Lately it seems readers have insatiable appetites for series. Especially in contemporary, where we’re seeing loads of related titles, featuring brothers, cousins, townsfolk, platoons, secret societies, stamp collecting clubs – whatever connection the author can find.
Because series sell. Genre publishers knew this ages ago. For years, it’s been next to impossible to sell anything into paranormal or fantasy lines if it doesn’t have series potential. If readers love a fantasy world, they want to stay there. If they love the characters, they want more stories about them.
Romance readers, in particular, have this peculiar ability to invest deeply in fictional characters that I don’t think I’ve witnessed in any other genre, except maybe comic books. A common question for authors is: ‘Oh, I *adored* Boris the Bad-Ass Bastard in your latest novel! When will you write Boris’s book, and who will be his mate?’ Or: ‘Wow, the hero’s ninja superhero brother posing as a gay vampire pirate was so sexy! When will he get his story?’
Don’t get me wrong: it’s a lovely question, and we are pathetically desperate for you to keep asking it. Nothing authors crave more than readers who love their characters. Bring it. Really. Any time 🙂
With my readers, for some reason, it’s Kane, the immensely powerful and bad-ass yet endearingly naïve demon lord from my Shadowfae series. He’s a minor character, really, who sashays on like an over-sexed choir boy to make people’s lives a misery, while angsting about how pathetic and lonely his life is, and then wanders off to get laid or eat someone or throw his enemies in the dungeon for a thousand years or whatever. That’s just the way Kane rolls, and frankly, the little bastard needs an attitude adjustment. But I get more questions about Kane and his ‘book’ than any other character.
I’ve also had the sequel question from readers about my novella Cherry Kisses. When will we see more of Lena and Ethan’s story? I’m flattered and grateful and excited that people liked the story enough to care! And to be fair, though I won’t spoil it here (hint: you can download it for FREE!!) the ending of Cherry Kisses is left open relationship-wise.
Thing is: when I wrote that story, that was supposed to be The End. Story told. I never envisaged writing on. Maybe Lena and Ethan eventually get their white picket fence and baby carriage. Maybe they ride off into the sunset and slaughter demons together until the end of time. But that wasn’t the story I wanted to tell.
News flash, folks – preparing to duck tomato-throwers here – sometimes, a story’s just a story. It has a beginning, a middle and an end, and once you reach the end, there’s nothing more to say. Not everyone in romance can have a ‘book’. Not everyone finds their ‘mate’, if you even believe in that sort of thing.
This may be a fantasy world, kiddies, but it’s not frickin’ Disneyland. Some characters are destined to die bruised and alone. Bwahaha. Bah humbug.
Scary, I know. But does everything need to be a series? Must every world be Wish-Fulfilment Land? Isn’t it reasonable – or at least possible – that not everyone gets their ‘happy ever after’?
Because, y’know. Authors have plans, and they don’t always involve true love. Maybe we don’t want to write in Disneyland, the happiest place on earth. Maybe the gay ninja pirate vampire was just supposed to be a walk-on. And let’s face it, Boris the Bad-Ass Bastard doesn’t deserve love. He’s a blister-brained maniac with bad breath who couldn’t romance his way out of a wet paper bag, and he’s probably lousy in bed. Even if he’s Studly McBigBoy with the soul of Lord Byron and the sex drive of Don Juan on GHB – sometimes shit just happens. Bad things happen to hot people. This is the real world, goddammit… oh, wait.
It’s the world of Story. Where Miss Marple or the Midsomer detectives can solve eighty-five murders a year in a town with a population of a couple hundred, and where it’s always sunny at Downton Abbey (seriously? Have they ever been to Yorkshire?) Where every billionaire is young and gorgeous and wants to whip his interns, every vampire can get prodigious hard-ons without a heartbeat and has magical wound-healing pain killers in his spit, and no rakehell Regency duke ever had syphilis or crabs. Unless he’s ugly. Or French.
And where it’s perfectly reasonable that a family of ten super-sexy and unaccountably single brothers (or Navy SEALS, werewolf warriors, whatever) will all find their one twue wuv. Romance authors must write for romance readers, and romance readers want romance. In the world of Story – especially the world of paranormal – ‘it’s not realistic’ is no excuse, right?
As a storyteller: what do you do when the tale you want to tell is over? How far should we twist our story world to create series potential when there really isn’t any, or we didn’t want any? Given that offering our readers what they love is kind of what we’re here for: do we have a responsibility to at least try to give popular characters a ‘book’, or at least a satisfying subplot? And if we do that – if we drift away from the story we wanted to tell, and fill in gaps we never envisaged filling – aren’t we just writing fanfic in our own world? When does catering to readers’ desires cross the line into (gasp!) selling out?
And as a reader, how far are you prepared to stretch credibility to stay in a world you love? Do you even read standalones? If a secondary character you adore doesn’t get their HEA – maybe they even die, or get their heart broken for good – does that spoil it for you?
P.S. Boris the Bad-Ass Bastard and the gay superhero vampire pirate are mine. Perhaps we can make arrangements. Let’s talk.