If I were clever …

Four (!!) years ago, I posted Writing a Series Backwards. In that post, I explained that I was writing a novel about two women called Camille and Mariele, which was set in 1870 Paris.

If I were cleverer or a more experienced writer, I would have written my novels as a series. Planned them out in such a way that novel one would have naturally led to novel two and so on. Many readers love series because they become invested in the characters and like familiar friends, they wish to enjoy their company again and again picking up from when they last met. And publishers appreciate the ongoing reader interest and revenue that comes with it.

But I wasn’t that clever.

Paris In Ruins has taken the long road to publication: rejected by Lake Union Publishing who had published Time and Regret, the nail-biting search for an agent, almost two years with an agent who was unable to sell it, months of deciding whether to toss it out or proceed with self-publishing, and then months of reshaping, rewriting and editing. I even did another editing pass after an author who gave me a wonderful endorsement pointed out a few flaws.

Paris in Ruins was prompted by readers’ questions about an earlier novel Lies Told in Silence. That story begins in 1914, when a young woman called Helene Noisette leaves Paris along with her mother, grandmother, and younger brother to escape the threat of war by moving to the fictional town of Beaulieu in northern France. Helene’s grandmother, Mariele, is a widow in her mid-sixties, a woman whose past holds tragedy and secrets.

To my delight, readers were taken with Mariele and the role she played in Helene’s coming of age. They wanted to know more about her. 

What could Mariele’s story be? I pondered this question for a while and eventually asked: What if I went back to a time when Mariele was a young woman and the historical events that might have shaped her life? I did the calculation and landed in 1870. A quick search led me to the Franco-Prussian war, the siege of Paris and the Paris Commune. Wonderful! War, destruction, death, starvation, and a ruthless insurrection – all that drama. Surely, I could cook up something.

A second character threads her way through Lies Told in Silence – Camille Noisette, Mariele’s sister-in-law. Although Camille died before 1914, she features in that story through the memories of Mariele and through her house, which is located just outside the village of Beaulieu.

Two capable women. A friendship. A siege and an insurrection. Throw in a dash of unscrupulous behavior, some clandestine activities, an element of romance, the desire to protect those you love and to serve your country, and voilà, as the French say.

I’m excited to share Paris In Ruins with readers. Stay tuned for pre-order and publication details.

DON’T MISS OTHER POSTS ON READING & WRITING HISTORICAL FICTION.  FOLLOW A WRITER OF HISTORY

M.K. Tod writes historical fiction. Her latest novel, TIME AND REGRET was published by Lake Union. Mary’s other novels, LIES TOLD IN SILENCE and UNRAVELLED are available from AmazonNookKoboGoogle Play and iTunes. She can be contacted on FacebookTwitter and Goodreads or on her website www.mktod.com.

Tips on Writing a Series #HNS2019

At #HNS2019 I attended In For the Long Haul: The Craft of Writing a Series. This panel was moderated by Donna Russo Morin (great job, Donna!) with Nancy Bilyeau, Patricia Bracewell, and Anne Easter Smith as contributors. The session was designed to “weigh the pros and cons of writing a series and look at the decisions necessary in the earliest planning stages and beyond.” So let’s see what these wonderful writers had to say.

At the beginning the moderator made two clarifications: (1) a trilogy involves three novels with a tight connect of time, theme, character and sometimes location; (2) a series often involves one main character and is often based on a series of mysteries. As the session began, Donna asked each author to give some general comments on their series.

Patricia Bracewell: has written a trilogy based on the life of Emma of Normandy, England’s twice-crowned queen, which sprang from her life-long fascination with all things medieval. In her novels Pat attempts to re-create Emma’s early medieval world for readers as well as introduce them to this little known queen who has slipped into the footnotes of history. She feels that the same theme(s) will often run through a series/trilogy. For example, family, loyalty, duty. Such themes connect readers to their current lives and circumstances. However, conflicts vary from book to book to make the entire series more interesting.

Anne Easter Smith: her series based on the York family during the War of the Roses deals with different characters and could be considered a family saga. Each book is complete on its own and yet together they give an in-depth look at one of the two families whose viable claim to the throne threw England into civil war. Themes of morality, love vs. lust, duty, family, and loyalty are explored. Anne gave each protagonist a different skill – such as a musical instrument or a love of reading – that allowed exploration of something unique to that time period to enhance the story.

Donna Russo Morin has written a series telling the story of a secret society of women artists, under the tutelage of Leonardo da Vinci, who must navigate the treacherous life of 15th century Florence while trying to bring their artistry to the world.

Nancy Bilyeau’s series begins with The Crown where an aristocratic young nun – Joanna Stafford – must find a legendary crown in order to save her father—and preserve the Catholic faith from Cromwell’s ruthless terror. Subsequent novels continue Joanna’s story.

The group moved on to the pros and cons of writing series:

  • you can leverage your research because each novel is immersed in the same time and place
  • you have to like your characters because you will be spending a lot of time with them!
  • maintaining consistency of fact is essential (the authors have different ways to do this)
  • you need to avoid getting into a rut in terms of scenes; for example, you can’t have every scene happen in the Great Hall of some grand family castle
  • readers who have enjoyed your first book will usually stick with you for subsequent books in the series
  • you need to find ways to cover the years that intervene between stories in the trilogy, while avoiding a major information dump at the beginning of each subsequent novel
  • in addition to consistency of fact, you must maintain consistency of character
  • at times you can write the same scene but from a different character’s POV

Then there was a discussion about having an overarching storyline or book-specific storylines:

  • leave open questions at the end of your 1st and 2nd books (if writing a trilogy). This will entice readers to return for subsequent novels.
  • each book has to have a major conflict and a major resolution, even if there is an over-arching storyline for the series
  • you have to know what the final resolution will be; Donna Russo Morin (DRM) said that she wrote the last three chapters before writing the rest of the book. Donna has written the Da Vinci Disciples series.
  • Nancy Bilyeau (NB) mentioned that if she had to do it all over again, she would make the books more self-contained so that each story stands on its own. Nancy novels are about a novice in the time of Henry VIII.

General advice:

  • create a genealogy chart and a dramatis personae list for your novels
  • get clear about the historical events that will appear in your series/trilogy
  • start young in the life of your character, which leaves lots of room for excitement
  • think carefully about whether your fictional character has children because those children will have to appear in the story (of course, you can’t change the facts about the children of real characters)
  • PB has a “rap sheet” for each of her 80 characters; she updates these rap sheets for subsequent books and plants the seeds of change in book 1 for subsequent books
  • a huge amount of planning is required to get it right
  • historical series are popular with publishers, although most publishers buy one book at a time

Words of wisdom if you are considering writing a series or trilogy.

The first post I wrote about #HNS2019 is The State of Historical Fiction through the eyes of agents and editors.

FOR MORE ON READING & WRITING HISTORICAL FICTION  FOLLOW A WRITER OF HISTORY (using the widget on the left sidebar)

M.K. Tod writes historical fiction. Her latest novel, TIME AND REGRET was published by Lake Union. Mary’s other novels, LIES TOLD IN SILENCE and UNRAVELLED are available from Amazon, NookKoboGoogle Play and iTunes. She can be contacted on Facebook, Twitter and Goodreads or on her website www.mktod.com.

Development of a Tudor Historical Fiction Series

Tony Riches is a full-time UK author of best-selling historical fiction. He’s a specialist in the history of the Wars of the Roses and the lives of the early Tudors. Tony and I have never met and yet I consider him a good friend. He’s been on the blog before talking about what makes historical fiction tick, being a second career author, and how he researches locations for his novels. His latest novel is Brandon – Tudor Knight

Guest Post by Tony Riches – Development of a Tudor Historical Fiction Series

It all began with my research for a novel about the life of Henry Tudor, who like me was born in the Welsh town of Pembroke. I collected more than enough material for a substantial book – and discovered there were no novels about his amazing story. I think this was partly because Henry had been (mistakenly) labelled as dull and miserly, when in fact he was an extravagant gambler, who knew how to broker peace and end the Wars of the Roses.

I also discovered there were no novels about Henry’s Welsh grandfather, Owen Tudor, or Owen’s son, Jasper Tudor, who helped Henry become king. The Tudor trilogy provided the perfect ‘vehicle’ for Henry to be born in the first book, ‘come of age’ in the second, and become King of England in the third.

I’m pleased to say the books of the Tudor trilogy became best sellers in the US, UK and Australia, with the final book being the only historical fiction novel shortlisted for the highly competitive Amazon Kindle Storyteller award. (Henry was a runner up but I won a Kindle Oasis and a large bottle of good Champagne.)

The challenge I then faced was how to follow a successful trilogy. I’d enjoyed developing the character of Henry’s daughter, Mary Tudor, and realised the story of how she became Queen of France is little known. (In the TV series ‘The Tudors’ Mary was ‘merged’ with her sister Margaret – and some people understandably confuse her with her brother’s daughter, also Mary Tudor.)

I wrote Mary – Tudor Princess, which has become my best-selling book this year, then followed up with my latest book, (published just in time for Christmas) Brandon – Tudor Knight. Readers are probably familiar with Charles Brandon’s story of how he risked everything to marry Mary Tudor against the wishes of her vengeful brother, Henry VIII. What they might not know is how Brandon found himself seriously out of his depth fighting Henry’s wars in France, or that after Mary’s death he married his fourteen-year-old ward, wealthy heiress Lady Catherine Willoughby.

Now I have two ‘sequels’ to the Tudor Trilogy, with the five books forming a series providing a continuous narrative throughout the reign of the two King Henrys. Where to go next? I’m busy researching and writing the amazing story of what became of Catherine Brandon after the death of Charles. Her story deserves to be told – and leads right up to my next series, which will explore the fascinating world of the Elizabethan Tudors.

A fascinating tale, Tony. I’ve yet to read Brandon – Tudor Knight, but I can tell you that Tony’s novel about Mary – Tudor Princess is a great read and one I highly recommend. I suspect someone on my list will be receiving Brandon – Tudor Knight for Christmas 🙂

For more information about Tony’s books please visit his website tonyriches.com and his popular blog, The Writing Desk and find him on  Facebookand Twitter @tonyriches

Brandon – Tudor Knight by Tony Riches

From the author of the international best-selling Tudor Trilogy:Handsome, charismatic and a champion jouster, Sir Charles Brandon is the epitome of a Tudor Knight. A favourite of King Henry VIII, Brandon has a secret. He has fallen in love with Henry’s sister, Mary Tudor, the beautiful widowed Queen of France, and risks everything to marry her without the King’s consent.Brandon becomes Duke of Suffolk, but his loyalty is tested fighting Henry’s wars in France. Mary’s public support for Queen Catherine of Aragon brings Brandon into dangerous conflict with the ambitious Boleyn family and the king’s new right-hand man, Thomas Cromwell. Torn between duty to his family and loyalty to the king, Brandon faces an impossible decision: can he accept Anne Boleyn as his new queen?

FOR MORE ON READING & WRITING HISTORICAL FICTION FOLLOW A WRITER OF HISTORY (using the widget on the left sidebar)

M.K. Tod writes historical fiction. Her latest novel, TIME AND REGRET was published by Lake Union. Mary’s other novels, LIES TOLD IN SILENCE and UNRAVELLED are available from Amazon, NookKoboGoogle Play and iTunes. She can be contacted on Facebook, Twitter and Goodreads or on her website www.mktod.com.