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Thursday, January 21, 2016

ON WRITING MULTIPLE SERIES by Alex Bledsoe - a guest post

Book series abound, from the cookie-cutter Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew, to John Updike’s literary “Rabbit” novels.  In fantasy, especially, the trend is to multi-book tales, stories that mimic Tolkein in being too big for one volume.  And I, like several contemporary authors, juggle more than one series, unrelated to each other and requiring completely different creative approaches. That can be challenging.

The easiest ones to write are my Eddie LaCrosse novels and stories.  Eddie is what’s known as a “sword Jockey,” essentially a private eye in a secondary-world fantasy.  Everything is written in his voice, first person, so there’s never any worry about the point of view.  He’s sarcastic, tough, but with a fierce sense of right and wrong, and he carries the weight of his past.  Those elements are the ones that readers expect, and I have no problem giving it to them.

The challenge, then, is in changing the things that aren’t part of those expectations.  For example, in the first novel, THE SWORD EDGED BLONDE, the story jumps in time to show parallel adventures of Eddie as both a young man and as the more mature character he becomes in the rest of the series.  It also globe-hops to several different locales.  In contrast, the second novel, BURN ME DEADLY, is a linear tale, set in one location.  The third novel, DARK JENNY, is almost entirely flashback, a story told over a cold winter’s evening.  WAKE OF THE BLOODY ANGEL is a pirate story, with all the accouterments of that genre.  And HE DRANK, AND SAW THE SPIDER is filled with riffs from the works of Shakespeare, mashed up in new (and hopefully entertaining) ways.

My other series, the Tufa novels, is based around a specific place, and a group of people rather than an individual.  There’s generally an outsider who comes in and shakes things up, and of course music plays a major part.  Since the same characters recur, a supporting character in one novel might be the protagonist of the next.  What remains the same are the mystery of these Tufa people, their origins, behavior and ultimate destiny, which runs like a thread through the more immediate stories.  Ideally, this helps build the sense of community, both for the characters and the readers.

The one thing both my series have in common, and this is very important to me, is accessibility.  As a reader, I’m always frustrated when I find book 2 or 3 of a series that looks interesting, but can’t be comprehended unless you’ve read the series from the beginning.  I want readers to be able to jump into my series at any point, so I make certain that each story is a stand-alone.  There are threads that, if you’ve read the other books, will give extra resonance, but I want the overall experience to be complete, whether it’s book 1 or book 15.

Every author approaches a series differently, and we’re all motivated by both our writing and our reading.  Whether you’re telling one long story, or a bunch of individual linked stories, it’s important to give your readers both what they expect, and at the same time throw them something new every time.

Alex Bledsoe is the author of the Eddie LaCrosse novels (The Sword-Edged BlondeBurn Me Deadly, Dark Jenny, Wake of the Bloody Angel and He Drank, and Saw the Spider), the novels of the Memphis vampires (Blood Groove and The Girls with Games of Blood) and the Tufa novels (The Hum and the Shiver, Wisp of a Thing and the forthcoming Long Black Curl).   If you want to keep up with him in real time, follow him on Twitter Facebook, and/or Google+.  His blog is updated at least once a week.  

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