Saturday, June 27, 2009

Wild Card Weekend - Series are seriously addictive!

Please welcome Louise Allen this weekend with a fab post about what makes a series fun to write!

Thank you so much for giving me one of your guest spots at The Pink Heart Society - it is great to be here.

I’ve been thinking about series a lot lately - the final three books in my Those Scandalous Ravenhursts series are out this summer, I finished work on the second book for an eight-part Historical continuity in the Spring and I’ve just started the second of a trio about sinful sisters from a country vicarage. And the project after that? Hopefully another 6-parter. I just can’t seem to think in individual books any more.

The fun for me is having a bigger framework to experiment within, plus the opportunity to develop characters and get a glimpse into their continuing lives. Readers seem to love series too, particularly meeting the hero and heroine of earlier books and seeing how they are getting on. Keeping track of the pregnancies and new babies is one of the toughest tricks. My editor asked me to shift the timescale of The Notorious Mr Hurst and I found I couldn’t, not without some very overdue babies at the end of it so, we had to work out how to address her concern in a completely different way. The prints of adorably cuddly regency toddlers are all from Ackermann’s Repository of Science, Literature & Arts.

The Ravenhursts are cousins and for their stories I enjoyed trying different styles and settings. With this year’s stories The Disgraceful Mr Ravenhurst has a frisson of gothic horror, The Notorious Mr Hurst is set in the world of the Regency theatre and The Piratical Miss Ravenhurst is a swashbuckling Caribbean adventure with a bloodthirsty pirate villain (modelled on my husband when he realised I wasn’t planning on taking him on a Caribbean research trip!)

Then I was lucky enough to be asked to contribute to a Regency continuity with five other authors: Regency Silk & Scandals. We’ll be back later in the year to talk about that experience - 2,000 emails of plotting later - but one wonderful aspect of that was being able to use other people’s characters, give them a little nudge in one direction or another and see your own characters developing in other author’s imaginations. Annie Burrows was very worried I was going to kill off her heroine’s favourite step-brother during the battle of Waterloo, so I had to make sure he emerged, battered but alive at the end of it.

After that I was expecting to welcome the idea of individual stories again - no colour-coded spreadsheets, pin boards covered in timelines or family trees, but it seems I am hooked. So now I’m working on three sinful sisters - the provisional title is The Daughters of Eve - and in September I’m off to the Isles of Scilly with another 6-part idea in my head.

I’d love to hear views on series from readers and authors - why are they so popular? Is it just the satisfaction of following familiar characters or is there some other factor?
After her struggles with charts and spreadsheets Louise Allen has three Ravenhurst titles out this summer - The Disgraceful Mr Ravenhurst (April UK, July North America), The Notorious Mr Hurst (July UK, August North America) and The Piratical Miss Ravenhurst (September in UK and North America)


  1. Great post Louise. As a reader what you've said as a writer is exactly why I love to read series, the story and character development it draws one in. I've recently read some incredible series by members of PHS, The International Billionaires (Rugby series) M&B....Olivia Gates Desire series....Susan Mallery's Lone Star Sisters HQN and coming up author Sandra Marton kicks off the House of Karedes.

    Your covers are beautiful and the series sounds very interesting.

  2. Fascinating post! I am full of admiration for anyone who participates in a 'continuity' - pulling together a plot just in my own head is hard enough without having to co-ordinate with other authors!

  3. Thank you for an insight into how you plan out your series, Louise. I've read all your Ravenhursts so far and am totally hooked on the series!

    As a reader I'm a huge fan of series because I love the idea of a "world" that the author creates which the reader can step into. I can't wait to follow the individual characters through their own stories and see them featuring in the other books too.

    As a writer I have rather mixed feelings about series! I'm the ultimate pantser and so the story keeps changing as I go through which creates loads of knock on problems for the other books in the series! On the other hand, I always love my characters and never want to say goodbye to them. I think that's why in my current series I have deliberately left a few of the characters' stories open so that I can come back to them, masochist that I am!

  4. Great blog Louise! I love continuity series - it's great to see previous characters come back to "life" and see how they are doing after all the angst they went through to get to the HEA! Take care. Caroline x

  5. Thanks for the positive feedback everyone - it is very reassuring to find that what I think is happening for readers really is occurring!
    And Nicola - I'm a pantser too (hence charts that get constantly updated and frantic colour-coding)- and I love your Brides of Fortune trilogy

  6. Really interesting, Louise. Like Nicola, I'm a pantser, too. I've never dared to do a 6 book series. Three is my limit so far (the Aikenhead Honours) and even though I knew the heroes intimately (!!), I didn't have a clue when I finished book 1 about how I was going to deal with hero 3 in his own book.

    I do agree though that it's great to be able to develop characters over more than one book. Also, if I've really fallen for one of my heroes -- as I admit I tend to do -- it gives me a bit longer before I have to give them up. Sigh.