Sunday, October 4, 2009

A One And A Two

by Gabriella Herkert

Catnapped and Doggone

How many books should a series run? That’s a tricky question. Sue Grafton has made it nearly through the alphabet and Kinsey Milhone is still cool. Will there be twelve steps and literary AA in her future? Maybe. Then, there’s Janet Evanovich, fifteen and counting. Actually Evanovich has written many, many more but limited the sequential titling so we non-math types aren’t forced to resort to the abacus. They’re like Spring. You know another year has passed because it’s time to trek to the local independent bookstore to pick up the next in the series. Sort of a bibliophile Groundhog’s Day.

But maybe that’s not the only answer. Harlan Coben took ten years off from his Myron Bolitar series and came back with a bang. And unlike Kinsey or Stephanie Plum, Myron and Win showed some age, if not always maturity, gained from those missing years. As a reader, I’ll admit I found that exciting and new. So maybe the question isn’t how many books a series should run. Maybe that’s just a number. A quantifiable metric applied to a creative outlet might suffer from your apples and oranges comparison problem.

Then, there’s the next in a series written by someone new. It’s not a mystery but if you’ve never read Wide Sargasso Sea, you should. It was written years after Jane Eyre but no one could say that series didn’t have at least one new book in it decades after the first even if it was a prequel. Series, yes. Traditional, chronological, linear - none of the above.

I think the lifespan of a series is like life itself. It’s not the destination, it’s the journey. Are there still things to learn? Places to experience? People to surprise you? If the answer is ‘yes,’ carry on. Or take the road less traveled. Join Jonathan Kellerman and follow Petra Connor, a minor character in an earlier Alex Delaware novel, as her story is revealed. Is that another in the series? Or a new series all by itself? Either way, won’t you be keeping your eyes open for her in future volumes both Delaware and Connor?

As a writer, I’ve always been intrigued by revisiting an early series entry from a new point of view. It’s not just the same series, it’s the same story, but like many eye witness accounts, black can be white and up, down. Could I rewrite Catnapped from Connor’s point of view? I’ve got a feeling he saw things a little differently than Sara. Would it extend the series or be so surprising from his male point of view that you might think of it as a whole new line? Or given the man brain-woman brain dichotomy, a completely new story?

To quote Charles Schultz, “in the book of life, the answers aren’t in the back.” Snoopy’s dad was pretty smart. There is no answer to how many books a series has in it. There’s just story. And where there’s story, I’ll follow.



Jen Forbus said...

And that is simply the perfect answer! :) Loved it Gabi.

Gabi said...

Thanks for reading, Jen.

An Inquiring Mind said...

I responded quickly to your initial question - uh, pick an answer. Six. Enough to lure me in and make me loyal to the series and more importantly to you as a writer. But then, allow the author the freedom to try something new. I would buy just about anything by Sue Grafton now ... except her Kinsey Milhone books which I just wait to pick up at used bookstores because I know they'll all be pretty much the same.

Great idea to write another version of the stories from Conner's viewpoint. I long ago realized that two people standing side by side in the midst of an experience bring such different perspectives that they could be a world apart.What richness this would bring to the story telling and characters.

Could this be done in some recounting back in a sequential story so I, your loyal reader, needn't jump back in time completely while buying a new Animal Instinct book?