Friday, June 17, 2011

On Writing a Book Series by Guest Author Anna Maclean

Happy Friday, all!


I'm very excited to have author Anna Maclean with me today. She has a new book out: Louisa and The Missing Heiress, the first in a trilogy of mysteries from Penguin Books (NAL),
featuring sleuth Louisa May Alcott.

Please welcome her as she shares some thoughts on writing her book series.

What’s most exciting about writing a series instead of a single novel is this great opportunity to follow a character through a longer time line than a single mystery could allow, to take her from here to there in terms of character development. Specifically, with Louisa May Alcott, who is the sleuth in my series of cozy mysteries, beginning with Louisa and the Missing Heiress, I wanted to begin with her in young adulthood, when she is unknown, inexperienced and uncertain of what she wants to do with her life. And then, take her up to that moment when she begins to become the Louisa May Alcott we know, the woman who writes Little Women and becomes astoundingly famous.

I begin the series in 1854, when twenty-two year old Louisa is living with her family in Boston, teaching children in her parlor to earn money, and secretly writing some pretty exciting tales of dangerous men and femme fatales in her attic writing room. But she’s also beginning to think about writing on a very serious level and soon after the beginning of this novel publishes Flower Tales, her earliest book for children. The book does well in that it earns her a little money and a little recognition…but she senses there is much, much more to come from her imagination. And so, in this first mystery in the series, she begins to think about the characters that will, in years to come, become her Little Women.

Of course, what is difficult about a series is that each book must stand alone and be able to be read, and enjoyed, independently from the others. Information can’t be repeated, yet each book must have all the information the reader needs to ‘know’ Louisa. The character has to change, to develop, yet remain completely identifiable.
There are many things that ‘unify’ my Louisa as a fictional character, so that while developing and changing she retains an inherent character: her love of writing, her devotion to her family, her conviction that she must remain independent if she is to do her best work.

In Louisa and the Missing Heiress, Louisa is just beginning to ‘separate’ from her family on an intellectual level, to realize that she may support causes her father may not support – specifically, women’s rights! So there is that tension, of the girl becoming the women, the free agent, the free-thinker. Throw into that emotional setting a series of events quite plausible for nineteenth century Boston – illegitimate children, sexual abuse of young girls, a murder – and you end up with a Louisa who is certainly different on the last page than she was on the first!

What some readers and admirers of Little Women may not know about Louisa May Alcott is that, in addition to writing grown-up tales of romance and forbidden love, Louisa also had a great sense of humor. I used that in my mystery, allowing Louisa moments of caustic yet never sarcastic fun, as well as a little romance.

I'm a huge fan of Little Women, so you using Louisa May Alcott as your character is so interesting!


Thanks for stopping by! Here's a little bit more about her book:


Long before she will achieve fame as the author of Little Women, Louisa May Alcott is writing stories of a more dark and mysterious nature. But nothing prepares her for the role of amateur detective she assumes when the body of her dear friend, wealthy newlywed Dorothy Wortham, is found floating in Boston’s harbor.

It’s well known that Dorothy’s family didn’t approve of her husband, a confirmed fortune hunter, but Louisa suspects that some deeper secret lies behind her friend’s tragic murder...

CONTEST: Anne will be giving away a Victorian tea cup and saucer to one randomly drawn commenter and, for the host with the most comments, she has a page of cartoons from a mid-nineteenth century issue of Harper's Bazaar - cartoons Louisa herself might have laughed at.


For more information about the author, please visit her website: http://www.annamaclean.net

Good luck!

Do you enjoy reading series books? What's your favorite?
If you're a writer, have you ever considered writing a series?

125 comments:

Wendy Paine Miller said...

I imagine that could get tricky devoting so much time to a character and also creating each book as a stand alone.

Interesting post.

I've enjoyed Nicole Baart's series books and I'm reading one now (not a book I'd ordinarily select, but I'm loving it) Fairer than Morning that is the first in a series.

~ Wendy

Laura Pauling said...

Sounds like a great book. I love stumbling across a series done right where each book could stand alone outside of the overarching plot line. :)

Linda G. said...

Oh, LOUISA AND THE MISSING HEIRESS sounds fantastic! I loved Little Women -- read it too many times to count when I was a kid.

Heather Sunseri said...

I love a great series. Especially one in which each book in the series has a completely different plot. When they sound too formulamatic or too similar, I'm not as impressed.

I'm currently writing a book which I hope I can become a series, but we'll see...

Rula Sinara said...

Wow, the series sounds amazing. I love how you've based it on Louisa. It would make a wonderful TV series :)

I do like reading a series...really loved them as a child. What's interesting to me is that, although I know each book needs a solid character arc, I'd not thought of it in terms of the arcs for each book adding up to build a much larger character arc for the series.

Best wishes!

Em-Musing said...

How creative of you, but then...that's what good writers do...give us a new take on something. The books sounds like a fun read.

Halli Gomez said...

That sounds like a great story! One I definitely have to read.
I love the originality in the story and the concept of taking this author, telling about her life and mixing it with a mystery. Fantastic!

Manzanita said...

This is a great post. Mysteries are my favorite read. I started reading mystery series with Nancy Drew when I was very young. It was during the depression and I would do any kind of odd job for my neighbors to earn enough pennies to buy a Nancy Drew book.
Manzanita@Wannabuyaduck

Sandy Cody said...

Using Louisa May Alcott as a character in a series is an interesting idea, also rather brave since many of us have very definite ideas of who she is. I look forward to reading it and wish you good luck with it.

My personal favorite series at the moment (it changes) is Alexander McCall Smith's Ladies' Detective Agency books.

Suze said...

'What’s most exciting about writing a series instead of a single novel is this great opportunity to follow a character through a longer time line ...'

I really like that. And if you've written more than one book with separate narrators in which other narrators peripherally people the other books, it is also a very satisfying thing to give glimpses of the other lives in each.

Have a wonderful weekend, Jennifer.

Carol Kilgore said...

How fun! Someone has told me that Louisa May Alcott and I share a common ancestor.

Happy Weekend :)

Terri Tiffany said...

It sounds wonderful! Of course my favorite book growing up was Little Women:) I would love to read this:)

Anna Maclean said...

Jennifer, thank you for inviting me to your place and posing an intriguing question!

My love of mystereis also began with Nancy Drew. I remember when I was a little girl I had a friend who had a whole shelf of Nancy Drews...and hadn't read them! I was flabbergasted,to think you could have a book and not read it! Kind of like having a friend, but not speaking to her.

Thanks for your great comments!

Jennifer Shirk said...

Thanks again for stopping by, Anna! and good luck with your book!

Liza said...

What an amazing premise for a book. I'm so impressed, and so putting it on my TBR list!

Ann Best said...

Who doesn't love a good series! This one looks like one I'd like to read.
Ann Best, Memoir Author

Jessica Nelson said...

I also have loved Little Women and find it fascinating that you've made some mysteries out of Alcott's life. What a wonderful premise! Thanks for sharing about the books. :-)

TheBookGirl said...

I enjoy reading series books, though if the series goes on too long, I tend to lose interest...a trilogy is about the right size for me.

I find it interesting that the author highlighted one of the things that I always thought would be the most difficult about writing a series: how much information to include in the later books to make the story understandable to a new reader, but not tediously repititive to a reader familiar with the earlier books.

Sandra Cox said...

What a fun series. I loved Little Women.

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