When I finished writing my first novel, which is a stand-alone book, set in contemporary Australia, I had no ideas about writing either historical fiction or a series. However, we had moved to an area on the mid-north coast of NSW, an area that figured prominently in the early days of colonization, and I became interested in its history.
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 a story
of different generations of women – mother, daughter and grand-daughter –
spanning the second half of the nineteenth century and, maybe, up to
the end of the flapper era, the 1930’s. Would the patronizing attitudes
of men towards women have altered? And how would women have changed? I
realized it could not be told in a single book, and decided to make it 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.
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, 'In Search of Love', so I couldn’t just start it when
Joy was a grown woman, too much time would have passed.
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 also covered Joy’s life from age thirteen to young womanhood.
problem, as time passes there is the continuation of characters, and
how they would change as they were affected by the changing history of
the times. It was a period of uncertainty in Australia, when there was
continual debate over the decision of whether the separate colonies
should join together to form the Federation of Australia or not – some
for, some against. There was also a severe recession in the 1990′s. How
would my characters be affected by these problems?
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? In which hotel in Sydney had Kitty stayed? Minor points
perhaps but important enough that I had to return to book one to check.
with a series there is always the question of how much to explain in
the second, and subsequent, books in case people start reading that one
first. Each book must really be able to stand alone as well as being
read in sequence, but it’s hard to do that without boring those who have
read 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, and to have its own problems
unresolved at the end, which will be answered in the next book if you
want readers to be waiting for the next of the series.
was time to get on with book three,'An Ambitious Woman', which is set as
the nineteenth century ends, and focuses mainly on a grown-up Joy. As
with all characters, Joy has become what she wants to be, a modern
woman, with modern ideas. But those ideas don’t always conform to the
social norms of the day, much as she wishes for it, and what happens to
her will probably confound readers and leave them wishing for more.
And here is the writer’s dilemma.
Will the trilogy be enough? Or will the series keep growing? Only time will tell.