Being a Texas girl myself, I’m partial to Leann Sweeney’s Yellow Rose Mysteries and I’m thrilled she’s guest blogging for us today about shaking things up! ~Sara
Changing Series Characters’ Lives
by Leann Sweeney
As I was writing the fourth book in the Yellow Rose Mystery series (NAL/Signet) I was experiencing a difficult time in my life. I had been diagnosed with chronic Lyme Disease and was faced with the fact that I couldn’t do what I used to do, that energy was a precious commodity and that a pain-free life might be impossible. Perhaps that was when I realized that art must indeed reflect life and change, even though some of that change is neither welcomed or anticipated. If I didn’t write books that reflected the reality of change, my characters could not grow and stretch and remain interesting.
I was worried my editor would not agree, that her approach might be “if it ain’t broken don’t fix it,” but I should not have been concerned. She gave me the freedom to do what I wanted, to shake things up a little, to make the series reflect a continuum of accumulated experiences by my characters that will affect them in each succeeding book. In other words, she supported my need to make them more alive and more emotionally accessible to the reader.
But the challenge of change in a series became evident as I struggled through writing the book. In real life, events like a car wreck or a horrible accident, can lead to stress and sleepless nights and all sorts of awful consequences, but in fiction, the story must remain central and any changes the characters go through have to be integral to the plot. Otherwise, those changes will have no context. The car wreck or accident or loss of a loved one in fiction must move the story forward and just as important, move the series forward. I found that to be a new challenge in this huge learning curve called being a writer.
Then there are the readers to consider. After three books, I have received many letters and e-mails of support and I don’t want to let those folks down with a sub-par book. My fictional world must remain stable to a certain extent or I will risk losing that fan base. Characters, though challenged by difficulty, must retain their core values. They must respond like real humans—but in a way that the readers can accept. Even though I have sat through numerous panel discussions on “keeping your series fresh” I never realized how challenging this could be.
Shoot From the Lip will be out January 2nd and pre-publication reviews have been positive, but the real judges will be the readers. Now, I am working on the 5th book in the series and have discovered the challenges haven’t ended. As with the difficulties of real life we all face, so it is with these fictional characters I created and molded and did things to—gosh that sounds awful! But they carry on, they deal with each day as it comes, days that are far more interesting than my own, thank goodness. But one thing has not changed. Abby will always make me smile and want to enter her world over and over. I hope that’s true for my readers as well.