One of my favorite authors is Sue Grafton, who is best known for her Alphabet Mysteries, starting with A IS FOR ALIBI and currently at U IS FOR UNDERTOW. She is an enormously successful mystery writer and obviously has a good thing going with her long-running Kinsey Millhone series. Before she wrote A IS FOR ALIBI, however, she did write some other books that have nothing to do with the series.
I realize from your perspective, Dear Reader, that I've written one book. Uno. That's all. (in which case, you may also be thinking I've got a hell of a nerve to be blogging about writing like I actually know something! Well, you're right. I do have a hell of a nerve.)
But from my perspective, it's more like four:
• SHADOW POINT was published in December 2010.
• ROMEO FAILS is coming in February 2012.
• HEAVENLY MOVES is complete and why I am waiting until June to submit it to the publisher is something not even my own brain completely understands.
• Now I'm working on THE BOOK OF KELL. (although said brain is still fighting with itself - not mano a mano, of course - lobe-o a lobe-o? - over whether this should be the title...)
But these four books are not a series. Far from it. SHADOW POINT is a ghost story, ROMEO FAILS is a Midwestern tale of three women whose lives intertwine, HEAVENLY MOVES is a 1982 rock'n'roll murder mystery and THE BOOK OF KELL is a post-apocalyptic YA story.
Am I a literary flake who can't commit to a series? Flitting from one unrelated (or are they?) one-off to the next? Should I commit?
SHADOW POINT could definitely be the first in a series. HEAVENLY MOVES could definitely be the first in another series. I even have some rudimentary notes sketched out for books 2 & 3 with Madison and Pipe, and thoughts for more Heavenly Wilcox novels as well. It is a big commitment to just stick with one protagonist for a whole series of books, though. I mean, if it takes me roughly one year (maybe longer) to write just one novel, think of the time commitment involved with an entire series. As an author, you'd better REALLY love your protagonist and her world if you're going to live there for many, many years. I wonder if Sue Grafton ever found it daunting and overwhelming to think she had to stick with what she'd started in A and keep it going through B, C, D, E...
On the other hand, if someone told me I'd make a million bucks for every sequel I wrote to SHADOW POINT, I'd be all over it!!! Heck, if I could make even a modest living from writing a series, I'd commit in a heartbeat.
I'm not reluctant to write a series, actually. (Nor do I want anyone to think I suffer from fear of commitment. I'm highly committable.) It's just that I have all these other ideas bouncing around in my skull, clamoring to be written next before I revisit Madison McPeake. And the fact is SHADOW POINT's only been out in the world for six months. People seem to like it. Not everybody, of course! Not everyone has such good taste as you and I, Dear Reader!
So, do I plan to write a sequel to SHADOW POINT? Absolutely! Should I be working on that now instead of another one-off, THE BOOK OF KELL? Well... It's unlikely that I'll ever get rich from writing the books I write. That's just reality. A silver lining of that reality is I'm pretty darn free to write whatever I want. Which is not a license to bore. I write books that I would like to read. Entertaining, sometimes amusing, slightly thought-provoking commercial fiction. Other people may have important things to say - not me! What a relief, to not have to worry about that!
As a reader, I love a good series. (emphasis on good) As a writer, I see lots of different challenges associated with writing a series. As a blogger, I'm wondering if this blog is too damn boring.
Blistering, unvarnished honesty??