Friday, May 20, 2016

Take A Stand! (Or Not!)

By Art Taylor

I'm not sure how I can add much to what my fellow panelists have offered this week in terms of the benefits and challenges of writing a standalone versus writing a series mystery. Alan's take yesterday struck a nice balance between efficiency and comprehensiveness on that question—advantages and disadvantages on each side.

Several of my fellow short story writers have used recurrent characters in their works, if not continuous plotlines from story to story, but in my own work, I've largely started fresh each time—each story a new beginning, new characters, new situations, a new world. In fact, I'd never even considered revisiting any of my characters until Del and Louise—the title characters in my book On the Road with Del & Louise: A Novel in Stories.  Their first appearance in "Rearview Mirror" was also intended to be their last: a full narrative arc, a complete and completed tale. And it wasn't until several years later that I wondered what might have happened next and started on the story that eventually became "Commission." From there, the series grew—more adventures, more stories, and then a book of them, ultimately designed (with a little retrofitting on the first two) as the novel in stories. Here again, however, that book was ultimately planned not as the first in a series but as a standalone itself: a series of stories, yes, but then a novel with its own full narrative arc—the overarching tale both complete and completed.

Never say never, though—right? As anyone who's read the book can recognize, I've left the ending open for these characters to maybe pop up again with more adventures down that longer road.

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My last post here at Criminal Minds came just after Malice Domestic, where I was fortunate to win the Agatha Award for Best First Novel for On the Road with D&L, and I've been very fortunate since then too, with the announcements for this year's Anthony Award finalists. On the Road is in contention for Best First Novel there as well, and Murder Under the Oaks, a collection I edited for last year's Bouchercon, was named a finalist for Best Anthology or Collection—and congratulations as well to my Criminal Minds compadre Catriona McPherson, a finalist for Best Novel for The Child Garden. Hooray!

I'm feeling spoiled on all counts, and I'm looking forward not only to Bouchercon in New Orleans but also to maybe hosting some of my fellow finalists here before long. Stay tuned!

9 comments:

Paul D. Marks said...

Art, I think it's great when characters take on a life of their own, like Del and Louise. They were supposed to be a one-off, but had too much life in them for that!

Art Taylor said...

Thanks, Paul! You're always johnny-on-the-spot with first comments--and much appreciated!

Catriona McPherson said...

Thank you, Art. And Congratulations. Oh boy, New Orleans is going to be wild.

Art Taylor said...

Oh, yes, Catriona — plenty to celebrate! :-)

Alan Orloff said...

I would love to read more about Del and Louise. Congrats on all the accolades!

Art Taylor said...

Thanks, Alan! Just today a friend posted on Twitter about reading the book from her seat on Amtrak.... And apparently now we're working on the sequel: ON THE RAILS WITH DEL & LOUISE.... Stay tuned!

Alan Orloff said...

I know someone who would love to help you do research for that one!

Paula Gail Benson said...

On the Rails . . . I love it. And, I'll bet I know who Alan means.

Art Taylor said...

Oh, yes, Alan and Paula.... He could be listed as co-author maybe! :-)