One of the more difficult challenges for readers and authors alike when it comes to a series is how do you keep it fresh? How do you return to the same well over and over again? And what point does a series become…eek…boring?
I’ve read a lot of series over the years, the ones I enjoy the most are the ones which give me a reason to come back, but aren’t repetitive. They may possess an ongoing set of story arcs, but each book propels us forward and focuses on the couple at hand, on their journey.
Keeping Willow Bend New
Every book in the Wolves of Willow Bend series is a “first” book because for the couple I’m focusing on, it’s their first book, it’s their story. I keep the focus on them, and reintroduce only those key elements from the series that are vital to understanding the current couple’s tale.
It sounds easy, and sometimes it is. Other times, it’s hard. Readers who follow the series will obviously get more because they know the history, and have met earlier characters, followed the twists and turns of their stories and seen more of the world fleshed out.
Each book adds a new layer or dimension to the world itself. We’re exploring the world together. Every character presents their perspective, offers a window on the world to give us their view and expands the image.
So how do you keep it fresh? Since the first time I read a book and discussed it with a friend, one truth has underscored both my reading and my writing—no two readers experience the same book the same way. We each bring to the table a set of unique experiences and viewpoints. I may respond emotionally to triggers that you nod to and say yes, that was sad, but I didn’t sob whereas another reader may cry buckets because it reminded them of their own loss.
Understanding how our experiences inform our reactions helps me to weave each tale by viewing the world only through the eyes of my main characters. For example, what may have made WOLF CLAIM’s Gillian shy away from confrontation could simply piss off RIVER WOLF’s Colby while what is absolutely vital to UNTAMED WOLF’s Dylan may only be a nuisance to ROGUE WOLF’s Salvatore.
Every character’s existence is vital to their point of view, what they will react to, what they need, and more—what they want. So while these characters—these people live in the same world, maybe even in the same pack, their experiences aren’t the same. So every book whether it’s number 1 or number 15 in the series is their first book.
From Supporting to Lead
One element which helps me in my strive to keep each tale in the Willow Bend series fresh includes the supporting cast of characters—more it’s rotating leading characters from one book to supporting characters of another. It lets us revisit previous heroes and heroines while also offering a way to introduce future issues. In addition to rotating the cast, I can use natural relationships to show how these characters interact.
We know Gillian and Owen are important to Brett, they are also important to Mason. It’s natural for them to appear in books where these characters are pivotal. Claire Buckley spent time in Sutter Butte, her appearance in DESERT WOLF is organic as is being joined by her mate, Tyler. Tyler has links to A.J. and Linc—they’re his brothers…call it my Six Degrees of Willow Bend…those connections flesh out the world, the story and they give me ideas for future tales as well as upcoming twists and turns we may or may not be expecting.
While the series has continuing world arcs, each book focuses on a particular set of characters. They are our window, and give us their view of what is happening to the greater world while we are engaged in their tale. Each piece of the puzzle provides us with another clue to where we are going and who will be guiding us on the next part of the journey. The best part of the series is the characters that appear as a momentary distraction, but prove to be a meatier hook for the future.
What keeps a series fresh for you?
National bestselling author, Heather Long, likes long walks in the park, science fiction, superheroes, Marines, and men who aren’t douche bags. Her books are filled with heroes and heroines tangled in romance as hot as Texas summertime. From paranormal historical westerns to contemporary military romance, Heather might switch genres, but one thing is true in all of her stories—her characters drive the books. When she’s not wrangling her menagerie of animals, she devotes her time to family and friends she considers family. She believes if you like your heroes so real you could lick the grit off their chest, and your heroines so likable, you’re sure you’ve been friends with women just like them, you’ll enjoy her worlds as much as she does.
Cassius, Alpha of Sutter Butte, leads the most ruthless and dangerous pack in the United States. A pack comprised of misfits who didn’t fit in their previous packs, cast offs discarded by their packs and forgotten wolves who rose to create a pack more than a century before it utter defiance of the order of the day. Sometimes pitiless and cruel, he wants more for his people than a yearly bloodbath as they fight for a new place, a better spot in the pecking order. To change his pack, means to change himself and he will find rebellion on all sides, not the least of which is his own defiant heart.
Sovvan Stark, Omega of Delta Crescent, lives a cherished, beloved life in the center of her pack, a delicate and hard won balance. Though she is not the only Omega, she is the most experienced with the tremors of pack upset when power shifts from Alpha to Alpha. When her Alpha approaches her about Sutter Butte’s request, Sovvan considers the matter for several long months. While she might hold within her the key to helping the Sutter Butte Alpha, the undertaking could very well kill her.
Accompanied by a single Hound, Sovvan begins a journey to help Cassius rebuild the foundation of his pack, but first she will have to transform him