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…