed flat. I do have a couple of projects whining for attention, a novel set in Maine and a mystery series set in my native Kentucky -- which will win out?

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  7. I feel at times like it really is the smallest of small worlds. I was a librarian for three years in a small town, Rockland, Maine, and I started my writing career while I was working there--writing articles for various publications. Elizabeth Ogilvie was ICONIC! in Maine and when she came to the library for a talk (something she seldom did, actually) the other four librarians were beside themselves with excitement about seeing her. She was new to me, but to them! The fact that a coastal island was her setting made a big impression on me, and without question, her series format was a huge draw. The library was sure crowded that day. I caught the excitement, too. Thanks so much for bringing her up, and all the best on your series.

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    1. Oh Virginia, how I envy you! I would have so love to meet Elizabeth Ogilvie; her chronicle of Joanna's and Nils's marriage saved mine more than once. I did have the pleasure and honor of meeting and then corresponding with another wonderful Maine author, Gladys Hasty Carroll as well as Elinor Graham who wrote Our Way Down East.

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    2. Carroll was a favorite of the library patrons--the Ogilvie books were always on hold, too. I haven't heard anyone mention Joanna and Nils in so long! How fun. I was in Spruce Head Island last fall and stopped into the library in Rockland to have a look at the updated Carnegie building. I'm glad you live close enough to visit Maine often. Those five years I lived there were a true adventure in so many ways.

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  8. I've always loved reading series, both for the familiar setting and to see what the old characters are up to now. I've just finished Luke's story and it was so inspiring. Loved Dude the horse. Liz, I'm looking forward to spending more time in Lake Miniagua in December. I'm sure it's lovely that time of year.

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    1. Thank you, Beth. I love reading series, too--particulary Heartwarming series .

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    2. Hi Beth -- so glad you found Luke's Ride inspiring. I tried hard to show his doubts and struggles while maintaining the authentic "cowboy up" image; I'm big on authenticity. And yeah, Dude was a fun "character" as was Stranger the dog in the first two books.

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  9. I'm with Carol. I sometimes am juggling two different series at a time :)
    I'll definitely have to look up Elizabeth Agilvie.

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    1. I don't know how either of you does it, and you both do it so well. I'm writing two stories at the same time now and it's driving me a little closer to one of those edges I just know I'm going to fall off of sometime.

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  10. Great post, Liz. My newest wip is the first of a series that I thought of back in high school. After reading your post, I think I may be starting my series with the wrong character. You've given me some great ideas! Thanks.

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    1. That's cool! I think that has happened to me, too.

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  11. I used to feel like series weren't for me, and then I started reading Heartwarming books and longed to know what was going on with so-and-so. Now I love series romance books.

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    1. Nora Roberts started me on series back when she wrote about the McGregors. I loved those books. We're so glad to have you as our star reader, Laurie!

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