MÃ ili had an excellent bitch kitty rant about the inability to find a standalone book lately; all the books out there seem to be part of a series.
This is a problem that I have, too — it’s almost impossible to find a book that I can take home and read (my TBR pile is practically nonexistent; when I buy books, it’s usually for instant gratification) without being aware that there’s two – ten other books in the series that I’m missing out on. For self-contained romances, I’ve been heading the category way of late (but there are other reasons for this as well, which will be a different blog). I like series, but time-wise and other-wise, I just can’t afford them right now.
At the same time, I’m writing a series of connected books. Even worse: my books are tied together very, very tightly. It’s a trilogy, with a specific overreaching story arc that bleeds through all of the books.
That isn’t to say that the romance within the books doesn’t stand alone; it does. As does the primary plotline of each book. But I’m also aware that the events of Book #1 create the situation that frames the events of Book #2 and that the events of Book #2 will lead into Book #3.
And don’t forget the novella.
Am I trying very, very hard to give the reader all of the information that she needs to know to enjoy the specific book without reading the others? Yes. Does each book’s events wrap themselves up nicely? ….er, for the most part. There’s sequel bait all over the place in Book #1 & 2, and I hate myself for it sometimes. (But the other part of me is so excited about the storyline, I love myself for it. Ardently.)
I honestly didn’t mean to do it this way. When I first began writing Lilith and Hugh’s story, it was straightforward: a demon was going to try to tempt a fallen angel, and solve a paranormal murder mystery in the process. End story. I did create a secondary character–a vampire–to provide a foil for the demon, and to work as a device to bring her into the twentieth century…and the more I worked with him, the more interesting he became to me. And I thought, well, maybe I’ll eventually write a book about him, too, but it won’t have to do with anything that happens in Lilith and Hugh’s book. Except for the actual character, the story will be unconnected.
That story sucked ass. My editor rejected the proposal, but said: hey, why don’t you write a novella within the same world, and you can work out all the details of the mythology that way?
And I thought: Okay. That might be fun…let’s tell the story of how the demon’s vampire friend became a vampire. It’ll be about his sister and a Guardian. It can be unconnected too.
And then Michael popped up. “Shit,” I thought. “He’s a freaking asshole with a lot of potential. What the hell am I going to do with him?” And then I thought: “Shit, over the course of three books I can tell a story arc about Hell, and people who have been there and back. It’s like Milton fanfiction.”
Lilith and Hugh do something in their book that ends up freaking out a vampire population and having consequences for Colin in his book and Colin does something that has significant consequences for Michael in his book…and Michael’s actions close the story arc.
Or something like that.
And a part of me feels like crap for it — the reader part of me. I know people will be frustrated by the knowledge that the books aren’t completely standalone, and some won’t buy it for that reason. I think (hope) the individual stories are satisfying on their own, but I also sure as hell hope that if Book #2 is read first the reader will be like: “OMG! I have to get the next one/last one!”
It’s a good thing I pretty much have a split personality already (have you met Missy?) because otherwise I’d feel like the shittiest hypocrite that ever lived.
I won’t even get into the business/career-building aspect of series books. That wasn’t my thought when I started the series, so I can’t honestly say I was thinking ahead. And an author’s career choices really don’t have much to do with being a reader. Maybe it’s an excuse anyway; Lydia Joyce seems to be doing well with unconnected books. (They are unconnected, right?)
But there is something else that I wonder about — it’s not *worry* yet, because I’m not at that point: what happens when, in my head, this trilogy is over? I’ve got a story to tell, but it happens in three books. Then I’m done with it (maybe another novella). Right now, I have a single–maybe two-book–idea of a steampunk-ish world that I’m plan to propose. But there’s a very real chance that my publisher might say: “Er, your Guardian books are doing well; don’t eff up a good thing.”
And I’ll be like: “Okay.” I might say, “Can I do one steampunkish book and one Guardian book in a year to keep it all fresh?” or I might just say, “Okay, I have a completely different story arc to tell, and I can use the Guardian world because I gave myself a lot of room to maneuver, but it’s not going to be the same city, or use the characters from the previous books, or any of that–and, hell, they might not even really be Guardians, but maybe from a different realm.”
I don’t want to tell a character’s story just to tell his story — it feels like it should resonate within something bigger in the worldbuilding, and actually add to the overall premise. (It’s probably my Star Wars sensibilities.) Because that, to me, is where series end up losing me: when there’s no point to it anymore, except to capitalize on an original idea (except, of course, after ten books that original idea is hackneyed anyway.)
Unless the author’s really, really good. Or the idea is really, really good.
I don’t know if I’m in either of those places, so I’ll stop at three point two five (or three point five, if I write another Guardian novella).
Hehe. I’ll probably end up making a liar out of myself.