SERIES: To Be or Not To Be (and when to stop being)
If Amazon (the company) were a river and all the books in its vast online repository were drops of water, you wouldn't be able to skim a pebble across its surface without hitting a book that is a part of a series. Series are popular--they work in movies, on TV, and in books--and for good reason. No one ever likes saying goodbye to the people they've fallen in love with. We like to see our heroes and heroines overcome adversity, and then do it again, and again. Novel series come in at least three different flavors.
1. Standalone books within a series with a rotating focus on various protagonists. Each novel within the series focuses on, and resolves, one major storyline, but the protagonist (usually a side character in one of the other novels) will claim the spotlight for one book within the series instead of all of them. Romance novels tend to lean this way (after all, happily ever after usually happens only once per couple.) Nora Roberts has written many trilogies of families and friends, with each book focusing on a particular person finding his or her happy ending. Sherrilyn Kenyon does this with her (apparently unending) Dark Hunter series as well.
2. Standalone books within a series focus on one or two key protagonists. Each novel within the series tackles one major problem and resolves the problem by the end of the book. Many detective and mystery novels adopt this flavor. As a teenager, I enjoyed Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys. These days, I read P.L. Blair's Portals series that features human detective, Kat Morales, and her elven partner, Tevis.
3. Non-standalone books within a series focus on one or two key protagonists, and story is typically best enjoyed in order from the first novel to the last. Fantasy and science fiction novels, with their sweeping storylines and their tendency to put entire worlds and civilizations at risk of extinction (hey, high stakes, right?) tend to lean in this direction. Each book should resolve a major crisis, but some threads are clearly left trailing as feeders into the next book. Some of my favorite authors fall into this category, including David Eddings who wrote the Belgariad and Mallorean series, and Neil Gaiman, author of the Sandman. Just about all of my favorite authors are series writers. In hindsight, it's no surprise that I would, as an author, lean toward writing a series. My Double Helix series is a series of four novels. When I finished writing the fourth book, I finally tackled the issue I'd been avoiding since November 2010, when I first started writing Double Helix series.
When do you stop? Sometimes, the answer is easy: When you save the world. But what if the answer isn't as obvious? What if the world careens from crisis to crisis (sounds like our world, doesn't it?) What if the world always needs saving? I wrote the Double Helix series as a blend between a type 3 series (non-standalone) and a type 2 series (standalone.) The fourth book, Perfection Challenged, was actually the transition book between a non-standalone and standalone series. In theory, I could have gone on forever, coming up with yet another crisis for Danyael Sabre, the alpha empath, to handle. Challenges would always abound in a society transformed by the Genetic Revolution. Danyael would likely encounter most of them, but did he have to be the protagonist? Let's segue briefly into another series, Jacqueline Carey's Kushiel's Legacy series. Occasionally a storyline or plot transcends each book and unifies the series. In Kushiel's Legacy, it is the rocky path to love and happiness between the heroine, Phedre, and her protector, Joscelin. That storyline is the single thread that runs through the series, and for the series to end, the thread needs to be neatly knotted by the final book. My readers love Danyael. It was hard to make the decision to move him to the sidelines, yet in practice, I knew that Danyael's story was done, and for one primary reason. His story had come a full circle. He dealt with different challenges and antagonists over each of the four books, but the storyline that unified the series his apparently unrequited love for the assassin Zara Itani reached its conclusion in the fourth book. It was my gift to Danyael, the ending he deserved. But, dismayed readers howl, you haven't yet done this, or that, or another. You haven't finished telling all the stories I've moved the spotlight off Danyael, but that doesn't mean he won't appear in a smaller role in another novel. Spin-offs are popular among series writers. Some side characters in Sherrilyn Kenyon's Dark Hunter series show up as focal characters in her Dream Hunter series. And so it will be for my Double Helix series. I've already written a young adult spin-off. I have others planned, including a standalone series of romantic thrillers featuring mercenaries from Zara's agency, a novel about Xin, the Machiavellian clone of Fu Hao, a 1,200 BC general, priestess, and queen (busy woman indeed), and a novel about Galahad, the genetically engineered perfect human being. Inevitably though, those novels and series will someday end. Quoting one of my favorite characters, Death from Neil Gaiman's Sandman series: It always ends. That's what gives it value.
The best of the four books: the perfect ending to an amazing series.
Perfection Challenged, the thrilling conclusion to the multiple award-winning, bestselling DOUBLE HELIX series, is finally here. Grab your copy today. If you've never picked up the DOUBLE HELIX series, keep reading for a special offer on the six-time award-winning novel, Perfection Unleashed.