By Caroline Clemmons
Recently an author friend (Jacquie Rogers) and I were talking about how we form our series. Everyone has his or her special way of building a series. Today, I thought you might be interested in learning how I go about constructing a new series.
Usually, the idea for the series comes with the first hero and/or heroine in a little movie in my head. (Yes, authors are crazy.) This brings me to choose the location for the community in which most of the story will take place. For instance, in my current series, Texas Hill Country Mail Order Brides, each heroine is living east of the Mississippi River, and usually near the Atlantic coast.
As soon as a heroine accepts a groom’s invitation, she travels to where he lives. In this case it is Harrigan Springs in Harrigan County, both of which are fictitious. They are squeezed in between the real counties of Bandera and Medina, and Harrigan County gets the Medina River running through it. The Texas Hill Country is one of my favorite places, which is why I chose it as the site of this series. By using a fictitious city and county, it can contain the businesses and topographical features I need for my story.
Mail order bride stories are fun to read and to write. That’s why I wanted this to be an entire series of mail order brides, but from every level of society. The first is from Bavaria, now a part of Germany but not at the time of the story. The other heroines involve a very proper Bostonian, a pickpocket who brings a boy and her best friend, a saloon girl, an ex-convict, an Irish immigrant, and a woman in jeopardy who is on the run. Of course, they each appear to be a lovely, virtuous young woman. When you think about a mail order bride, though, you realize each is escaping something or someone. If you want to read about real mail order brides, try Chris Enss’ HEARTS WEST.
I made a list of the heroes and the occupation of each for the series. Again, I wanted to vary the type of characters. So, I have an easy going but good rancher, a firm but fair sheriff, a charming but troubled rancher, a very private blacksmith entrepreneur, a charming minister who is actually a bit too stuffy, a gruff lawyer, a cheerful mercantile owner, and a banker. (The list makes me smile and think it calls for a butcher, baker and candlestick maker like the children’s rhyme.) The personalities have to be different, too. Otherwise, the stories become boring to the reader and to me. Plus, some heroes have a big secret they do not want to reveal.
For the hero, I have to be careful or they all look like my husband, who I call Hero. He’s 6’3” with beautiful blue eyes and had dark brown hair that is now gray. I admit the good traits of the heroes are those of my Hero. To add a little variety, I do have one blond hero in this series, LEVI. I can’t help making most of the heroes like my Hero, because he is such a good man, good husband, good father, and a cutie patootie.
Choosing a cover can be difficult—and can be expensive, from fifty dollars to thousands. These covers were created by author Charlene Raddon at her Silver Sage Cover Designs, and at a reasonable cost. She is a lovely person with whom working is a pleasure. She is also the designer of the new covers for my Bride Brigade and Loving A Rancher series, as well as for a few single titles. She also conceives clever series, including Bachelors and Babies, Widows of Wildcat Ridge, The Love Train Series, and others.
Continuity is important in a series or a television show or a movie. For any series, keeping a bible is a major requirement. For instance, characters can’t change eye or hair color from one book to another. The sheri8ff's office can't be across from the mercantile in one book and across from the hotel in the next. One of the reasons readers enjoy a series is that characters appear throughout the series. This is also fun for me—but the characters have to be described the same way in each book. Here I blush bright red—I goofed in the Men of Stone Mountain Texas Series and changed the name of the sheriff from Buster in TABITHA’S JOURNEY, in which he was a minor character, to Butch in WINTER BRIDE, in which he was the hero. Oops. Now I’ve learned to keep a better series bible!
Luda Corrigan, lives across the street from Worthingtons.
Amos Corrigan, her husband
Mr. Abe Lieberman butcher
Every character has to be listed in the bible, even if his is intended as only a single walk-on part. For instance, Luda Corrigan listed above is mentioned only in one sentence in LEVI AND THE MAIL ORDER BRIDE. However, she might play a larger part in a future book. You never know. Sometimes readers like a minor character so much they request a book about that character. That’s how QUINN’s book came into existence in this series. In the McClintock series, Finn’s book titled O’NEILL’S TEXAS BRIDE was written because of requests for his story after Finn appeared in THE TEXAN’S IRISH BRIDE. In the Kincaid series, Monk was so popular that I wrote the novella MONK’S BRIDE. For those authors who find a series bible too onerous, Diane Rodes Garland is Your World Keeper, https://yourworldkeeper.com She keeps track of everything in an author's series. She is a sweetheart and does a great job. I love writing series, and had already set up my own method years before I met her.
After the book is written, it must be edited. And re-edited. Typos sneak into the text like little gremlins. My editor is good and goes over the manuscript three times, I reread and reread until my eyes cross. Typos STILL get by us. I find them in the big name authors’ books, too. That’s why I get riled when I hear someone say indie published books have too many errors. Grrrr! I have beta readers, an editor with a Master’s degree, and I’m not exactly new to this business.
this is done, the book is ready to format, upload, and launch, which brings a
new series of
problems concerns for marketing. That’s another headache
blog sometime. I love, love, love writing. Marketing, meh, not so much.