At one point, I wasn’t sure I’d ever write a series.
I may have been biased by the fact that I grew up in an era when most movie sequels were numbered. They didn’t even attempt a different title. After all, according to the legendary redneck B-movie critic Joe Bob Briggs, the cardinal rule of a sequel was to make the exact same movie. Every time.
Now, I loved reading series when I was growing up, from Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Little House books to Virginia Coffman’s Lucifer Cove novels. Heidi had two sequels that I know of, and I read them repeatedly. But in my own writing, I guess I thought a series could lead to B-movie syndrome. I might start repeating myself.
Then, last year, I wrote a book set in the fictional Southern California mountain town of Tall Pine. A funny thing happened. Secondary characters, who have always been fun for me to write, started tapping me on the shoulder. They hinted – rather insistently – that they wanted stories of their own.
And as I started to imagine the right romantic matches for these characters, I realized there was no way I’d end up repeating myself. Hero B might like the woman Hero A fell for in Book 1, but he definitely needed a different type of woman to fall in love with. As a matter of fact, Hero A and Hero B were such different people, they didn’t even like each other much.
And those two people, over there … what if they were exes?
Before I finished writing Book 1, the town of Tall Pine was already populating itself with characters I knew I wanted to spend more time with. Not just romantic leads, but the folks who ran the local businesses, argued with my hero at town council meetings, or poured coffee at the little café on Evergreen Lane.
By the time I finished revisions on Book 1, at a point when I’m usually ready for a breather, I was scribbling down scenes for the next book. And the one after that.
Planning this series has been a rich experience for me. It’s made me think, more than ever, about the backgrounds and experiences that make us all different. And it’s got me sketching out local landmarks, so I don’t have a character turning a corner the wrong direction and walking right into the pond I put there in Book 1. I’m hoping readers will get “lost” in my little town right along with me.
A series can be a comfort zone for both the writer and the reader. But it can still be a place to grow, just like Laura in the Little House books.
Are you addicted to a series of books? Which stories have transported you to a place you’ve wanted to return to again and again?