To be continued…

Series stories are on my mind. I just finished writing a long series I’d been working on for years under my fandom persona, and I’m also reading book number 8 in Charlie Cochrane’s Cambridge Mysteries series. I’m delighted there’s another one coming after that. And 9 is an ugly number, Charlie, 10 is so much nicer… Lee Rowan’s Royal Navy series is another favourite. I’m looking forward to Geoffrey Knight’s next Fathom’s Five book too.

Series stories must appeal to me. Not a serial as such, but following the same characters through several mostly stand-alone but linked books. Outside the m/m genre I’m fan of Terry Pratchett’s Discworld series, with its recurring characters, similarly, The books of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy series by Douglas Adams, Bernard Cornwell’s Sharpe series, Sherlock Holmes of course, E. F. Benson’s Mapp and Lucia books, Thursday Next, Dexter Morgan, Horatio Hornblower. I could go on and on.

In my own writing, I tend towards a series. The books I’m currently working on don’t follow the same characters from book to book, but they are in the same universe, sometimes use the same locations. (There’s even a cameo in Stowaway – assuming it survives the editing) from one of the secondary characters from Liar’s Waltz. But that’s not really a series for me, just related stories.

And I’ve always been someone who’s more “into”, in the sense of being an active fan of, TV shows than movies. And the movies I am into will often be in a series, like The Lord of the Rings for example. I have a saying that a movie is a one might stand, but a TV series is a relationship. And I’ve been particularly happy with the modern trend for series and season arcs, as opposed to interchangeable standalone episodes. Basically, if you can say about a show “it won’t make sense if you haven’t seen every episode” that’s the kind of show I like.

But back to books. I think a series following the same characters is a tricky one to pull off in the romance genre, because it’s hard to balance the Romance novel structure with leaving things open enough for new stories about the relationship. Lots of the series books seem to be mysteries, The Cambridge Mysteries, Josh Lanyon’s Adrien English series and I’ve got another historical mysteries one I’m going to try out, The Inspector Raft mysteries by J.S. Cook. Now mysteries and the detectives who solve them are great for a series! There’s always some new crime for them to solve and to show off their brilliance along the way. And where you have a detective you nearly always have a sidekick for them to talk to. So it’s not hard to put the two together as a couple.

But what then?

If the relationship remains the same in every book it can be a bit dull. Readers want to see it growing and changing, as any couple’s relationship grows and changes. But sometimes that means they’ll have tough times, may even appear on the verge of breaking down entirely. But a Romance has to have that happy ending, so do they need to resolve the difficulty by the end of the book? Or can the writer say that any one book in the series is just part of the overall story and therefore only the final one needs the “and they lived happily ever after” ending? That everything else is just bumps in the road on the way there?

Maybe this is another case where more of the m/m genre needs to break out of the assumption the story has to be of the classical Romance structure and expand its horizons. Some are definitely already doing so and I hope to see more in the future.

And me? I could see me writing a series, they definitely come naturally to me. I just need to find the right characters and situation.

Watch this space…


13 thoughts on “To be continued…

  1. as a writer I’m not interested in series (serieses?) – I’ve been asked for sequels for just about all of my books and I can’t see myself doing them (despite that fact that I’d like to write more about Fleury at some point–perhaps I’ll ditch him in america and write about his earlier life?) because I don’t think I could sustain the interest in the characters for mere romance. as you say, if the books follow a genre other than just romance it can work, the detective novels work well and Teddypig was asking for a fantasy m/m with barbarians etc–that would do well too (although I’m always banging on about The Steel Remains by Richard K Morgan who does a great gay barbarian….

    But as a reader I LOVE books with lots of follow ons – and I generally rush out and buy all of the books when I fall in love with the first one. This worked well for Hobbs assassin and fool series, and for George Martin’s books, but not quite so well with Dune… Nuff said…

    1. I’ve got wary of rushing to buy all of a series after a couple of series I was enjoying took a turn for the worse. I generally take it one at a time now.

      It’s probably best if the writer has at least an inkling that a story will be part of a series, rather than only thinking about sequels later. Not saying it all has to be planned out ahead, though I did find that very useful in my series. It let me set things up to bit the characters later on well ahead of time.

  2. Sometimes I think I’d be more interested in romances if they were about one person (versus a couple) and then a series of stories about the (ahem) encounters that one character had. I guess there would have to be a fairly strong secondary plot for that to work (although writing/reading about somebody slutting around could be fun :D)

  3. I’ve enjoyed certain romance series where, as you say, there’s a strong other element like a mystery – Jordan Castillo Price’s PsyCop novels being a good example. The only other times I think writers make it work in a more straightforward romance, is when they write about secondary characters that appeared in their first book. Marie Sexton’s Coda series did this particularly well. Otherwise, as you say, they have to throw massive obstacles into the supposedly happy ever after, which can rather ruin the feeling you got from the first book.

    I wonder if I’ll ever end up writing a sequel to my first novel? I have ideas involving one of the supporting characters…

    1. Yes, I’ve read a few where characters who have small roles in one book then get “their” book later on. It can be good, though if it goes on fir too many books it starts me make me wonder if there are no happily single people in this circle of friends!

  4. I love reading series (can I add Patrick O’Brian and Christopher Fowler into the mix?).

    I think. if you’re writing a series, yo ucan have a series of ‘classic romances’ because Happy ever After doesn’t necessarily mean happy every single day. Even the longest standing relationships can have rocky times – facing crises, dealing with temptations, working through misunderstandings. If you use a light touch hopefully it won’t feel contrived.

    1. I like what you say about a light touch there. Keeps it from slipping into melodrama. Certainly fictional characters have more dramatic lives than the rest of us, but if they start having so many problems I begin to wonder why they are still together, I’ll probably stop reading! I like how in your series they’re usually facing the same kind of emotional problems as any other couple might, but the need to keep their relationship secret adds the extra twist to up the drama level above the mundane.

  5. I think that’s why I like Charlaine Harris’ Sookie series. There is romance but it gets very complicated. And though there’s a sort of happy ending, it’s not always about the romance.

    I read Anne Rice too (theme here… vampires, witches). Harry Potter and Lord of The Rings.

    But notice they do have a ‘fantasy/supernatural’ element.

    Yes, too hard to do in romance genre generally. As you say, hard to keep the relationship going. I did do it in fanfic, but that’s because I dragged out the ‘romance’ as in, I didn’t let them admit their feelings for one another for a long time.

    1. agree with what you say, Theresa, fan fic is a little easier for romance i think because people want the whole will they won’t they–and this works in tv series too, have you noticed? But in books they’d soon get fed up by book three if they were still dancing around each other!

      1. And on TV shows when they do act on the UST it often just ruins the show! Suddenly nobody is interested in them any more. The tension is gone for everyone, not just the couple. On the other hand it can work – if the acting on it is just the start of a whole new set of problems!

  6. I like series, and prefer those that follow the same characters all the way through, which is definitely easier in the mystery genre. If there’s quite a large cast then you can always have the relationship element focused on different characters or couples from book to book. Kate Ellis does that with her Wesley Peterson stories, although she’s less good on the LGBT recurring characters than on the het relationships of her main characters.

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