May 8, 2012
Writing a Mystery Series by Peg Herring
Once is not enough. Readers love a series; just ask Laurie King or Lee Child or Charles Todd. A series is fun for the reader, since the characters become like old friends. I know Harry Bosch better than I know many people I see every day. I’ve seen Harry in danger, under extreme temptation, and tested to the limits of endurance. The toughest test I’ve seen most of my real friends endure is a traffic snarl or an uncooperative vending machine.
Many readers find characters they like and then read everything they can find about them. Writers are usually happy to oblige—at least for a while.
I have two series in progress, the Dead Detective mysteries and the Simon & Elizabeth (Tudor) historical mysteries. Although insanity does not run in my family, I recently signed to do a third series. How, you might ask, will I handle that? Here’s the plan, and I hope it works.
I’ve limited the number of books in each series. When I began the historicals, I plotted out five books. The first two (one with Henry VIII as king and one when Edward takes the throne) are now in print. Book #3 is under my editors’ care. Book #4 is forming, although I keep telling my husband that a trip to the UK would help to solidify the colorful historical background.
The Dead Detective series will also consist of five books. The one you see here is Book #2, DEAD FOR THE MONEY. Book #3, DEAD FOR THE SHOW, is mostly done, and Book #4 is just starting to dance around at the back of my head, calling “Me! Pick me! I’m ready!”
The first book of the third series demanded my attention until I gave up and took the time to write it down. When I sent it to LL-Publications, the word “Awesome!” came back to me. They’re excited about It and hope I find time to write Book #2 soon. (Me too.)
So what are the problems with series? Keeping things straight, for one thing. It pays to take good notes all the way along, because it’s easy by Book #4 to forget what kind of car your sleuth drives or what he usually orders at the diner for breakfast.
Another possible problem is boredom for the author. Some end up wanting to murder their own protagonists, as I once heard Martha Grimes confess. Her publisher wouldn’t hear of it, of course, because the fans wanted more and more of Inspector Jury. Steve Hamilton likes to try his hand at standalones, but I’ve heard his fans ask more than once, “When will we get another Alex McKnight mystery?” Publishers prefer a safe bet, the characters that worked before, but writers are creative people. We often want to do what feels right, not what will sell most.
For me, writing what I want to write is more important than commercial success. (Not that I know what commercial success would do to me!) Readers tell me they like my books, and I try to make it clear that they’re different. You might like Simon but hate Seamus. What is the same in my books is my belief in justice and the triumph of the human spirit (no pun intended). Whether it’s a series or a standalone, I just work to deliver “Strong women; Great Stories” with every book.
Schedule: Peg Herring’s Blog Tour for May (and one post in June) consists of a mix of interviews with Seamus, the Dead Detective, and posts on writing. The last stop was at http://melissasimaginarium.blogspot.com. Tomorrow’s stop is at http://www.jennymilchman.com/blog/. A complete schedule is posted on my blog, It’s A Mystery to Me-http://itsamysterytomepegherring.blogspot.com/ When the tour is over (June 11th), the complete Seamus interview will be posted on my blog.
Prizes: People who comment on any blog post on the tour will be entered in drawings for several prizes: Dead Detective T-shirts, copies of THE DEAD DETECTIVE AGENCY and DEAD FOR THE MONEY (paperback or e-books available), and the chance to be a character in the third of the series DEAD FOR THE SHOW. Multiple winners will be drawn.
Bio: Peg Herring lives in Michigan and writes two series, the critically acclaimed Simon & Elizabeth (Tudor) Mysteries (Five Star Publishing) and the award-winning Dead Detective Mysteries (LL-Publications). When not writing, Peg enjoys directing musical groups, gardening, and talking about writing.
Links: DEAD FOR THE MONEY (e-book) http://tinyurl.com/c6pzz5z
THE DEAD DETECTIVE AGENCY (paperback) http://tinyurl.com/7f6yc2r
Peg’s website: http://pegherring.com