When One Novel is Not Enough

It’s funny how you fall in love with certain characters and hate to see a book end. Then, you find that the character will reappear in a new novel, and you can’t wait to run out and buy it. It’s very popular now, especially for self-published novelists, to write a series of books and publish them simultaneously. One reason is that they can offer a book free to lure readers into wanting to read more about certain characters.

It’s a tricky business. Writers have to write self-contained novels. Nobody wants to read a book that doesn’t have a satisfactory ending. Conversely, no one wants to read a book that starts with the assumption that everyone has read the previous book so that the author doesn’t bother to fill in details or chronology.

I was thinking about this topic recently because I read another of Faye Kellerman’s Peter and Rina Lazarus mysteries. What struck me is that if characters are interesting and they are developed with care, readers really enjoy the sense of familiarity that comes from knowing someone well. It’s almost like greeting an old friend you haven’t seen for a while.

Pen-L Press will publish Silent Partner sometime in 2014. The novel contains two characters that have some depth. I’ve already written about half of the sequel. So, I’ve been grappling with the issue of how much retelling to do in the sequel. No reader wants a writer to stop a story to say something like, “John went through a series of adventures earlier. First this happened and then that happened….”

Of course screenwriters handle this situation sometimes with flashbacks, but that technique can be overused in a novel to the point that readers don’t exactly know where in time they are at any given moment in the book.

Another interesting issue of sequels or even series is that there are a few authors such as Kellerman and Michael Connelly who age their characters in real time. In the case of Connelly’s Harry Bosch, the detective has aged over more than twenty years until he’s facing mandatory retirement in a couple of years.

Of course I might say “from my lips to God’s ears” when it comes to aging Josh and Frankie in sequels to Silent Partner. If there’s reader enough interest for me to write enough follow-up books to age them over ten years or so, I’d be thrilled.

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