Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Series Surrender

by Janis Patterson

As I’ve said many times before, it never ceases to astonish me how many – and how many times – people ask me where I get ideas for my books. Where DON’T you get ideas? They’re as thick, persistent and unavoidable as a mosquito storm in a swamp.

For example, I am in the final throes of finishing my Egyptian murder mystery A KILLING AT EL KAB. I tried to get it done before The Husband and I took off for Boston to attend the wedding of his battle buddy from his first Iraq deployment. (It was a beautiful and fantastic formal affair, by the way.) Well, I didn’t, and I didn’t even try while we were up North. We took a few days to sightsee, and of course my mind was far and away from murder and mayhem on an Egyptian archaeological dig.

Instead my mind latched onto murder and mayhem at a Massachusetts archaeological dig. (Yes, I know my mind tends to run in certain ways.) I had been teasing with the idea of doing a series with a globe-trotting anthropologist who finds murder and mayhem wherever she goes. (My kind of girl!) For those of you who don’t know, traditionally Old World excavators are called archaeologists and New World ones are called anthropologists, though in many cases they have almost the exact same training. At least, that’s the way I was taught it was, and if it has changed in the interim I apologize.

Now you’re probably saying, Wait a minute! This writer hates series. What’s she doing planning on writing one?

All I can do is plead habitual inconsistency.

However, in my defense I will say that the only constant in the series will be the heroine herself. Each setting will be different. Already I’ve started making notes on books to be set in Massachusetts, Peru, Midland Texas and England. Other characters from other books may make small cameo appearances through letters or phone calls, but the main cast of characters will be different each time. That, I hope, will keep me from getting bored, which is my main beef with series.

And there is a second inducement – money. As The Husband does some work as my assistant (for which I pay him, just to keep the I(nfernal) R S happy) he is a vital part of my writing business. That means whenever we travel to someplace where I am setting a novel, it becomes a deductible business expense. The more books, the more places we get to go. Sweet!

Unfortunately, my desk is stacked to the skies with stuff that must be finished before I can really progress beyond the notes stage. There’s A KILLING AT EL KAB, of course, and the idea of finishing that breaks my heart. It is a world I love, one which I have actually visited (sans murders, of course, darn it) and when I leave I’ll never really be able to go back again. After that, I must finish the final re-write of THE MASTER OF MORECAMBE HALL, a tasty modern Gothic set in a stately home in England, then get it edited, formatted and a cover made. And I must do a final read-through of MURDER AND MISS WRIGHT, a contemporary cozy mystery set at a scholarly Egyptological conference in Chicago. This has been superbly edited by my wonderful editor Laree Bryant and has a marvelous cover by the inimitable Dawn Charles of Bookgraphics and all it lacks is formatting and the back cover copy finalized. It should have been out for sale at the beginning of summer – I am the one falling down on the job.

A writer, however, can usually tell when an idea has legs or when it is just a flash in the pan that tempts and bedazzles for a week or so. My anthropologist/excavator/sleuth has been hanging around at the fringes of my consciousness for long enough now that I believe she has legs. I hope so. I’m ready to travel.


Linda Thorne said...

Interesting post. It hooked me from the start when you said, "where don't you get your ideas?" I hear this question for authors often of where do your ideas come from and wonder why it's even asked? I posted a similar (but totally different) post on author Kaye George's blog on September 9th. I wrote about being amazed to find a conference session once that would offer suggestions on how to get ideas. I saw no reason to attend that one.

Marilyn Meredith a.k.a. F. M. Meredith said...

Indeed, ideas are floating around everywhere. Great post!