Thursday, May 14, 2009

Thursday Talk-Time - Continuities


Please welcome back Gail Barrett, with some in depth info about writing continuities!


It’s May, and my first ever continuity book, a Silhouette Romantic Suspense novel called HIS 7-DAY FIANCÉE, is on the shelves. What is a continuity book you ask? Good question! Let me see if I can explain.

In the normal course of the publishing world, a novel gets published like this: an author comes up with an idea for a story, writes a proposal (usually several chapters and a synopsis), and submits it to an editor. If the editor likes the story, the publisher issues a contract, and the author then finishes the book.

With a continuity series, the opposite occurs. A group of editors at a publishing house gets together and brainstorms an idea for a series of books. The series is usually based on some sort of overriding element, such as a mystery that needs to be solved (that’s where the “continuity” comes in). Once the editors have developed the idea, they hire authors to write the books.

So this year, in celebration of Harlequin’s 60th anniversary, the editors at Silhouette Romantic Suspense decided to launch a continuity series called LOVE IN 60 SECONDS. The series consists of six books and takes place in glamorous Las Vegas, the playground of the rich and famous.

It kicks off with the murder of Candace Rothchild, a wealthy socialite. Someone wants revenge on the powerful Rothchild family, and has vowed to eliminate them one by one. To add to the mystery, Candace’s diamond ring -- a priceless family heirloom -- goes missing during the murder. Even more intriguing, this fabulous diamond has an unusual curse attached to it. In the right hands it brings love at first sight, and in the wrong hands, chaos ensues. (Remember, this is Harlequin’s 60th -- diamond -- anniversary, thus the title of the series and the significance of the diamond ring.)

The project sounded fun, so when my editor invited me to participate, I quickly accepted the offer. I was given the second book in the series, a good position for someone who has never done this before. I didn’t have the tricky task of setting up the series and introducing the overriding mystery. That job fell to seasoned veteran, Marie Ferrarella. I also didn’t have to worry about keeping track of the myriad of details that come out in the later books.

Once all six authors were on board, we set up a yahoo group so we could keep each other informed about what we were doing, clearing with each other any changes that might impact the other books. Also, we each received a copy of the “bible,” which is a packet of information the editors compiled about the main characters in the books, the setting, and the overall mystery that needs to be solved.

Since I’d never participated in a continuity series before, I was really curious to see what the bible would include. It turned out to be very detailed on some points, surprisingly vague on others. For example, the bible included photos of my hero’s penthouse and mansion, which was pretty cool, but nothing about what motivated him, his background, or even what his goals were. I had to fill in the blanks.

Although each author was responsible for writing her own book, we did collaborate on a few things. For example, since the diamond ring plays a prominent role in the mystery, we needed to figure out what it looked like. We spent a few days surfing the internet for photos of possible diamonds and passed them around. One of the writers told us about chameleon diamonds, so called because they change colors. We liked that idea so much we made our diamond a chameleon and named it Tears of the Quetzal after the colorful Mexican bird.

Before I agreed to work on the series, I worried that I’d have little creative license and would end up writing someone else’s story. This fear turned out to be unfounded. Although I did have some restrictions, I had far more leeway than I’d expected. I was given a general sketch of my main characters (billionaire casino-mogul hero, down-on-her-luck single mother heroine with an abusive past), details about the beginning and ending of my book to make it link to the others in the series, and instructions about a few characters they wanted me to work in. But otherwise, I was on my own.

Constructing the plot turned out to be more of a challenge than I’d anticipated. Not only did I have to keep the series’ mystery going (finding Candace’s killer and the whereabouts of the missing diamond ring), but I also had to come up with a high-stakes suspense plot that directly involved my characters -- and the two plots had to mesh. I also had to take care not to make my story too similar to any of the others in the series. In the end, I came up with a story with shades of Ingrid Bergman’s 1944 movie Gaslight, where the heroine fears she is losing her mind. I’d never written a psychological thriller before, and it turned out to be lots of fun.

As you might imagine, I was very curious to read the first book in the series, THE HEIRESS’S 2-WEEK AFFAIR, which came out last month. My hero, Luke Montgomery, appears as a minor character in that book, and it was fascinating to watch him in action in a story I didn’t write. And I must say that Marie did a great job with him. Luke is one very sexy guy!

As with any series, the best way to read these books is in order. You’ll get more information about Candace’s murder and the missing ring if you do.

But it isn’t essential. Frankly, since I’d never participated in a continuity series before, I wasn’t sure how much to show about the other characters, so I opted to focus mostly on my own hero and heroine. I do mention some of the other characters, but not so much that you’d be confused if you haven’t read the first book. You’ll just be a bit more “in the know” if you have.

Here is a list of the books:
Book 1 - The Heiress’s 2-Week Affair, Marie Ferrarella, April
Book 2 - His 7-Day Fiancée, Gail Barrett, May
Book 3 - The 9-Month Bodyguard, Cindy Dees, June
Book 4 - Prince Charming for 1 Night, Nina Bruhns, July
Book 5 - Her 24-Hour Protector, Loreth Anne White, August
Book 6 - 5 Minutes to Marriage, Carla Cassidy, September

(For more information on the series, click on the logo.)
If you’d like to read an excerpt from my book, HIS 7-DAY FIANCÉE, you’ll find it at my website:
http://www.gailbarrett.com/next.html

Romantic times called it: “Action-packed... a compelling, passionate love story...a lovely read.” And Cataromance said it's “Thick with hidden dangers and perilous intrigue, HIS 7-DAY FIANCÉE is a gripping romantic adventure. Your heart will be rapidly pumping along with the characters!”

So that’s the story behind my first-ever continuity book for Silhouette Romantic Suspense. Would I write one again? Absolutely. And I’m anxiously awaiting the moment the third book in the series arrives in stores. I can’t wait to see what happens next.

So what about you? Do you like to read books in a series? Have you ever read a continuity series before? If you do like series, is there a maximum number of books you’ll read before you call it quits?

8 comments:

  1. Very interesting post Gail. My slight problem with continuities is that I always seem to come in the middle. Luckily I suppose there are now e-books.
    I do know some readers love and adore them as it is a chance revisit and quickly revisit that world and see different takes on it.
    Good luck with yours.

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  2. I did my first continuity last year too, Gail, and it was great fun. Mine was a medical series (Brides of Penhally Bay) so we had great fun working together to populate a seaside village and come up with secondary characters. I was asked to take part in the second series, too, so it was lovely to revisit my hero and heroine and show their happy ending all over again. Margaret McDonagh and I decided the dog from my original continuity book would have puppies, so then we had the fun of naming them all and finding them good homes.

    I too was surprised by how much creative room I had, and it was really enjoyable.

    And even when you know what the storyline is (from the 'bible'), the finished book is always a surprise because of what the author adds - so I agree with you, you just can't wait to see what happens next!

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  3. I think it sounds fascinating, and what a fun project to be involved with. I haven't read this kind of series before, although I've obviously red series by a single author, and I do wonder how it works out from book to book. I will need to watch out for the first two titles and enjoy a Vegas fantasy second-hand!

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  4. Michelle - I have the same problem with series. I always stumble into them later on, too. That's one of the reasons I didn't focus much on the other characters, just my own. That way a reader won't feel lost if she hasn't read the first book.

    Kate- what a clever idea to use the puppies:))) I'll bet the readers liked that. I love dogs.

    Alison - I hope you get a chance to read the series. I haven't read a lot of multi-author ones, either, so it was a fascinating experience. And I'm so curious to see what the rest of the books are like!!!

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  5. Hi Gail. It sounds as if you had a blast doing this book! It sounds very interesting and exciting to be part of a continuity. I would imagine the most interesting part is "belonging" in so much that you are with other authors etc and not one your own. Writing can be a lonely life can't it?! I do like to read continuity books; but they have to be "stand alone" at the same time. Take care. Caroline x

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  6. Caroline - You're right. It was great fun to collaborate with the other authors. There were lots of details to work out, such as the name of my hero's casino. I also had to make sure that the start of my book matched the ending of the first book (we both show the same scene, but from different points of view). I actually miss the group now that my part is done!!!

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  7. I have started series in the middle, but if I know in advance the book comes from a series (say it's an author I haven't read yet), then I'll buy book 1.
    I read Harlequin's SuperRomance continuity Texas Hold'em and enjoyed those. This series was loosely connected to where it was okay not to read them in order or all of them (actually I read book 2 before book 1).
    I have read the first in the Love in 60 Seconds and do plan on reading the remaining 5.

    MarcieR

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  8. Marcie, I thought Marie did a great job with her characters, especially Candace Rothchild. I wasn't at all sorry when she got knocked off. I also got a kick over Harold's trophy wife and bratty kid:))))

    I hope you enjoy the rest of the series.

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