Thursday, September 07, 2017

Ten Books Later...

Alafair #1
Alafair # 10
When I first began writing the Alafair Tucker Mystery series in 2003, I had a story arc in mind that was going to carry through 10 books. This is a wonderful idea, but as anyone who has ever written a long series knows, after a couple of books all your plans for a story arc have been knocked into a cocked hat. The reason this happened, at least to me, is that I seem to be writing about real people who have their own ideas about how things should be gone about, and once I put them into a situation, they react to it in ways I had never anticipated. Besides, I really want readers to be able to pick up any book in the series and have a satisfying experience without having to know anything about what went before.

My original arc idea went like this: I would to feature a different one of Alafair's ten children as the character of interest in each book. The featured child would somehow be involved in the events surrounding a murder, and as their mother, Alafair would intrude herself into the kid's life, whether s/he wanted her or his parent's help or not, and in the end, Alafair and maybe the child would contribute to the solution of the mystery. As an aside, the featured offspring might end up with a life-partner.

I stuck with the formula through book one. As it turns out, I like to mix it up a bit.

The million dollar question for the author of a long series is this: How do you keep it fresh? How do you make every story stand alone, yet in its place as well? I have found over the course of ten books in the same series that I have even departed from the usual mystery novel format. The later books are constructed more like thrillers than puzzles, they may or may not revolve around one of the children, and Alafair may or may not be able to solve the mystery.

And now that book number ten, Forty Dead Men, is in the can and due to hit the shelves in February 2018, I’m wondering where I want to go from here. I have begun an eleventh Alafair and it is a big departure from the formula, but I have also started working on something completely different. Because if you aren't excited by your own writing, how can you expect your readers to be?

Speaking of repeating myself, let me remind you Dear Readers that I will be making a nine library tour of small eastern Oklahoma towns from Sept. 12 through Sept. 16. The September 16 event at the Muskogee Public Library will be particularly of interest, since after my talk at 11:00 a.m. I’ll be joined by fellow mystery authors Mary Anna Evans, Will Thomas, and Julia Thomas at noon for a mystery writers’ roundtable. Check out my entire schedule at my website. I hope to see you there.

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