Don’t you love a series?

Picture of books by Peter RobinsonI admit, I love series of books. If I find an author I enjoy, a story I can relate to, as soon as I’ve finished one, I’m hankering for another book in the same setting.

Before I go any further, let’s define what I mean by ‘series’; a set of books set in the same environment, often using the same characters. The world-building has been done, it’s familiar. Sometimes main characters in one book might be bit-players in another but the reader has (probably) met them before and knows who they are. Here, I’m talking about books written by the same author. A good example is Anne McCaffrey’s Pern series which started with the dragonriders and expanded to harpers and then others as the demand grew.

Crime books starring particular detectives are a stand-out example of a series. Agatha Christie’s Poirot and Miss Marple, Sherlock Holmes, Adam Dalgleish, Inspector Banks etc etc etc. Grab me with one and you’ve sold me the lot.

I should point out, though, that liking a series by an author does not immediately imply I’ll like everything an Picture of Elizabeth Moon booksauthor writes. Of course, there are exceptions. I’d read a shopping list if Terry Pratchett wrote it. But I have been disappointed. Ms McCaffrey’s ‘Talent’ books (Pegasus et al) left me cold and although I loved Elizabeth Moon’s Serrano and Vatta series, her award-winning novel about autism (Speed of Dark) was a dnf. This is not necessarily a reflection on the ability of the writers. At the end of the day, the contract made between the author and the reader inevitably includes the subject matter. I only bought Speed of Dark because Moon wrote it – but perhaps I should have looked a little more closely before I spent my money.

Which brings me to another type of series which is really a franchise. One of the most famous of this type is Star Wars. Since it expanded beyond the original three movies the Star Wars franchise has gone super nova. There must be at least one hundred Star Wars novels out – I don’t know, I haven’t counted. Here, the setting in particular, is as comfortable as an old pair of slippers. The characters are bit-players in a larger scene. Only the authors are different, which means, of course, the reading experience differs. I’ve read some very good Star Wars novels and some that were (imo) total rubbish. Anne McCaffrey handed on her Pern series to her son, Todd, also a writer. For me, the transition was not a great success.

And then there’s that last type of series/franchise that frankly grates on me. A lot of the Big Names such as James Patterson and Dale Brown have developed franchises. Their names are on the books in Great Big Letters. And underneath, you’ll find the by-line “with Fred Nerk”. Which means Fred Nerk wrote it. To me, that’s almost false pretences. And I avoid those books.

How do series work for you?

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About Greta van der Rol

I'm an author of fast-paced, action-adventure novels, mainly space opera - although I've been known to write in other genres. I live not far from the coast in Queensland, Australia and enjoy photography and cooking when I'm not bent over the computer. I have a degree in history and a background in building information systems, both of which go a long way toward helping me in my writing endeavours.

Posted on 18 April 2012, in On writing and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 8 Comments.

  1. Great blog, Greta. There’s also the “loose series, where you have stories about different people and/or places within a period of time or area. Such as Andre Norton’s many stories about life after a huge interstellar war. The same good guys or bad guys, with different protagonists. Love them.

  2. Gabriella Hewitt

    I love series because the charcter sthat appear are like old friends or a good pair of comfortable shoes but some authors just lose me after a while because the author takes the character(s) in a direction I don’t find comfortable. Laurell K Hamilton had a great series with Anita Blake, I devoured the first 6 books. Hungry for the next installment and then she turned extra dark and over the top horny. I get it that a heroine in a UF has multiple partners and I was okay with 3 but then it became 5, 7 and then 13…I was wondering if Ms. Hamilton was using the Fibinaci method to determine how many lovers the main character could handle. I think once she did the dirty with an entire clan and couldn’t remember how many hands were on her because she lost count, I was wondering if I was reading a novel or cheap porn thrown away from Hustler?
    Still I loved her Merry Gentry series but that ended and with it too my love of Ms. Hamilton’s work.

  3. I really enjoyed your blog today. Nothing excites me more than trying a new author, falling in love with her/his book and discovering there are 10 other books in the series just waiting for me to buy. It’s like stumbling upon my own gold mine. Lara Adrian’s Midnight Breed Series is my most recent addiction. Her books have turned me on to vampires which I’d never read before.

  4. I have loved and left many mystery series. LOL! I think the problem for me, is that sometimes the character growth is so small, that I feel like I’m just getting previous books, repackaged with a new murder or whatever. So, I’m a bit wary of the “series” book that features the same character over and over. And I LIKE the HEA, so if they mess with that? I’m gone. Don’t mind seeing the relationship challenged (Linnea’s GABRIEL’S GHOST AND SHADES OF DARK did that, but still HEA), but don’t like the other lovers thing at all. That’s why I quit reading the Stephanie Plum books back when. Now, I really liked the series feel of Laiden books and have eaten up the Lost Fleet books (which did have a diversion into a side relatioship, but has settled into a HEA–at least I hope!).

    when I did my “series” they are really more connected books, with the occasional guest appearance of main characters from other books. I prefer to write standalone, though it was nice to have the world in place as I started each new book. As an author, I’m just not sure I can stay with the same characters through a bunch of books without the variety of the leads.

    so I’d say for me, the key issues are character growth. Lost Fleet had a lot of that, as Black Jack adjusts to the future and then the HEA. So I’m not against them, just….wary. Good blog post!

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