When I finished writing my first novel I had no idea to write either historical fiction or a series. However, we had moved to an area on the mid-north coast of New South Wales, an area that figured prominently in the early days of Australian colonization, and I became interested in its history.
This led me to explore the attitudes towards
women in the nineteenth century, and I decided that my next book must be
about the life of a woman in that era, when women had few rights and
were dominated by men. I determined that my character would be a
spirited woman who did not take kindly to subjugation. Then I began to
look at the attitudes towards women over the years, and decided it would
be interesting to do stories of three generations of women – mother,
daughter and grand-daughter – spanning the second half of the nineteenth
century and up to the end of the flapper era. Would the patronizing
attitudes of men towards women have altered? And how would women change?
I realized it could not be told in a single book, and decided it would
be in a series of three books, one for each generation. So far so good.
What I did not realize was the problems posed to writers of series.
The first book, "A Woman of Spirit", was straightforward. The main
character, Kitty, lived her life in the book and when book# one ended,
she had a daughter, Joy, who was a baby. Now, I had to continue Kitty’s
story in book# two, so I couldn’t just start it when Joy was a grown
woman, too much time would have passed.
First problem – how to
cover the years as Joy grows from child to young woman, and hold the
reader’s interest. Not an easy task. She went to school. She learned to
ride and developed a love of horses. Not riveting phases of her life.
So book# two," In Search of Love", continued Kitty’s story, and covered
Joy’s life from age thirteen to young womanhood, a period when every
young woman’s thoughts turn to love and, eventually, to marriage.
Second problem, as time passes there is the continuation of
characters, and how they change as they were affected by the changing
history of the times. I thought I knew my characters well but when it
came to writing scenes I realized there were so many small details to
remember, particularly with places and minor characters. How exactly had
I described Lady Barron? Craddock? Harry Osborne? Which hotel in
Sydney had Kitty stayed in? Minor points perhaps but important.
With a series there is always the question of how much to explain in
the second, and subsequent, books in case readers start with that one
first. Each book must be able to stand alone as well as being read in
sequence, but it’s hard to do that without boring readers of the first
book. Finding the balance between these needs is challenging. Each book
must have its own plot, its own characters, including some from previous
books, and its own changing tensions. But it must still relate to the
preceding story, and answer the questions left unanswered at the end of
that book, and, if you want readers keen to continue the saga, to have
its own problems unresolved at the end.
When I finished "In
search of Love", which is due to be published soon, I knew it was time
to get on with book# three, but already I could see that the planned
trilogy would not be enough if I was to fulfill my original intention.
Now that book# three, "An Ambitious Woman", is finished I am
already thinking ahead to book # four. And will that be enough? Only
time will tell.