The grand winner of a set of the first four Survivors’ Club books (THE PROPOSAL THE ARRANGEMENT, THE ESCAPE, and ONLY ENCHANTING) in the blog contest below is Ellen Solensky. The winners of ONLY ENCHANTING are Jennie Coon and J Tang. Congratulations to all three, and many thanks to all of you who left such great comments.
I was remarking to someone yesterday, half jokingly, that as I close in upon the end of a series readers seem to be enjoying, I often wish I had made it larger. I have written six of the seven Survivors’ Club books and wonder why I didn’t invent twelve members of the club instead of seven. As I drew to the end of the Bedwyn series a number of years ago (the SLIGHTLY books) I wondered why I had not invented a family with twelve siblings instead of six. It is possible, of course, to begin a completely open-ended series in which, for example, the family concerned includes numerous cousins and perhaps several generations and can go on forever. But I have always chosen to write series that have a natural end. What do you think: finite or infinite? Which type of series do you prefer as a reader?
Readers have suggested that I write stories for the Bedwyn children, but multi-generational series have never appealed to me, either as a reader or as a writer–especially with love stories. When I finish a book, I want to leave the reader with the impression that this couple will live on happily (even though I try never to suggest a simple and unrealistic happily-ever-after). I want to leave them ever young, ever poised for the long and happy life they will have together. I don’t want to show them as older people, with adult children or even grandchildren. After loving Georgette Heyer’s THESE OLD SHADES, I did not like reading the story of Leonie and Avon’s granddaughter, in which book Leonie is widowed, I seem to remember.
The risk with series that just go on and on because readers keep asking for more is that they can grow stale. And they stop the writer from moving on to a new creative project. I often find the later books in a long series not as entertaining as the earlier ones. Sometimes it is even hard to believe that this comes from the same writer as the ones that so delighted me at the beginning. And I can understand that. Once I have finished with a series and moved on, I would find it very difficult to come back and write another edition. If I were to discover a long-lost cousin or sibling of the Bedwyns, for example, I would not simply be able to write the story. I would have to think my way back into that world of the Bedwyns in which I was creatively immersed for several years, and it would not be easy–or even fully possible, perhaps. So for myself–as a writer and even as a reader–the finite, fairly short series are best, at least when the genre is romance. What do you think?
To one person who leaves a comment below before the end of Saturday, October 25, I will send a signed set of the four Survivors’ Club books already published or about to be–The Proposal, The Arrangement, The Escape, and Only Enchanting. And to two other persons who leave a comment, I will send a signed copy of Only Enchanting. Good luck!
If you are a reader, one thing you will know for certain: no matter how many hours you read each day or how fast you read or how long you live, you will never have time to read more than a mere fraction of all the books there are to be read or even of the ones you would like to read. So…how do you choose? I will be really interested in what you have to say below.
How do I choose? There is no single answer, and sometimes I don’t even know quite why I read a certain book. But here are some criteria I follow:
–I read a great deal by author. Once I have discovered a writer whose books I enjoy, I will often buy on the name alone without having to see the cover or read the blurb or look at any reviews. I am rarely if ever let down by such writers as Georgette Heyer, Louise Penny, M. C. Beaton, Donna Leon, Susan Elizabeth Phillips, or Grace Burrowes, to name just a few.
–more and more lately, thanks largely to my author Facebook page, I read by recommendation. If a reader seems really taken by a particular book, I will look it up, read about it, and decide if it might appeal to me. I have made some really great discoveries this way–Jean Webster’s Daddy Long-Legs and Graeme Simonson’s The Rosie Project, for example, and the books of Ed McBain and Patricia Wentworth.
–I have a Kindle (a museum piece which I love) and check the Kindle Daily Deal each day. I don’t buy many of the offerings, but there have been some that I have loved, most recently Kay Bratt’s The Scavenger’s Daughters. A bonus pleasure with that particular book, and, in fact, with many discoveries, is that there are sequels, which I will definitely be reading.
–It is said that we ought not to judge a book by its cover, and that can be very true, but I do get attracted by certain covers and/or titles and stop to investigate. A few days ago it was Claire Cook’s The Wildwater Walking Club, which I thoroughly enjoyed, and yesterday it was Karen McQuestion’s Hello Love, which I am loving. Both authors have other books and will be added to my automoatic-buy list. And there are the quirky titles, like The 100-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared (Jonas Jonasson) and The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry (Rachel Joyce), both of which books are in my Kindle Favorites folder.
–and sometimes I will read a book only because I am hearing so much about it that finally I cave in to see if I can discover what all the fuss is about. I have discovered some real gems this way–the Harry Potter (J. K. Rowling) books (but only to Book 5–they were getting too long and unedited for my taste and had lost the sheer charm of the earlier offerings), The Book Thief (Marcus Zusak), The Hunger Games, to name a few.
–and then there are the books that the universe drops in my lap, not literally, perhaps, since they are books I somehow buy and read, though I can never remember afterward exactly why I did so. Why did I read Roland Merullo’s Breakfast with Buddha or Sharon Draper’s Out of My Mind or Brad Willis’s Warrior Pose? I don’t know, but I am very glad I did!
Please make your own comment below. I will love reading them. To two randomly chosen persons who comment before the end of Tuesday, Sept. 30, I will send my remaining two advance reading copies (with plain covers) of ONLY ENCHANTING, one month before its publication date on October 28.
The two winners of signed Advance Reading copies of ONLY ENCHANTING offered in my blog on villainous villains are Menna Withington and Cristina Harvey. Congratulations to them and thanks to all of you who left a comment. I always enjoy reading those. Stay tuned–I will be giving away my final two copies toward the end of September, a month before the publication of the book!
Among the questions I solicited from you a while ago were these three:
–From Edea Baldwin: “Have you ever written a character that you disliked intensely? Or must you feel some affinity with any character you write?”
–From Jeanette Harris: “Which of your characters have you liked the least and why?”
–Shelia Hudnall: “Just how often does a secondary character morph into a primary character for you? How often are you surprised when that happens? Or does it surprise you at all?”
I have created my fair share of villains. There are a few I would make different if I were to write the book now, because I don’t like what I think of as “silly” villains–that is, those who are evil for the sake of being evil and enjoy it. I think of some cartoon villains in that category. I like to consider the whole complexities of the human condition when I create characters, whether they be heroes and heroines or villains or neither. And with very few exceptions (I am not going to touch upon that possible extreme here) no person is purely evil. There are reasons for what people do, so numerous that I don’t think I can even begin to give examples. And most of us are a bewildering mix of good and bad. We are human! I like to create heroes and heroines in whom good ultimately prevails, though never in a purely happily-ever-after way. As the hero of the book I have just finished (ONLY A KISS, Imogen’s story) says almost at the end: “I want you to love me for my sorry self, which I will try very hard for the rest of my life to make worthy of you–and worthy of me. I can do it. We can always do anything as long as we are alive. We can always change, grow, evolve into a far better version of ourselves. It is surely what life is for.”
There are a few villains in my books that I regret. One of them is in HEARTLESS, which will be republished next summer. I have left him as he is, however, as I always think it is a bigger mistake to change an older book, when one is coming at it from a wholly different life perspective. I have a number of other villains who are unredeemed at the end and have never been redeemed in future books, though some readers have asked that it happen. Some of you may remember Lionel, villain in both DARK ANGEL and LORD CAREW’S BRIDE. I have never redeemed him, though I think I could! He is very human, but he had allowed self absorption and a good bit of sadism to dominate his character. The fact that he looks like an angel does not help him. Having created him and been inside his head, I can see that such a man is very unlikely to change unless he has to face some really cataclysmic event in his life. I prefer to let realism prevail in cases like Lionel. The same applies to a number of other villains in my books. They must be allowed to live the life they have chosen–or rather (to be fair to them) the life I have chosen for them!
And then there are the villains I have redeemed. Sometimes poor or downright wrong choices can land people in deep darkness. It is often easier to remain in it, especially if there are addictions involved, and even to spiral downward. And sometimes people, speaking and acting from such a place, do downright nasty things and cause other people to suffer. To emerge from the darkness, to make some right choices and keep on making them, to build a will of iron and an ability to take one step at a time without being discouraged by how many need to be taken, is obviously incredibly difficult. We all probably know such people or at least know OF them. But if they can do it–oh my goodness! My character Freddie was pretty nasty in COURTING JULIA, even going as far as to kidnap the heroine so that she would have to marry him and solve his money woes. And even at the start of his own book, DANCING WITH CLARA, he is plotting marriage to a plain, crippled woman who is also rich. But when Clara accepts his offer, she does so because he is beautiful and there has been little beauty in her life. She is not deceived for one moment by his apparent ardor. Freddie has to face suitable torture during the rest of the book before he emerges as a worthy hero for Clara as the end. I LOVE redeeming villains or bringing characters from a dark place to the light.
Does it surprise me when a secondary character in one book morphs into a primary character in another? Sometimes it is planned. Very often it is not. I will be searching around in my head for a suitable heroine for a hero I have in mind (or vice versa) and find the perfect character embedded in a previous book. I needed a heroine for Ann Jewell in SIMPLY LOVE, and up popped Sydnam Butler. I had not created either one of them to end up with the other. I needed a heroine for Flavian in the upcoming ONLY ENCHANTING and remembered that at the end of THE ARRANGEMENT he had danced with Sophia’s friend, Agnes Keeping. Guess who the heroine of ONLY ENCHANTING is. It is always lovely to discover a ready-made hero or heroine instead of having to start from nothing.
I have two more advance reading copies (uncorrected proofs, plain paper cover) of ONLY ENCHANTING, due out on October 28, to give away. I will send them to two people who leave a comment below before the end of August. Good luck!