Cara/Andrea here, thinking about the craft of writing today . . .
In the normal scheme of publishing, a linked series—such as a trilogy or quartet of books that features a closeknit group of family or friends—usually comes out in a leisurely fashion, with perhaps 9 months or a year between the stories. In some ways that timing allows the secondary characters to take root in the minds of readers and rather organically “grow” into their starring roles.
My publisher decided to turn that trope on its ear and do a consecutive release—three books in three months, starting in January. (So yes, the final story is out this month—Passionately Yours goes live on March 5th! You can read an excerpt here.) In many ways, it’s very exciting. Readers don’t have to wait very long to find out the answers to such questions as, “Ooooh, what’s going to happen between Anna and the Devil Davenport!” or “Please tell me that McClellan is going to be Caro’s hero?” But it can also present intriguing challenges for a writer. At least, it did for me.
The stories are the heart of the series, but the craft of creating the character arcs is elemental to having the books work together. Sometimes, that’s not so hard—in the past, I’ve often written about three friends, who have well-formed characters from the start. It’s simply a matter of how to slowly reveal their essence as they move from the perimeter of the ballroom out to the center of the polished parquet when its their turn to shine in the light of the glittering chandeliers.
But in my latest trilogy, I wrote about a trio of sisters, so it was a different sort of process. And with the books coming out so close together, I found myself far more aware of the nuances in character of Caro, the youngest sister and how to develop her over the first two books into someone with enough emotional depth and complexity to be an interesting heroine.
In the first book, she’s hovering on the cusp of womanhood, not quite out in Society, and longing for entree into the real world. She’s a budding poet, with an active imagination untempered by experience, so she tends to be dramatic, which amuses her older sisters. They see her as the baby of the family, and thus so do readers. Which is all very well for her secondary role in Scandalously Yours, but she has to change in order to come into her own and be an appealing heroine.
Perhaps I’m wrong about this, but it seems to me that having, say, a 9 month interlude before the next book helps make readers feel that a character is “growing up.” It’s a subtle message to be sure, but time softens perception. Change seems more natural—after all, we all change over time! But with the second book coming out in the following month, it sharpened my sense that I had to be very attuned to how I moved her along in her growth arc.
It helped that in Sinfully Yours, Olivia, the oldest sister and heroine of Scandalously Yours, was away on her marriage trip, so the dynamics of the relationship between Anna and Caro were already cast in a different light. As Anna struggles with inner conflicts, she cautiously begins to confide in her “baby” sister—and in turn Caro is eager to prove she can be a thoughtful listener and offer some words of wisdom rather than merely react with schoolgirl theatrics. And the truth is, she has changed—having played a part, albeit a small one, in Olivia’s adventure, she’s seen that deadly serious consequences can result from impulsive decisions. It’s matured her, and given her some of the life experiences she had been yearning for.
Over the course of the story, I try to show her biting back her first impulsive reactions and taking a moment to ponder a problem. That’s not to say I take the spark out of her. Caro remains Caro—the most romantic, emotional of the sisters, She‘ll always be fighting the battle between reacting with her head and with her heart. But that, I hope, is at the essence of her charm.
And now, in a few days, it’s her turn to step to the center of the stage and play the leading role her own story, Passionately Yours. Is she ready for the chandelier’s diamond-bright lights? After all, bright lights tend to magnify and accentuate every flaw. Well, she still has much to learn about herself . . . and about men. (Though we all know THAT subject takes two lifetimes to figure out!) However, I think she’s ready for the challenge . . .
So I’m curious—how do you feel about the quick release of a series? Do you like having all the stories come out over a short period of time? Or do you prefer the traditional release pattern of having 9 months or a year between books? And while I’m asking publishing questions, how do you feel about the e-book first release? How do you prefer to read your romance novels? One lucky winner will be selected at random from among those who leave comments here between now and Tuesday evening to win a digital copy of Passionately Yours.