If you are interested in blogging or want to promote your book, please contact E. B. Davis at writerswhokill@gmail.com

Our July author interviews: Ellen Byerrum (7/5), Day of the Dark anthology authors (7/12 and 7/19), and Nancy Cole Silverman (7/26).

Saturday Guest Bloggers in July: 7/1--Fran Stewart, and 7/8--Nancy Cole Silverman. WWK Saturday bloggers write on 7/15--Margaret S. Hamilton, 7/22--Kait Carson, and 7/29--E. B. Davis.


“May 16, 2017 – The Women’s Fiction Writers Association (WFWA) today announced the finalists of the second annual Star Award, given to authors of published women’s fiction. Six finalists were chosen in two categories, General and Outstanding Debut. The winners of the Star Award will be announced at the WFWA Retreat in Albuquerque, New Mexico on September 23, 2017.”

In the general category, WWK’s Carla Damron was one of three finalist for her novel, The Stone Necklace. Go to Carladamron.com for more information. Congratulations, Carla!

Congratulations to our writers for the following publications:

Warren Bull's new Lincoln mystery, Abraham Lincoln In Court & Campaign has been released. Look for the Kindle version on February 3.

Shari Randall's "Pets" will be included in Chesapeake Crimes: Fur, Feathers, and Felonies anthology, which will be published in 2018. In the same anthology "Rasputin," KM Rockwood's short story, will also be published. Her short story "Goldie" will be published in the Busted anthology, which will be released by Level Best Books on April 25th.

In addition, our prolific KM will have the following shorts published as well: "Sight Unseen" in Fish Out of Water, Guppie (SinC) anthology, just released, and "Making Tracks" in Passport to Murder, Bouchercon anthology, October 2017.

Margaret S. Hamilton's short story, "Once a Kappa" was published as a finalist in the Southern Writer's Magazine annual short story contest issue. Mysterical-E published her "Double Crust Corpse" in the Fall 2016 issue. "Baby Killer" will appear in the 2017 solar eclipse anthology Day of the Dark to be published this summer prior to the eclipse in August.

Linda Rodriquez has two pending book publications. Plotting the Character-Driven Novel will be released by Scapegoat Press on November 29th. Every Family Doubt, the fourth Skeet Bannion mystery, is scheduled for release on October, 18, 2017. Look for the interview by E. B. Davis here on that date!

James M. Jackson's 4th book in the Seamus McCree series, Doubtful Relations, is now available. His novella "Low Tide at Tybee" appears February 7 as part of Lowcountry Crimes: Four Novellas, which is available for order.

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Monday, September 22, 2014

Why Write a Series?



The mystery field is full of series. Why? Because they sell. Readers become familiar with series characters. They feel comfortable with them, know their families, their lovers, and their quirks. They wait with baited breath for the next book to come out to continue their love affair with the characters. Some popular series writers are James Lee Burke, Patricia Cornwell, Michael Connelly, Janet Evanovich, Sue Grafton, John Sandford, and Daniel Silva. Some authors like Harlan Coben, Nora Roberts, and Robert Ludlum, among others, write both series and standalones.

Polly Iyer

I'm a self-published writer with one series, the third book of which will be out on September 30th. I'm not racking up the sales, but the first two books in my series outsell my other books by far. I resisted writing a series for a long time because I consider myself a standalone writer, but when I got an idea for a second Diana Racine book, I published it. Then it happened. Readers posted on Facebook asking when the next book would be out. Eventually I relented.


One of my favorite characters is Karin Slaughter's Will Trent. Trent is dyslexic. Because his brain is wired differently, he sees clues other detectives miss. Of course, it's highly unlikely he'd be hired by the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, considering he can't read, but this is fiction, isn't it?

Daniel Silva's series character, Gabriel Allon, is a prominent art restorer. He's also an assassin working for the Israeli government. How's that for a mix? Art and murder.


My all-time favorite thriller writer, Robert Ludlum, kept me glued to his early work. I couldn't turn the pages fast enough. Ludlum wrote more standalone books than his Jason Bourne series, but Bourne took off and is unquestionably Ludlum's most successful character. Three movies prove my point.



Ellis Vidler

If you create a really good character who appeals to readers, you’ve hit the jackpot. Those are the ones we can’t wait to read. Anticipation is a wonderful thing. It builds excitement, and we eagerly look forward to the next book. Who doesn’t love Harry Bosch?

Standalones depend more on the author. There are authors I love, no matter what they write, and I look for their new books with the same anticipation I do for characters I love.

Robert Crais, one of my favorite authors, writes standalones and series, so Amazon has me on a watch list for anything by him.

Then there’s Dennis Lehane. He’s had one series book, at least two standalones, and a short story, “Animal Abuse,” made into movies. In a way, the Boston area is a recurring character. “Animal Abuse” was changed to The Drop and the setting moved to Brooklyn for the movie.

Kay Hooper wrote standalones for a long time, but in recent years she’s linked her books through a group of FBI agents who work for a mysterious man named Bishop.

I’m in her camp, neither a standalone nor a series writer. My books are linked through the characters. In the McGuire women, each book (two so far with a third in my head) features a different member of a family with a psychic streak. The others are linked through Will Porter, all characters who work for him at Maleantes & More. The second M&M book, Prime Target, will be released October 1, and the third is underway.

If I ever find ways to sustain the interest (both mine and the reader’s) in a single character through several books, I’ll become a true series writer.

23 comments:

Ellis Vidler said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Ellis Vidler said...

Thanks for having us. Series and standalones are always fun to think about--well, really it's good books that we like to talk about.

E. B. Davis said...

I have to admit that I like series books rather than standalones. It is like catching up with old friends. Polly's reporting that series books sell better than standalones makes sense to me. After reading the first one, the reader knows what to expect. If they liked the first one, they have the assurance that (like any other product) they will like the next. Even if the mystery doesn't satisfy, the backstory of the characters is often enough to satisfy the reader. Although, a satisfying mystery is my preference, one that affects the main character and the backstory.

Look for my interview with Polly and Ellis on 10/15 to get a taste of their writing.

James Montgomery Jackson said...

I write the Seamus McCree series with two books out and two in the works. What I find most interesting is not that readers who like the series appreciate Seamus, but which of the other characters people like the best. That is all over the place -- for some it's his son, Paddy; for others it's his bodyguard girlfriend; others choose a minor character like Charlene the waitress or Owen, the jack-of-all-trades woodsman. There is a particular group who demand more of Seamus's mother (They'll be happy with Doubtful Relations.)

When I think of the series I love reading the most, I realize it is not only the main character, but also the extended set of characters I've come to know and enjoy seeing how they proceed in life.

~ Jim

Warren Bull said...

Series can have an overarching plot line which adds to the readers' enjoyment like Julia Spencer Fleming's work.

Shari Randall said...

Polly, I didn't know that Kay Hooper linked her books that way. I love the idea. Often I want to know more about the secondary characters than I do about the main characters.
Thank you for stopping by WWK!

Polly Iyer said...

Thanks for having us today, Elaine. I'm eagerly awaiting to see how readers report on the third book in my series. I must say I'm nervous about it. Have been before I finished the first chapter. Their acceptance or rejection will have a lot to do with my decision to write a fourth. I've read reviews of series' books by famous writers where readers say the series is faltering. I've felt that myself about some series and have stopped reading them. No writer wants to hear that. Such pressure.

John Holt said...

I have now written five novella featuring my private detective Tom Kendall. All five novels follow on, but they are equally at home as standalones. In fact the latest in the series in actually a prequel. I decided to do a series because it gives more scope to develop the characters. Kendall is also beginning to develop a bit of a fan base who (apparently) are looking forward to the next. Just wish I could write them faster.,

Polly Iyer said...

John, glad to hear you're forming a fan base, or your character is. It reminds me of Stephen King's Misery, where the irate fan takes out her displeasure on the author for not writing his character the way she wanted. Nice to have fans, but... Thanks for stopping by.

Bobbi A. Chukran, Author said...

I read something yesterday that I thought was a whole new take on the series thing. The author said that people love collecting things, and for readers, that means that they like collecting books in the same series. If they buy paperbacks, they like putting them all in a row on a shelf. :-) I'd never thought about it in that way before. As for me, I write "connected" stories (by town) that feature some of the same characters, but they can be read as stand-alones, too.

Ellis Vidler said...

Bobbi, when I organize my books, I have them by author, but I don't always put a series in order. I have Michael Connelly's and Robert Crais's books on a shelf, but there's no order. However, the ones I have of Janet Evanovich are in numerical order, maybe because it was easy to do. :-)

Polly Iyer said...

Bobbi, I think all series, whether the same lead characters or connected characters, should be able to stand alone. It's tricky to get backstory in for those reading a later book first, but it can be done and still hold solid.

Ellis Vidler said...

Shari, I believe linked books are more popular in romantic suspense, but that's based on a small selection. I like moving to secondary characters too.

Polly Iyer said...

I think secondary characters, whether in a series or a standalone, are most important. I've had reviewers ask for more of a certain character in my standalones or ask that I continue a standalone and make it into a series. One series is enough for me, though I don't count out anything in the future.

Terri Herman-Ponce said...

Great insights into standalones and series books. I'm a fan of both, and a HUGE fan of Crais, and fully know as a reader how it feels to become so engrossed with familiar characters that you need to know what happens next, and so engrossed with an author that you can never resist their next book.

As an author, the viewpoint is different. I enjoy writing series because I can really test and challenge my characters, and I can watch them grow. Writing standalones is harder, in some ways, because the material is always fresh. But it's a good way to stretch the writing brain and think outside your usual, comfortable storylines.

Thanks for a wonderful post!

Polly Iyer said...

Gee, Terri, I feel exactly the opposite. Fresh characters is what I like the most because I can develop them. Series characters, though I know them better, are a known quantity that I have to write to. "Growing" them is harder because I have to do it within the confines of their personalities that are already established.

Kara Cerise said...

I enjoy reading both but I buy more series or linked books to follow the characters. M. Louisa Locke, author of Victorian San Francisco mysteries, writes short stories from a secondary character's POV and publishes them in between her series books. I think that's a good way to keep readers interested while they are waiting.

KM Rockwood said...

There's nothing like having the next book in a series I love, waiting for Friday night supper to be over so I can light a fire, pour a glass of wine and snuggle down to read!

I like stand-alones, too, but the anticipation of knowing that favorite characters are about to immerse themselves (and me) in a story is wonderful.

Polly Iyer said...

Kara and Kim, you've proved my point about series. Readers can't wait to see what happens next. I've had a few people emailing me or on Facebook asking for the next Diana Racine book to find out what trouble she'd get into next. For me, it was hard creating a situation that wasn't a repeat of her last two dilemmas. That's where I think series start to fail. Keeping them fresh is difficult. At least it was for me.

Ellis Vidler said...

Teri, I'm the opposite too. Standalones are fresh and come to me better. Series, aside from plot, are much more difficult for me. I must get through most of the character arc in the first book, and then wonder where to go with the next.

Ellis Vidler said...

Kim, know the feeling. I look forward to reading more of a character I love, but if I'm a big fan of the author, I'm just as eager to get to the new book.

VR Barkowski said...

I'm a standalone girl, both reading and writing. I simply don't enjoy series. When I think of the fine recent standalones written by series authors like Steve Hamilton (The Lock Artist), William Kent Krueger (Ordinary Grace), and Robert Crais (Suspect), I want to cry because they've all gone back to their series and are generating more of the same old, same old. While I definitely understand the psychology behind series appeal, it's not the experience I'm looking for as a reader.

VR Barkowski

Polly Iyer said...

I definitely understand where you're coming from, VR. I've listened to two audios of Hamilton's books. Loved The Lock Artist. The other was Misery Bay, but I was unaware it was part of a series. I have read many series because I like the main characters, but I've never waited breathlessly for the next book of any of them.