Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Making Connections

No, this isn't a commercial for a dating service. The connections I'm talking about are connected books.

When I wrote FORBIDDEN TERRITORY (on sale now online and at a store near you! Buy early, buy often!), I deliberately gave my heroine two sisters with the idea that I might also write connected books for those sisters. As a reader, I have always loved connected books, like our own Gayle Wilson's Men of Mystery/Phoenix Brotherhood series, or Deb Webb's Colby Agency series. So I wanted to create the opportunity to build not just one but three stories out of the characters in my book.

And you know what? A good 90% of the fan mail I've received about FORBIDDEN TERRITORY since it came out has asked whether or when I would be writing stories for my heroine's sisters. Readers like connected stories, too. In fact, I'd say that when you create three of anything in a book—three sisters, three brothers, three friends, three firemen, three cops, etc.—your readers will automatically think "series."

Can this be a drawback? Certainly. When I sold FORBIDDEN TERRITORY, I had only a germ of an idea for the second sister's book, and no idea at all for the third sister's book. At the same time, the pressure to connect these three stories chronologically, without a book in between, has led me to focus on creating stories for the other two sisters, a focus that has enabled me to stretch my writing and plotting skills in a way I might not have had I not put that pressure on myself to come up with the connected stories.

Do you like connected books as a reader? What about as a writer? Tell us your story of connections.

10 comments:

Christy said...

As a reader, I love connected stories. If I've fallen in love with a character in a book, I immediately want to know if that character's going to get a story of their own.

As a writer, not so much. My first three books is a trilogy of friends. I never intended a trilogy. But in my first book, I fell in love with one of my secondary characters and had to give her her own happy ending.

Then, of course, in book two, this handsome creature emerged, and of course, you know what happened.

The biggest difficulty for me in writing connecting books is I always learn more about the character when I'm writing their story, so I often have to go back and change that one thing in the previous story. It's exhausting.

My next two are not connected and I gotta tell you, I was loving it that way until this handsome stranger walked in during my wip and all of a sudden, he's giving me that look.

Oh well...

jennifer echols said...

Paula--I bought your book at Wal-mart yesterday! Can't wait to read it!!!

My teen book coming out in August (MAJOR CRUSH) was conceived as the first in a series of four books set in a high school marching band. Sadly, my editor doesn't want me to write another band book until she sees whether the first one sells. (Buy early, buy often! Haha!)

I always write my adult books with the idea that none of the characters will be spun off into their own books. If I have to think about what happens in future books, I can't concentrate on creating a good, solid plot for the book at hand. But...I'm seeing this as a drawback, whereas Paula is seeing the same thing as a challenge--much more healthy!

Carla Swafford said...

I don't mind series or connected books. The part I dislike is when the author has to explain things that happened in another book. Boring! Sometimes I believe the explanation is necessary, but often it isn't.

Read your book, Paula. Loved it! The twists and paranormal effects were done perfectly. I can't wait for the other sisters' stories.

Paula said...

Thanks, Carla--I'm so glad you liked FORBIDDEN TERRITORY! And I know what you mean on the explanation front. I'm trying to keep it very basic in books two and three of the series--just a quick introduction to the other sisters, no dwelling on the other stories.

Jenn, I get what you're saying about the desire not to worry about secondary characters and their stories when you're writing one, but I don't really do that. I didn't know what the other sisters would be doing in their stories. I just introduced them with the knowledge, in the back of my head, that if they were interesting enough secondary characters, they might create a demand for their own stories.

Christy--I absolutely agree on the problem of going back and changing previous books to adapt to the book you're currently writing. That's one good argument for not selling the first book until all three are done! Wish I'd done that. Well, no, not really, since book three isn't finished yet. ;)

Kelley St. John said...

I absolutely love books that connect. Truthfully, I really love it when they connect in more than a traditional trilogy. I like for the characters and the story to grow deeper and deeper. LOVE those Men of Mystery stories that Gayle Wilson has tied together. All of J.D. Robb's In Death series books are a must read too. Kathryn Caskie just released book #4 of her quartet of the Featherton Sisters, another amazing series.

I think it's fun to begin reading a book when you already know some of the history and feel you know the characters already.

Kelley, currently working on -- you guessed it -- a series :)

www.kelleystjohn.com

Paula said...

Kelley,

I agree! I love Gayle's Men of Mystery books.

I'm using book three of the "sisters" trilogy to launch my next series, which is an interconnected bunch of stories involving a global security firm made up of former government agents from the U.S. and allied countries. All the men and women who work for the firm shared in common the traumatic experience of surviving a deadly embassy siege in a fictional Central Asian country. The hero in book three of the sisters trilogy is the guy who ends up opening the security agency.

Throughout the stories in this second series, there are two continuing characters--a very flawed good guy and a very complicated bad guy--who are like chessmasters moving pieces around the board in ways that affect each of the individual hero/heroine storylines.

I think it's going to be a lot of fun to write.

Gaill Wills said...

My most favorite connected romance series has got be those written by Bertrice Small. And all of you thought I was going to say Laurel K. Hamilton! I do enjoy reading and re-reading both of her series, but still Small is my all time favorite. It seems like I've been reading something written by her for the last 30 years, and she never fails to create full characters that you can't help but love, or hate, and she adds so much zip with her sensuous scenes, although I have to admit that they aren't as hot as some that will get my bottom lip nearly bitten off. I enjoy them nonetheless, and still sigh when I read them!

I'm working on a project now with the intent that it will be a series, but a series involving the same h/h and maybe ever-changing secondary characters, but the time-frame for each book is no more than 36 hours, so the same characters will be around unless they really tick me off and I have to kill them!

Deborah Matthews said...

I love connected books as well. J.D. Robb is a must for me.

The heroine in my current WIP has a brother and four sisters. Yes, in the back of my mind is an idea that each could have their own book. I have no ideas for any of them except "the beauty". Her hero will have to be someone who isn't impressed by her beauty, even considers it a liability. The others, who knows?

Carla Swafford said...

Kill off characters...yeah, I can understand that. You go, Gaill!

mary beth said...

I love them and I hope you write the sisters' books. :-)
With connected books, I think the author has to be careful--especially with books in a series (Stephanie Plum, Anita Blake, Eve Dallas). It's easy for returning main characters to get stale.