Friday, January 6, 2017

To Series or Not To Series...

by Janis Patterson

Yes, that is the question! And a fairly knotty one it is. There are those who say you can’t make money writing today unless you do a series. There are others who say that series are repetitive and creativity-killers. There are still others who bore easily and on the whole find series a great bore.

Then there are people like me who believe a little of all of the above. Of course, like the Red Queen I have been known to believe three impossible things before breakfast!

Seriously, I was never a fan of series since I outgrew my passion for Nancy Drew… though I still enjoy one of her books every now and then. As I bore easily, I always want something new, new people, new places, new situations… All of my novels since the beginning a couple of decades ago have been standalones with no crossover characters.

So why am I now writing not only one, but TWO series?

I have no idea.

I have always been a pantser who has characters walk in and start dictating to me instead of being one of those lucky ones who can outline stories and create personality sheets delineating each character in the book. They are creators; a lot of the time I feel more like a simple scribe.

My first series is about Flora Melkiot, an elderly widow of a jewelry store magnate who likes to live life just as she wants and is convinced that she could be good at anything if she just puts her mind to it. Usually she is, too, despite the fact that others regard her as a menace and a meddler. One police detective called her the ‘dark side of Miss Marple.’

Flora first appeared as a minor character in EXERCISE IS MURDER. Once the book was finished and out, though, she refused to leave me alone and – Flora-like – she eventually got her way. Of course. Her new adventure is profiled in MURDER IN DEATH’S WAITING ROOM, where after what she called a minor traffic accident (only a broken wrist) she has been put by her painfully conventional daughter into a rehab facility… against her will. Of course there are murders, and it’s a lovely romp. Her next book will be called MURDER AT FIVE TO ONE and set in Las Vegas and she is nagging me mercilessly to get started on it.

MURDER IN DEATH’S WAITING ROOM released this week in ebook format at the four major retailers. There will be a paperback version available as well, as soon as I can get past some technical difficulties.

I can’t give in to Flora now, though, because I am halfway through a brand new series start called A KILLING AT TARA TWO. This is about a contract archaeologist named Dr. Rachel Petrie (no relation, as she has to tell everyone, to the famous turn-of-the-last-century Egyptologist William Flinders Petrie) who is currently on the dig of an old plantation house in Alabama. She is much less pushy than Flora, but she too is urging me none-too-gently to get her series going. As a contract archaeologist she can work anywhere, and I already have ideas for stories in Peru, Boston and Bavaria.

In addition to this I am contracted for a couple of romances as my Janis Susan May persona. These are standalones – at least, I think they are. With my demanding characters one can never be sure. Plus, a darling friend of mine is enthusiastically urging me to write my memoirs as I have led such a varied and 'interesting' life. I haven't told her yet that I can't do that because some of the statutes of limitations have yet to run out!

So many stories, so little time. Sigh.

13 comments:

Jacqueline Seewald said...

Both series and standalone have advantages and disadvantages. I've done both as well. Several times now I've been asked by readers to please develop certain stand alones as series novels. However, I've only done that with my four Kim Reynolds mystery novels so far. I like trying different types of writing and themes. I don't want to be branded. Again--advantages and disadvantages. Wishing you continued success with your writing!

D Jess said...

Firstly, would love to read your memoirs Janis. Hope it's not too long before the statute of limitations runs out! I do like a good series with a great theme. But with stand alones there can be a little more variety.

Marian Allen said...

Both series sound great! I wanted to share the news on Facebook about the archeology book with my archeologist daughter, but FB only would show the cover of a kissing book by another author. I'll certainly share it with her when it comes out! I went to your Amazon author page (needs an author image) and followed you, so I'll know when your next book comes out. Be seeing you!

Marian Allen, Author Lady
Fantasies, mysteries, comedies, recipes

Stephanie Queen said...

Series seem to be the way people are consuming all entertainment these days--TV, movies, podcasts, etc.
I think the attraction is in getting to know the characters more deeply, feeling the sense of community with a familiar cast and familiar world. It's as if readers want to live in the book world for a while--if they like it there and fall for the characters.

I know that's how I feel when I read, and when I write series.

Of course, like even MASH, all good things must come to an end...

Maris said...

I always think I'm writing a stand alone. It's been fans who have urged me to write a second book with the same protagonist, and then a third. I have mixed feeling about reading a series. To give a reader a sense of what occurred in an earlier book in the series, yet not tell too much, can be quite difficult. With some series, I find the author spends a large amount of the book filling the reader in on what's up with past characters and little time on the actual mystery (or romance). I know the fans love this, but since I have no attachment to these characters, I don't care. (And no, Janis, I'm not talking about any of your books.)

Pamela S Thibodeaux said...

Such great information, Janis
Good luck and God's blessings
PamT

Lori L. Robinett said...

So funny . . . I've been a fan of series since Nancy Drew! I'm perfectly happy to read a standalone, but I particularly enjoy a series when I find myself connected to the readers. For instance, Diane Kelly's Above the Paw series and Janet Evanovich's Stephanie Plum series have characters that I enjoy reading about. In more serious stuff, I always liked Scarpetta and Marino in Patricia Cornwell's books. While reading a series, though, I greatly appreciate it when the author treats each book in such a way that it CAN be read alone. On a personal level, I'm working on a series of books that are similar in theme, each a standalone, but all have a widow as a main character.

Thanks for the post - look forward to both your series!

Lori L. Robinett
lorilrobinett.com

Morgan Mandel said...

I felt sorry for one of the characters in one book, so I had to make things better for her in another one so that's how my mini series of two books started. Hopefully, it can be expanded, but first I have another one that's a standalone to finish that was started ages ago.

Hywela Lyn said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Hywela Lyn said...

My 'Destiny Trilogy' started out as a short story - became a novel, then a secondary character wanted her own story - and then my favourite male character in the first book demanded the limelight in a story too - and I felt I'd shortchanged him somewhat in the first story so... although each book is a 'standalone' they're linked by having some of the same characters and although I never set out to write a series I'm really glad I did as it made me expand on ideas and concepts only briefly touched on in the first book.

January 6, 2017 at 5:20 PM Delete

Marilyn Meredith a.k.a. F. M. Meredith said...

Good thoughts, as usual. Right now I'm stuck with two series--but it suits me.

Ann Major said...

I have always preferred stand-alones--although I am a JD ROBB addict. And I am involved in republishing one series and writing a new one at the moment--because people say, that is the way to sell.

Shalanna said...

Readers ARE stuck on series and serials these days, it seems to me. I have two series in the mystery/suspense genre, but when they "jump the shark," I need to stop doing them. In fact, I hope not to jump the shark but find the perfect ending spot--you know, where Calvin and Hobbes take off on the sled and slide away into happily ever after.

Some stories do NOT NEED a sequel, though, and that's where it breaks for me. Mystery series books are generally about the crime and its solution and not about "the most important thing that ever happened to this character," but standalone novels are about just exactly that. Once the character has had his or her innermost demons/fears exposed and exorcised, and has gone through the character arc to come out on the other side as a better person or more enlightened or free at last, then our story is over and we should write the next one about someone else who needs such an arc. People write sequels to things that simply don't make sense. GONE WITH THE WIND, as a famous example. The story was complete. The tale had been told. We saw Scarlett come through it all, making a foolish error that drove away her true love forever, but deciding to live and press on, better for what has happened (mostly). We did not need another book. Readers imagined what would happen in the future and were satisfied within themselves.

So it makes all the difference what sort of story you are telling and whether it is character-driven or is a plotted deal with little character change, as most series mysteries are. The market shouldn't demand a sequel where the story is complete in itself. . . .