Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Keeping a Series on Track: 11 Books in 10 Years

An interview by Linda Lovely

Kathryn R. Wall, photo by Vicky Hunnings

Kathryn R. Wall began writing fiction after retiring with her husband to Hilton Head Island, SC. In 2001, she self-published In for a Penny, her first Bay Tanner mystery. The book's success led to an offer from a small regional publisher to reissue the novel and publish its sequel, And Not a Penny More.

Then serendipity struck. An editor for St. Martin's Press, visiting relatives in nearby Beaufort, was introduced to the series. A month later, Kathy had a hardcover contract for her third book. Since that time, St. Martin’s has published eight titles in the series, in hardback and paperback. The 11th Bay Tanner mystery, Jericho Cay, will be released on April 26, 2011.

Linda Lovely asked Kathy to talk about some of the special challenges associated with writing a popular long-standing mystery series.

LL: Did you envision a series when you wrote your first Bay Tanner book?
KRW: No. Since I don't have children, my goal was to leave behind one published book with my name on the cover -- my legacy, if you will.

LL: Where do you get your ideas for new plots?
KRW: Oh, no, the dreaded 'idea' question! Most of the time, the kernel comes from something I've read in the local paper or a conversation I've overheard. Yes, I eavesdrop. It comes with the territory.

LL: Have your main characters evolved in ways you didn't envision early in the series?
KRW: Yes and no. Because I'm a fly-by-the-seat-of-the-pants writer, I'm never sure how things are going to turn out until I actually get them on paper. Ditto the characters. I do believe, though, that you have to allow them to evolve over time in a way that makes sense for the types of people you've initially created.

LL: What should a series author consider in "aging" her heroine? If you write a book a year, should the character be a year older?
KRW: Bay Tanner has aged approximately five years over 11 books. (I'm trying to figure out how to work that deal for myself.) In my case, I needed her to stay in an age range that allowed her to remain active enough to chase bad guys--literally.

LL: What are the pros and cons of setting a series in a specific geographic area?
KRW: Setting the series on Hilton Head Island has allowed me, through the huge yearly influx of tourists from all over the world, to attract an audience who will carry the books back to their homes, reaching a far greater geographic area than I could ever cover on my own. And it makes research really easy.

LL: Do you have any continuity problems as the number of books climb?
KRW: Yes. Not with the major characters and plot points, but with the bit players. Sometimes I find myself leafing through one of the earlier books in an effort to remember what the heck I called the guy who ran the tour boat or some such. My main focus is always on keeping the star players true to the lives and characteristics I've given them.

LL: Have you ever killed off someone you later regretted doing away with?
KRW: Yes, there have been a couple. And one I wanted to knock off, but my editor wouldn't let me. Turns out she was right, because that character later became the focus of an entire plot in a subsequent book.

LL: Have you considered "spin off" series featuring minor characters?
KRW: Doing one book a year is all I can handle. I do, however, have an idea for a prequel involving Bay's family 150 years prior to the current series. We'll see.

Kathryn R. Wall, the author of 11 Bay Tanner mysteries, is the Treasurer for Sisters in Crime/national. For more information about the author and her books, go to www.kathrynwall.com.

Linda Lovely is the author of Dear Killer, a mystery set for release in June 2011 from L&L Dreamspell. Her novel, Counterfeit, was a finalist in the Romantic Suspense category of the RWA's 2010 Golden Heart contest.


Anonymous said...

I'd find that prequel you're thinking about very interesting. As an author, you'd have lots of new material to work with but would also be able to delve into the many factors--choice and chance--that brought your heroine to the present day.

Linda Lovely

Howard Lewis said...

That your goal of having your name on a published book turned into a series gives us all hope. A prequel 150 prior sounds interesting.

Thanks for the interview.

Howard Lewis

Polly said...

Anyone getting to eleven in a series with any publisher these days must be doing something right. Good for you.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the kind words, y'all. Sometimes, when I stop to think about it, it sort of boggles my mind as well.


Ellis Vidler said...

I enjoy getting to know your characters, old and new. Bay and her friends are very real and believable. If you find Bay's secret for not aging, let me know!
And I hope you'll do the prequel--that should be fun.

Candace Carter said...

Great blog post. Interesting to get a little insight into how you keep things on track through the series.