Tuesday, January 05, 2010

Hitting Reset

Just before Christmas, my agent, wise woman that she is, pulled me aside, arm metaphorically draped over my shoulder, and tried to get me to see reason. “Publishers are really looking for a series, Rick. You have to seriously think about doing this.”

Let me explain. I really have never wanted to do a series. I have several strong reasons. They range from “Everyone else is doing series, so is it a good idea to do it because everyone else is?” to “I think having a music theme to every novel that I write gives a ‘series feel’ to my books. Even though readers don’t know who they’re going to get, they do know what.” I also feel that working with a series character makes it much harder to cast my net widely to encompass any sort of music. I mean, an opera singer isn’t going to necessarily hang out with a punk band one week and a jazz trio the next, is she?

Yes, I could develop a cop/PI character whose beat takes in the music scene. He/she could also have an abiding interest in music or even be a part-time musician, and that could help fuel plot lines. But I really wouldn’t have any abiding interest in that. Things like that have been done far too often.

But the overriding reason I haven’t been interested in writing a series is that I know I would get bored with my characters in pretty short order. Hell, I get bored with most authors’ series characters after around five books. That’s usually the point where they have to start throwing everything but the kitchen sink of life’s vicissitudes at the poor sod in order to keep the series “interesting”. That sort of thing get strained pretty quickly to my mind and I don’t want to go there. And what if a fair number of readers don’t find that series character all that compelling? Well, they’ll just move on, even if they liked the novel.

But agent and writer did have a good conversation. People who know me are aware that, while I may have strong opinions, I also am an empathetic listener and can be swayed by a good argument. Patty gave me one: “I’ll be able to sell your new novel a lot more easily if you give them a series. Really. One-offs are harder to sell in crime fiction.” That’s a pretty potent argument.

So we kicked the subject around for awhile, mostly a matter of her letting me talk myself into it.

But I didn’t give in completely. And I may have come up with something clever that will allow me to do what I feel I need to in order to write interesting and somewhat unique novels, while giving the publishers and my readers what they probably want: recurring characters.

Stay tuned...

Oh, and a Happy New Year to you all. May you prosper in 2010!


John Corrigan said...

Isn't the point of "series" fiction to give the reader what they are repeatedly looking for? To brand the books? If all books offer a music motif, I'd call it a series.

Vicki Delany said...

Keep me posted, Rick. My new agent has my standalone.

Rick Blechta said...

John, unfortunately, it appears that publishers need to be hit over the head with a literary 2x4 in order to get it. I'd call it a series, too, in the way that Dick Francis basically wrote a series.

But my agent (and I bet Vicki's new agent would say the same thing) pointed out that Dick Francis was long ago, as in he hasn't written much lately and his popularity has waned somewhat. Publishers apparently REALLY want to buy a series, meaning the same characters appearing in every book, rather than the same topic being carried on from book to book.

So being the book-whore that I am, I'll do what the expert suggests.

Charles said...

Yup. Been there.

Rick Blechta said...

You should talk to Vicki's new agent. I bet she'd tell you the same thing!