A decade ago I spent five years living as a snowbird in the Phoenix/Scottsdale area of Arizona. One of my happiest memories from that time was going to The Poisoned Pen bookstore to listen to intriguing mystery writers like Ian Rankin and Thomas Perry. They always ended their interviews graciously answering questions from those of us who devoured mysteries but didn’t write them.
I have so many memories of those magical evenings, but a particular night has stayed in my mind. One of those authors—who shall remain nameless—attempted to answer a specific question about a plot event in one of the series he’d written. At the time I was curious about his inability to remember the event in question, or which book it was in. That’s crazy, I thought. Why doesn’t he remember his own writing? Years passed without a satisfactory answer to that question.
Flash forward to 2022. For ten years now I’ve had the luxury of writing one series, the Endurance Mysteries. The small town of Endurance, the main characters and contributing characters, the history of the area, and the events of the four books and one novella are firmly imbedded in my mind. I also have a looseleaf encyclopedia of those elements so I can look up details that might escape me while drafting book number five.
It’s true I also wrote A Death at Tippitt Pond during that time, a standalone book that didn’t particularly mix me up when it came to a different town, new characters, and other details. It had a more historical milieu than the earlier series. I had ended (I thought) the Endurance series, and my mind was strictly focused on this new book.
However, a pandemic and the magical stirring of unpredictable life events sent me down a different path. I signed a contract for a new series while making the decision to extend the Endurance Mysteries.
Death in a Pale Hue, which will come out in June from Level Best Books, is also about a small town, but this town is called Apple Grove. The protagonist, Jill Madison, is almost thirty years younger than Endurance’s Grace Kimball. However, their towns are similar and every so often I found myself typing “Grace” instead of “Jill,” or “Endurance” instead of “Apple Grove.” Thank goodness for word searches and a diligent editor.
On top of that, I occasionally must hold myself back from adding a scene in Apple Grove that’s like a scene from Endurance. I find myself thinking of crossovers that might be nice advertising gimmicks for two different shows on television, but that kind of gimmick won’t work using two different mystery series.
As I wrote Death in a Pale Hue last year, I was already thinking about the fourth mystery in the town of
That book came out in September 2021, and now I’m beginning the second book of the Level Best Book contract called Death in a Bygone Hue. So I think writing each series separately will work, but I do worry that I’ll get mixed up when answering a question at a book event. Will I mistakenly say “Jill” instead of “Grace,” or “Endurance” instead of “Apple Grove?” Will someone ask a question that stumps me because I now have two different universes colliding in my head?
It certainly answers the question I had about that author I heard years ago who couldn’t remember which character, which book. I’m walking a mile in his shoes.