Years ago I was at a conference chatting with a writer whose career had recently taken off to the kind of NYT best-sellerdom I can only dream about. I'd been reading her since her early days, and we'd exchanged a few emails back then so I felt emboldened to express sympathy over a scathing review for her most recent book in one of the industry magazines. (Please note, this is not an anti-reviewer blog post. I firmly believe that if someone took the time to read a book and wants to share his or her opinion on it, he or she should. ) This book was the third or fourth in the series that had really taken off for her and what had struck me and annoyed us both was the reviewers complaints about it because it was in a series. The review sneered about the characters getting more book time because they were "beloved." My thought was that revisiting beloved characters is kind of the whole point to reading series.
There's a point to this rambling. and like I said, it's not about reviews. It's about series. Right now I'm writing another book that has Joey and Aaron from Collision Course in it as secondary characters and they are about two pages from hitting the stage. I think back to that conversation with and I get nervous. Not about reviews, but because of wanting to do right by the story, my characters, and the reader. I want to deliver the kind of connection with the characters that the readers who've been asking for more will enjoy, while not pissing off anyone who reads it no knowing them. Sequels or connected books should always stand alone. I've come into series out of order and the writers have been kind enough to let me in. I've also been there since the beginning and enjoyed sharing with the writer that in-joke, a trace of "Yeah, that's how we go on" that feels familiar and cozy and like hanging out with old friends.
There's a reason series are popular, from my childhood friends like Trixie Belden and The Black Stallion to any of the latest series books gracing the bestseller lists. There's a reason publishers, authors and agents love them. They come with a built-in readership and following. Sometimes as a writer, they feel like the easiest and the hardest thing to do. The world buildings done—but you're stuck with what you've done before. There are characters already made, but you'd better not bore new readers with them or make assumptions.
And if it could unnerve a NYT bestseller like my acquaintance in the first paragraph, the weight of that expectation hanging pretty darn heavy on me as Joey and Aaron are making their way onto the scene. I'll try not to make them seem "beloved by all."
The book is Dylan's story and if all goes well, you should be able to get it when things get warm here in the Northern Hemisphere.
Several years ago, there was a minor schism among my mom and her five siblings. For the most part, things have been smoothed over, but some friction remains between my mom (the middle child) and the second oldest girl, Bev, who has always displayed the warmth and tact of a rusting ice-breaker locked in the Arctic. Needless to say, the chill which remains emanates from Bev’s side of the rift.
Just to give you an example of my mom’s family’s communication dynamic, when Aunt Bev wasn’t speaking to my mom, she sent her a Christmas card—but didn’t sign it.
So this morning, my mom is playing Words With Friends (a mobile phone app that’s like a Scrabble game) with her baby brother who sends the message: “Did you hear about Ed (Bev’s husband) being in the hospital?”
My mom played a word and sent back “No. What’s going on?” but there was no further response from him.
She called her older brother who is also still mainly in the rearward of Bev’s affections (such as they are). Apparently, Ed in the hospital on life support and has been given 48 hours to live.
How did I get this news? My mom sent me a note on Words With Friends.
The social network, taken to new heights (or the frigid depths) by my family. I wonder about the people in the family who aren’t on Words With Friends. How ever will they get the news? But hey, at least mom answered my return message. And she always signs my Christmas card.