Thursday, September 26

Guest Author Jade Kerrion: SERIES: To Be or Not To Be (and when to stop being!)

By Jade Kerrion, @JadeKerrion

Please help me welcome Jade Kerrion to the blog today, to talk with us about different types of books in a series, and how to know when to stop writing one. 

Jade's varied background led her through many careers across many industries, including container shipping, education, and management consulting. In her spare time, she wrote stories – young adult, fantasy, and science fiction – and developed a loyal reader base with her fan fiction series based on the MMORPG Guild Wars. She lives in Fort Lauderdale, Florida with her wonderfully supportive husband and two young sons, Saint and Angel, (no, those aren’t their real names, but they are like saints and angels, except when they’re not.)

Take it away Jade...

If Amazon (the company) were a river and all the books in its vast online repository were drops of water, you wouldn't be able to skim a pebble across its surface without hitting a book that is a part of a series. Series are popular--they work in movies, on TV, and in books--and for good reason. No one ever likes saying goodbye to the people they've fallen in love with. We like to see our heroes and heroines overcome adversity, and then do it again, and again. Novel series come in at least three different flavors.

1. Standalone books within a series with a rotating focus on various protagonists. Each novel within the series focuses on, and resolves, one major storyline, but the protagonist (usually a side character in one of the other novels) will claim the spotlight for one book within the series instead of all of them.

Romance novels tend to lean this way (after all, happily ever after usually happens only once per couple.) Nora Roberts has written many trilogies of families and friends, with each book focusing on a particular person finding his or her happy ending. Sherrilyn Kenyon does this with her (apparently unending) Dark Hunter series as well.

2. Standalone books within a series focus on one or two key protagonists. Each novel within the series tackles one major problem and resolves the problem by the end of the book.

Many detective and mystery novels adopt this flavor. As a teenager, I enjoyed Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys. These days, I read P.L. Blair's Portals series that features human detective, Kat Morales, and her elven partner, Tevis.

3. Non-standalone books within a series focus on one or two key protagonists, and story is typically best enjoyed in order from the first novel to the last.

Fantasy and science fiction novels, with their sweeping storylines and their tendency to put entire worlds and civilizations at risk of extinction (hey, high stakes, right?) tend to lean in this direction. Each book should resolve a major crisis, but some threads are clearly left trailing as feeders into the next book. Some of my favorite authors fall into this category, including David Eddings who wrote the Belgariad and Mallorean series, and Neil Gaiman, author of the Sandman. Just about all of my favorite authors are series writers. In hindsight, it's no surprise that I would, as an author, lean toward writing a series. My Double Helix series is a series of four novels. When I finished writing the fourth book, I finally tackled the issue I'd been avoiding since November 2010, when I first started writing Double Helix series.

When do you stop?

Sometimes, the answer is easy: "when you save the world." But what if the answer isn't as obvious? What if the world careens from crisis to crisis (sounds like our world, doesn't it?) What if the world always needs saving? I wrote the Double Helix series as a blend between a type 3 series (non-standalone) and a type 2 series (standalone.) The fourth book, Perfection Challenged, was actually the transition book between a non-standalone and standalone series. In theory, I could have gone on forever, coming up with yet another crisis for Danyael Sabre, the alpha empath, to handle. Challenges would always abound in a society transformed by the Genetic Revolution. Danyael would likely encounter most of them, but did he have to be the protagonist?

Let's segue briefly into another series--Jacqueline Carey's Kushiel's Legacy series. Occasionally a storyline or plot transcends each book and unifies the series. In Kushiel's Legacy, it is the rocky path to love and happiness between the heroine, Phedre, and her protector, Joscelin. That storyline is the single thread that runs through the series, and for the series to end, the thread needs to be neatly knotted by the final book.

My readers love Danyael. It was hard to make the decision to move him to the sidelines, yet in practice, I knew that Danyael's story was done, and for one primary reason. His story had come a full circle. He dealt with different challenges and antagonists over each of the four books, but the storyline that unified the series--his apparently unrequited love for the assassin Zara Itani--reached its conclusion in the fourth book. It was my gift to Danyael, the ending he deserved. "But," dismayed readers howl, "you haven't yet done this, or that, or another. You haven't finished telling all the stories!" I've moved the spotlight off Danyael, but that doesn't mean he won't appear in a smaller role in another novel. Spin-offs are popular among series writers.

Some side characters in Sherrilyn Kenyon's Dark Hunter series show up as focal characters in her Dream Hunter series. And so it will be for my Double Helix series. I've already written a young adult spin-off. I have others planned, including a standalone series of romantic thrillers featuring mercenaries from Zara's agency, a novel about Xin, the Machiavellian clone of Fu Hao, a 1,200 BC general, priestess, and queen (busy woman indeed!), and a novel about Galahad, the genetically engineered perfect human being. Inevitably though, those novels and series will someday end. Quoting one of my favorite characters, Death from Neil Gaiman's Sandman series: "It always ends. That's what gives it value."

About Perfection Challenged 

"The best of the four books--the perfect ending to an amazing series." 

 An alpha empath, Danyael Sabre has survived abominations and super soldiers, terrorists and assassins, but he cannot survive his failing body. He wants only to live out his final days in peace, but life and the woman he loves, the assassin Zara Itani, have other plans for him. Galahad, the perfect human being created by Pioneer Labs, is branded an international threat, and Danyael is appointed his jury, judge, and executioner. Danyael alone believes that Galahad can be the salvation that the world needs, but is the empath blinded by the fact that Galahad shares his genes, and the hope that there is something of him in Galahad? In a desperate race against time and his own dying body, Danyael struggles to find fragments of good in the perfect human being, and comes to the wrenching realization that his greatest battle will be a battle for the heart of the man who hates him.

E-books available at Amazon / Amazon UK / Apple iTunes / Barnes & Noble / Kobo / Smashwords
Paperbacks available at Amazon / Amazon UK

Perfection Unleashed 

"Higher octane than Heroes. More heart than X-Men." Recipient of six literary awards, including First place in Science Fiction, Reader Views Literary Awards 2012 and Gold medal winner, Science Fiction, Readers Favorites 2013.

FOR A LIMITED TIME, E-BOOKS AVAILABLE FOR JUST $0.99 (Discounted from $2.99)
E-books available at Amazon / Amazon UK / Apple / Barnes & Noble / Kobo / Smashwords
Paperbacks available at Amazon / Amazon UK / Barnes & Noble / Book Depository

Connect with Jade Kerrion: Website / Facebook / Twitter

4 comments:

  1. Terry Pratchett wrote an interesting blend of...well actually, 1, 2, and 3 for the Discworld series. Different protagonists with their own stories (Rhincewind the cowardly wizard, Sam Vimes the Night Watch Commander, Granny Weatherwax the witch) who occasionally run into each other, usually have serial stories, and can frequently stand alone.

    Galahad...I see what you did there! :D

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  2. I love series. I like knowing I'm investing my feelings in characters I'll get to see grow, evolve, and face greater challenges as time goes on.

    With my own writing, I think I'm built for writing series'. Some of the early comments on my second novel have been about how I've been able to do so much more with the setting and story now that the character introductions are out of the way.

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  3. I think some stories are just too large to fit into a single 80,000 novel. If we tried, we'd lose so much of the flavor that makes the story stand out.

    I try to make my characters grow with each story in the series--character- and plot-driven, but there are series that are exclusively plot driven, where the character changes hardly at all. The James Bond / Sherlock Holmes type series come to mind.

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  4. I think the standalone series, mentioned in #1, is the most liberating to write but they're all fun! Thanks for sharing, Jade!

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