Friday, January 14, 2011

Guest Blogger - Evelyn Vaughn

We're really excited to welcome Evelyn Vaughn to the Playground today! She's had a very long and illustrious career and I'm excited to learn as much as I can from her. So let's all pull up a swing and give her a big Playground welcome.

I Love a Series—Maybe Too Much

So who here loves a good book series? And which kind do you like more—a series in which the same character continues (like Bella in Twilight, or Stephanie Plum) or a series in which each book brings you a new-but-related couple, like Cindy Dees “Medusa” books or most of Nora Roberts’ trilogies?

I’m curious, because the difference brings up one of my biggest challenges in writing and even reading romance:

I love a series.

This shouldn’t surprise anyone who might have followed my work! It’s now a joke with my beloved agent, Paige Wheeler of Folio, that I can’t seem to propose an idea for a single book—it’s always got to be a set. Four witch friends, of four old-west sisters, or powerful women who collect goddess grails… and now, for at least two books, the BladeKeepers for SRS.

I even love writing for a series that isn’t just mine, as with continuity series like “Family Secrets” and “Athena Force” and the beloved “Madonna Key” books.

But enough for the moment about writing. Don’t we all love reading a good series?

What’s up with that, do you think?

Is it because when people find something they like, they want “more of the same but different?” (If we wanted the exact same, we’d just reread the initial book, right?) That sure does explain the popularity of movie sequels. I always look forward to them, even though I’m usually disappointed (Speed II, anybody?)

But maybe with us readers, it’s more personal. We make friends with the characters—one of the reasons I enjoy a good TV series over a movie. We enjoy getting to know them, and want to keep in touch.

That’s where the same-character series come in. It happened with the Nancy Drew and Trixie Belden and Little House books when we were younger (depending on when we were younger!) Now, in part thanks to Harry Potter and Twilight, YA books are even more commonly part of a series: Julie Kagawa’s “Iron” series, for example, and Rachel Vincent’s “Soul Screamer” books. I’ve read both of those in the last year, and they’re great!

Adult series with the same heroine are also very popular: the Sookie Stackhouse books, for example. I know I’ve read and reread the Amelia Peabody books, by Elizabeth Peters, and I recently caught up on the Kitty-the-Werewolf books by Carrie Vaughn. But here’s the twist:

Romance novels can’t seem to do that!

The Stephanie Plum and Eve Dallas books are mysteries, not romance. The Sookie Stackhouse and Anita Blake books are paranormals--urban fantasies—not romance. The only books I’ve seen out of standard romance imprints, like the Harlequin/Silhouette categories, to repeat the same heroines have been Harlequin Teen and Silhouette Bombshells, both which allow(ed) romantic subplots.

Otherwise, a Happily Ever After seems to contradict any continuation of the heroine in any role but secondary.

And that kind of bums me out.

A lot of great romance series work by linking one couple to the next, and that’s great. For me, the queen of it all would be Suzanne Brockmann’s “Troubleshooter” series.

But does anyone else kind of wish romance novels could carry the came couple through two, three, or even four books? Featuring them, I mean?

Let’s talk!

And don't forget to visit Evelyn at her website to find out more about her newest releases.

P.S. Our very own PC is guest blogging today with Liz Fielding. Drop by and say hello!


Smarty Pants said...

Welcome, Evelyn. I actually have a series in my note file for a trilogy featuring the same couple. The problem is that to keep it interesting, the relationship has to have major pitfalls. First blush of romance in the first, betrayal and regaining of trust in the second, then another fall out leading to a final reconciliation in the last. Its an emotional rollercoaster, but I think if things are peachy or all externally conflicted, its not interesting to the reader.

Linda Winstead Jones (writing as Linda Fallon) did it with her Shades Series (Shades of Winter, Shades of Scarlet and Shades of Midnight, I think). I loved those characters and she won a paranormal RITA for the first.

Evelyn Vaughn said...

Thank you for the suggestions, Smarty Pants! I'll have to check out the Shades series (I enjoy LWJ, but wouldn't have thought to seek her out as LF). Intriguing that it was a paranormal Rita, and not "straight" romance.

You're right that the pitfalls angle can be a downer. I think my favorite way of a continuing h/h is when the series covers the building of their relationship (as your idea seems to), and the HEA doesn't hit until the last book, as opposed to them getting an HEA and then losing it for the next book. It takes a very good writer to make me care about a divorced couple, for example, getting back together.

And yet I really do want the same characters, over and over! (So write that trilogy, 'kay!?)

Playground Monitor said...

Hi Evelyn! I remember when you won your Rita.

Hmmm. I've never actually thought about this, but you're right. The books with repeating characters I read are mysteries (Stephanie Plum and I hope she ends up with Morelli!). I tend to go along with Smarty Pants on how you'd have to handle it, but because you've stretched the romance out, I think you'd probably need not only the major pitfalls, but lots of secondary plots and characters to keep it interesting to the reader.

robertsonreads said...

Welcome Evelyn,
I like when a couple will be introduced but are not the main characters of a given book. They will then be given their "own" story.
And I a wonderful set that I enjoyed & have is Linda Howard's books, To Die For and Drop Dead Gorgeous. Just saying....
Have a great weekend everyone.

Angel said...

The only thing that comes to mind is the Karen Marie Moning Fever series. Honestly, I haven't started reading it yet, because I can't stand the suspense. I'm waiting until they are all out, but my sister has read them. Maybe she can elaborate when she gets a chance. But if I'm not mistaken the woman has 1 man she loves who won't give in to their feelings, and even has to face his mistakes when she is attacked. Not sure, but might check those out (I've heard they are wonderful paranormal reads, regardless).

I'm a "new couple every book" type reader. I don't usually care for the same couple (or heroine) in each book because, as you can see from my above procrastination, I don't want to wait that long to get to the happily ever after. But I love revisiting previous couples and even seeing new subplots for them in newer books. I think one ideal combination I've found for this is in the Black Dagger Brotherhood series by JR Ward. Love those books and finding out what new struggles the couples are facing. For instance, one couple is haunted by their inability to have children, and the author revisits that storyline occasionally as it compliments the current story. She even wrote a novella after the main book about the ongoing conflicts of her hero Zsadist and his wife Bella after their child was born. His severe torturous background made him unable to bond with the child for a while -- a dealbreaker for Bella.

So glad to have you on the Playground, Evelyn!


LeaAnnS said...

Hi, Evelyn! I'm late to the blog today, but this is a topic I enjoy discussing too. I have to admit, if a series is an ongoing heroine or hero but the partner changes in each book, I won't read it. What was that series of mysteries starting with the alphabet (A is for Alibi or something)? She never stayed with anybody, and I just didn't like that. I want her to find someone and be happy!

Having said that, I do like series that keep the same couple. The Fever series by KM Moning is great (last one comes out in paperback soon!), and I've read the first three. She's caught between two men, one she loves but who is all mysterious, and a fae who wants her. I haven't read the last books to see who she ends up with (or if they all survive) because they were in HC only. But the books were optioned for movies, I think.

Christine Feehan does something similar to Ward's books about revisiting old couples in the new books. I do like that, since same couple series are fairly rare. I think Ward does it best, though, taking it to a deeper level than most. Love the BDB books!

Evelyn Vaughn said...

"Monitor," I hope Stephanie ends up with Joe too. I'll admit, the way Evanovich has stretched the romance out, I haven't been able to read the last few though. The "choosing between two men" can only go on so long (IMHO).

And yet, it's very big in YA's right now. I wonder if it'll get bigger in straight romance as those YA readers get older.

RobertsonReads and Angel--thank you for the recommendations! I see that LeeAnn agrees about Moning's "Fever" series, so I'll have to check them out.

FWIW, my second favorite way of handling it is to revisit prev. couples in the stories of later couples (and/or to foreshadow forthcoming couples in the works about previous couples). Brockmann does an excellent job at this.

LeeAnn, I absolutely HATE it when the heroine changes heroes. I'm even a Buffy/Angel purist (no matter how I like Spike). That's one reason the Grafton series you mention doesn't work for me.

Thank you, everyone, for showing up to discuss this!

Kimberly Lang said...

Hi Evelyn! Welcome to the Playground!

I'm currently in the middle of writing connected books for the first time (three brothers), so I'm running head-first into a lot of issues I didn't expect. :-)

I'm not sure I should be allowed to speak on the subject at the moment ~grin~

Barbara Vey said...

Amanda Quick write a trilogy: Lavinia Lake / Tobias March
1. Slightly Shady (2001)
2. Don't Look Back (2002)
3. Late for the Wedding (2003)

Loved them all and I wish there were more.