by Nancy Northcott
Today, we welcome Karen Kendall to the Lair. Some of you may remember Karen from last year, when we discussed the video for her first romantic suspense novel, Take Me If You Can. On April 6th her new book, Take Me Two Times, will be released. It’s the sequel to Take Me If You Can, and several characters from that prior book will reappear. Karen joins us today to discuss the joys and pitfalls of sequels and series.
The joy part is easy: as the author, you get to revisit favorite characters that you’ve already developed. Though Take Me Two Times is Gwen’s story (secondary character from TMIYC) it was great fun to bring back Avy (an art recovery agent for the company ARTemis, Inc.) and Liam (the sexy and incorrigible British master thief) in Take Me Two Times. I also delighted in keeping Sheila, the obnoxious office manager for ARTemis, alive on the page and torturing Gwen. And crazy rock star Sid Thresher is back, too! I have such a soft spot for Sid, disgusting as he is . . .
Now for those sequel/series pitfalls.
One of the dangers of bringing popular characters back is their tendency to try to steal the show from the hero/heroine of the new book. This is hard to avoid, because the author has already spent a lot of time fleshing out the former characters—and if the author is like me, she’s banging her head against the keyboard while trying to get a handle on the new ones! Oh, how tempting it was to let Avy and Liam have extra chapters instead of diving deep into the old hurts and conflicts of Gwen and Quinn, her old lover. I had to rap my own knuckles several times.
Another difficulty in developing a sequel and working with former characters is keeping those characters’ conflicts alive . . . you know, the same conflicts that you slaved to resolve in the prior book. Or you can invent a whole new set of conflicts that spin off from the old ones—but again, this is hard work. And then how do you engineer the plot so that the subplot connects properly with it? Believe me, that was an issue that led to further head-banging on my keyboard. In fact, I’m pretty sure that the “t” key and the “y” key are still embedded in my forehead and will one day have to be surgically removed.
But, wait! There are even more problems in series. Have you planted the characters for the next book solidly in the previous one? And have you developed a series “arc”? And what if you made a character an only child in one book but then desperately need to give him a brother in the next? Ooops. What if you’ve made a character a villain in an early book but then decide you’d like to redeem him and bring him back as a hero in a later one? Everything an author does in those early books of the series affects what she can do in later ones. (Does anyone remember the sequel to National Velvet? Was I the only person who noticed that the horse in NV was a gelding, and therefore couldn’t possibly have produced the foal that stars in International Velvet? Again, oooops.)
I’m still developing the third book in my TAKE ME series, Take Me For a Ride (to be released in November ’09) and due to something I mentioned in the April book (Take Me Two Times) I had to set it in a city that I’ve never set foot in! I could have kicked myself as I bought stacks of guide books and looked at Google images and studied maps and did research on the internet. Yep, I had to take off like a rocket on my armchair travels . . .
I hope very much that I’ll get to write more books in the TAKE ME series. But I’m sure that those books will bring their own sets of problems, many of them generated by what I wrote in the first three. Of course a lot of these problems end up being enjoyable puzzles to solve, but I’ll never admit that publicly. What’s that you say? I just did? And on the internet, too. I guess we just discovered yet another pitfall of series and sequels: the art of keeping certain things hidden throughout the books until you’re able to reveal the Big Secret in the end.
Yes, I do have a big secret in the TAKE ME series—and that’s the identity of Kelso, the silent partner in ARTemis, Inc. (Well, sometimes he’s not so silent, but nobody has ever seen him and believe me, they’ve tried.) Who do you think he is? If you want to take a guess, go ahead!
And please feel free to ask me any questions about the characters and books in this series, which revolves around an agency that recovers stolen art. Thanks! Happy reading.
When you read series, do you find yourself becoming interested, as Karen did, in different places? Have you ever read a series in which a character who initially looked like trouble turned out ot be a hero or heroine you loved? Do you have a favorite series with an plot or character question that isn't resolved until the end?
For more about Karen and her books, visit her website, where you can also read an excerpt from Take Me Two Times.