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Saturday, September 22, 2018

It’s All in the Voice by Kait Carson

One of the best things about being a writer is research. I’m not talking about the white glove floors of the library where you can’t check anything out and whispering is not only forbidden, breathing darn near is too. I’m talking about loading your Kindle and your Barnes & Noble basket to the tipping point and then hiding away with a pot of tea and a lap cat research. Definitely the kind frowned on in most libraries. At least the part about the pot of tea. Strides are being made about the cat part.

I’ve been itching to branch out into the cozy series world. The first draft of the first Florida Keys Festivals Mysteries is just about finished. I was ready to plot the second when a group of artisans in Maine started chatting away in my head. What – where did they come from? Okay, maybe two series, who knows. Now they’ve been joined by a group of college friends, retired but vibrant, who live on the Southwest Coast of Florida. Three series? No way. Who could do that. I know I can’t, but I did wonder how it could be done.

Research to the rescue. I started by haunting Amazon to discover a writer who did write multiple series. I discovered a prolific writer by the name of Kathi Daley. Make that a superhuman writer. The woman writes eight series. I have read representative selections from all but the YA, and although some were not my cup of tea, all were well written enough that I would consider plunking down my hard-earned coin for another book in each series.

If it’s true that there are only so many stories in the universe, how do you take those stories and make them different across eight different series? Writers will admit that they are not writing about themselves, but a bit of them does creep into each tale. Worse, how to you keep from accidently telling the same story over and over in different words? To find out, I dove into Daley’s multiple series. Here’s what I learned. Or think I learned.

Daley is a genius at characterization. Her protagonists are sharply drawn and very different to one and other. A reader wouldn’t confuse Zoe Donovan with TJ Jensen. As a corollary of that, each character has a distinct voice and each series has a distinct voice and flow. The books, and the series are all different and each satisfies in its own way. Daley knows her audience, her books make a promise, and she delivers. Now, if I could just figure out where all that time comes from!

Have you read a multi-series author? Did you enjoy moving among the series?


Margaret S. Hamilton said...

Louise Penny, Martin Walker, Elly Griffiths, Ann Cleeves, Julia Spencer-Fleming, Deborah Crombie, and even a hardcore cozy series, the Coffeehouse Mysteries by Cleo Coyle.

I like the characters and I want to find out what happens to them in the next book. Bonus points if the protagonist has a dog.

Kait said...

Or a cat! Critters do add so much to a series or a standalone. Well said, Margaret, and you've named my favorite series as well, except I've not met the Coffeehouse Mysteries...yet. Added to the TBR.

Jim Jackson said...

John Sandford spun Virgil Flowers off from his Lucas Davenport series, and I enjoy both of those (except for the Virgil Flowers he co-wrote). Because they are in the same universe, it’s easy to move from one to another.

Grace Topping said...

How wonderful that you are branching out into more series!! Can't wait to see where you are going with your series ideas. When I look back at the series I've enjoyed the most, I realize that most of them are set in different time periods from today. I really enjoy books by Jacqueline Winspear, Charles Todd, Anne Perry, and K. B. Owen--all set just before, during, and following WWI. I also love the books by Dorothy Gilman, particularly her Mrs. Polifax series.

Warren Bull said...

I am in awe of writers who can mage that,

Gloria Alden said...

I've read and loved all of Louise Penny's books, and Many of Ann Cleeves and Julia Spencer Fleming, Jacqueline Winspear, and Dorothy Gilman's Mrs. Polifax series, and Dorothy Sayers Lord Peter Wimsey and Harriet Vane Series,and I never tire of Elizabeth George's Detectives Thomas Lynley and Barbara Havers.I enjoyed all of them. As for me, I'm going to stick with writing my Catherine Jewell Mystery Series, although I may start adding to the short story I wrote that had to do with Hiram Ohio's history with a fictional boy who died there when his father was traveling and his father buried him there, and now he is a ghost.

Another author who has and is writing numerous series is Amanda Flower. She's in my Sisters in Crime chapter. Her's are all cozy books, too.

Kait said...

@Jim That's a great point, Jim.

If the writer stays in the same universe, it does make it easier to follow. Nora Roberts/JD Robb recognized that with her writing and created a pen name for her futuristic mysteries, as did J.K. Rowling when she created Robert Galbraith for her crime novels. Even though there is no mystery as to the identity of the writers, the device allows readers permission to set aside certain expectations and enter a different world.

Kait said...

@Grace, precisely - there is an immediacy about that time period that draws modern readers. It is difficult to imagine how enormous those changes were and how WWI served as a fulcrum for them. Everything from society to transportation changed. The world stood on its head. We are part of the result and through literature, we get to become of a part of the day to day life of the era.

That's part of the attraction of series, we get to live in another's shoes for a brief time and develop with the protagonist. Even if there is nothing of politics or current events, we get to experience life and times. Wouldn't you love to spend a week with Mrs. Polifax? I would!

Kait said...

@ Warren - me too! Especially as the quality does not suffer.

Kait said...

@Gloria - Of course, Amanda Flower - she is wonderful. Like you I love all of those series and the Catherine Jewell books, too. Looking forward to your latest.