Thursday, January 21, 2016

Two Stories Brewing - The Start of a Series

by Linda Thorne

I’ve read a lot of reasons why authors write book series. A common explanation is the opportunity to hook readers onto their protagonist, so that they’ll want to follow her wherever she goes. Some authors say their first book started out as a standalone, but during the writing process they were bombarded with ideas for a sequel.

My ideas for my first two mysteries in my series evolved about the same time some twenty-five years ago, way before I decided to write books. I thought the stories would make good movies, books, or both, but I had no intention of doing a thing to help them get there. I carried them around in daydream mode only. Sometimes I’d share parts of my stories with others and I’d say without meaning it, “I’d like to write a book.” Looking back in time, my daydream continued brewing, gaining momentum until the day I decided to write books. By then it felt like this was my destiny.

One of these brewing stories came from numerous experiences in human resources that I’d taken from true events and created a loose plotline. My story begins with a young female employee, a no-call-no-show for work, who is found murdered. This really happened at a manufacturing plant I’d worked at in Denver. Then, at another time and workplace, I watched another young woman be continually blamed for things she had not done. I created a story, a mystery, to solve the case of the no-call-no-show who turned up murdered, to find justice for the mistreated young woman employee, and make certain bad bosses got their comeuppance. I shared this with others adding, “I’d like to write a book” with no intention of doing so.

Over the years I began to add other experiences and create new characters, fictionalized from people I met. The plot for both stories began to thicken and when I finally decided to write a book, I chose the story in the paragraph above for my debut novel. My original title was The Termination of Jolene Cromwell, based upon the young woman ill-treated by one of my employers. By the time I started writing the book, the story was about a lot more than the person I renamed Jolene Cromwell, so I changed my book title to Just Another Termination. The book was published in August of 2015.
My other story had come from a harrowing experience I’d had when I was twenty-two. My roommates had gone to their parents homes for Thanksgiving. I didn’t have family nearby and I worked, so I stayed alone in the huge rickety old house we rented during a wind-driven blizzard. In the middle of the night I heard someone come into the house and start up the stairs toward my room, but a one-in-a-million-chance phone call scared the person off. Another woman in the neighborhood about the same age as me was murdered shortly afterward. Was she murdered instead of me? A few months later I moved out of state and lost track of the case. In creating this loose storyline, I had my lead character, years later, move back to where this had happened, put her in danger of a second attempt on her life by the killer, and allowed her to solve the original murder of the other young woman. I shared this story with others too, always ending it with, “I’d like to write a book,” never really meaning it.

The story I just mentioned will be my second book when I’m finished writing it. I had to give my protagonist, Judy Kenagy, a reason to return to the area where the harrowing event took place, and someone else murdered, but what could it be? She loved where she lived. So, I let Judy's husband lose his higher paying job then wrote in a job promotion for her to become vice-president of human resources. The promotion required her to relocate back to where she needed to go. The title of this work-in-progress is A Promotion to Die For.

I don’t have a story yet for the third book and while writing the other two, ideas have not come knocking. For the third in the series, I only know that after Judy loses the job she was promoted to in book two, she moves to the greater Nashville, Tennessee area where I’ve lived since 2008.

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Susan said...

Fascinating post. Series are difficult to write and I admire you for tackling it. How spooky that you might have been the intended victim that snowy night! Have you searched the local archives to find more information?

Linda Kane said...

Great book and I enjoyed reading how you put your ideas together in writing your first book. I also like the way it morphed into book two and now three. Good idea for a blog.

Linda Thorne said...

Susan, I've searched everywhere. It's a case of maybe going to the local newspaper and looking in archived microfilm or something like that. These are some of the things my character gets to look into in A Promotion to Die For. She gathers more information than I ever have.

Linda Thorne said...

Thank you Linda Kane. I love posting here, but it takes me away from writing the second book.

Morgan Mandel said...

If you can get a series going, it will help you get loyal followers. I still have a standalone thriller I need to complete, but then I want to focus on doing more series books.

Kathleen Kaska said...

What a chilling experience you had, Linda! It reminded me of a near-miss I experienced. I never thought about using it in a mystery, but I will now.