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Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Journey of a Debut Author Blog Tour w/Joan Swan (Guest Post & Giveaway)

Morning lovelies! Today I'd like to introduce an author who will be making her first debut in February with her sure-to-be smoking hot release of Fever, Joan Swan. Joan has been blogging about her journey to becoming an author with a fun tour. Today she is joined by author Sharon Sala as well, enjoy!
Welcome to the Journey of a Debut Author Blog Tour! This is our sixth week in a behind the scenes look at what’s involved in getting a debut author prepared for publication. My own debut novel, Fever, releases Spring, 2012, so it’s coming up fast. At every stop on the tour, I have a guest NYT bestselling author answering questions about their experience as a debut author and I’ll also be giving away their books! My guest author this week is the wonderful Sharon Sala, and I have SIX of her books for giveaway, including two complete trilogies of her latest romantic suspense series', The Searchers and Storm Front.
Here are links to the previous topics in the Journey Tour: Submissions, Edits, Cover Art, Reader Engagement, Author Websites and Author Network. Today’s topic is Writing a Series. I think both readers and writers will find this focus interesting as it has a bit of a twist. Because Fever is the first in my series as well as my debut, I decided to share some tips about writing a series from what I’ve learned. Sharon Sala, an author with more than eighty romance titles in print, written as Sharon Sala and Dinah McCall, has recently debuted her new young adult series! We’ll be hearing all about that transition.
As a debut author, I have to admit, I’ve found writing a series challenging. While I’ve been writing for ten years, all my work has been single title stand alone--until Fever, of course. Yes, there have been several novels where secondary characters definitely could have carried their own novel in a sequel or connected book, but not enough interest in the first from outside sources to warrant me diving into the next.
But my debut novel, Fever, is the first in my Phoenix Rising series and I’m going to use this series to illustrate the crucial elements involved in building a strong series.
Crucial Series Elements Character: The heroes and heroines in the Phoenix Rising series are part of a special hazmat firefighting team, which makes for a superb group dynamic. This team is like a family, which in inherent with all firefighters, but more so with this team because of the trauma they suffered in the midst of a warehouse explosion which gifted them with paranormal abilities. They love like family, they fight like family, they protect like family. This provides ample opportunity within the series to elicit the spectrum of human emotion, which of course creates the conduit for reader connection. This group model can be used for any type of being or group you choose, from FBI agents to vampires to a species you made up on a planet that doesn’t exist. In this scenario, a hero from one book could easily slip into a secondary role in the next, while a secondary character could then take center stage. Characters in a series need to work well together. This does not mean they need to get along. At least not all the time. Maybe not even the majority of the time. Conflict. Conflict. Conflict. Working well together means playing off each other’s weaknesses and strengths; one person’s characteristics or mannerisms highlighting something important in another’s; one person’s need’s directly colliding with their teammate’s. Characters need to have defined rolls so that they are unique among the team. Each needs a unique agenda with their own set of goals formed out of their personal motivations. And the blocks to reach those goals must arise out of organic conflict. These elements will become more important and detailed in that character’s book, but it's best to have this in outline form when you begin. Of course, it’s always nice to have a grid of physical attributes of characters before you start as well, so you don’t end up putting five blonde characters together in book three, all with a name starting with K or C. :) (And if you don’t grid, it will happen. I promise.) Goal (overarcing): In the Phoenix Rising series all of the heroes and heroines from the original team, and even the secondary characters who join the series along the way, have one common goal: to discover what really happened in that warehouse, what caused the explosion, who was responsible, what chemical they were exposed to, what effect it will have on their lives and what the hell these supernatural powers are all about. In short: Who did this? And why? The common goal bonds the team and while each member of the team may have various personal issues and additional reasons for pursing the end goal, they maintain the common goal for the shared purpose of the team. It’s bonding for both the cohesiveness of the single book, the series as a whole and makes for a stealthy read for your audience. This is the story question that is never answered in any individual book, but comes to completion in the last book of the series. This is the bigger shadow that hovers. Where hints and questions are asked and answered throughout the series, but never resolved until the last novel. Goal (Individual) In Fever, each team member is affected differently by the fire, both physically and emotionally. Each hero and heroine in the Phoenix Rising series is exposed to varied levels of chemicals and attain wide ranging types and levels of abilities, so each has to deal with that individually. Added to their personal issues, this challenge creates a host of unique demons they must face gives them a distinctive story all their own. And in a series, the individual goal always relates to the greater scheme. The character's individual demons may not have been created exclusively by whatever is driving the overarcing series plot, but they have come to light because of the greater evil or (and most often have) been exacerbated by it. This combination of individual goal and greater goal binds all the characters together in one common goal, and keeps the series moving forward beyond one or two books. World Building: The setting in Fever, and the entire Phoenix Rising series, is modern world with human characters. Because the paranormal element in the novels is derived from the powers my characters develop from their chemical exposure at the warehouse fire, there isn’t much world building involved, therefore I don’t feel qualified to speak to the topic. But I wanted to mention it, because it’s an important element for any series. In my journey toward writing an emotionally intense, tightly paced series I’ve veered off the path a few times along the way and I'm incredibly grateful for all the help I’ve had steering myself back in the right direction. My critique partner, Elisabeth Naughton, had everything to do with my ability to see my firefighting team as individual heroes instead of secondary characters, and the concept as a series instead of Fever as a standalone book. My agent, Paige Wheeler, has helped me nail down the particulars of writing for a specific publishing line, tweaking my focus and presentation to fit the reader’s and the publisher’s expectations which will ultimately lead to greater success. My editor, Alicia Condon, always keeps me grounded in the story and forces me to get out of my writer’s head and into the reader’s point of view. She keeps the reality of the characters and emotion and tension at the forefront and doesn’t let me slip, which makes me a better writer. With a team like that…the universe is definitely spinning in my favor.
Sharon Sala has had the universe spinning in her favor for over two decades now. First published in 1991, she’s a seven-time RITA finalist, winner of the Janet Dailey Award, four-time Career Achievement winner from RT Magazine, National Reader’s Choice Award, and Colorado Romance Writer’s Award of Excellence winners five times each. Her books are New York Times , USA Today, Publisher’s Weekly, WaldenBooks mass market best-sellers.
You can find Sharon at her Website, Blog, Facebook or Myspace
She recently debuted her young adult series, The Lunatic Life. The first of her series by the same name released in August and the second just recently hit shelves November 11th, entitled Lunatic Detective. This new series sounds so completely entertaining and fresh and Sharon tells us all about both the series and launching in a completely new genre after two decades.
Q: Sharon, was your second novel related to your debut? If so, did you find that knowing the characters made it easier or more difficult to write the second book? Sharon: I've been published in the romance genre for 20 years, and the entire reason for creating The Lunatic Life series came because my 3 granddaughters wanted to read what I was writing, but because of their ages were too young. Of course by the time I finally got my act together, got the first two books written and sold, one of them was already in college, but such is the way of the world of writers. Yes, the second novel is related to the first because the series in a continuing series, about a teenage psychic who lives with her, less than reliable Uncle Pat and two ghosts, Millicent and Henry, who've actually helped raise her. The difficulty in writing ANY series is keeping the continuing thread of the story line fresh and not forgetting what the physical descriptions are in continuing characters.
Q: Did you plan on your debut being the first book in a series when you were writing it, or did your publisher make that decision?
Sharon: I fully intended for the debut book to be the first book in a series. The entire concept is about a teenage girl named Tara Luna who can see ghosts, which gets her into a lot of trouble. The titles of the books are a play on her name and the nickname she gets in high school (Luna/lunatic) because of what happens around her. If you remember the TV show Medium, then think Medium meets Nancy Drew type stories. In fact the first two books were already written and sold them to the publisher as such. It's easy to understand that there are to be more books to follow because, while each book contains a completed story, I also leave a thread of an unfinished story line at the end of each book that sets up the plot of the next book. Q: How many books were involved in your series debut? Do you wish there would have been more? If so, why? Sharon: There were two books released back to back this year, MY LUNATIC LIFE and LUNATIC DETECTIVE. In a perfect world, I would have loved to have had a half dozen books written and then sold and released them, one every other month, for the year. But it wasn't feasible for me, as a writer, to have time to write six books that were not already sold, and still complete my contracts, and then find a publisher with that many open slots in their publishing program. Q: Were the series books after your debut published fairly fast? Do you think this helped to build your career? Sharon: Both books were released back to back, which of course helps build the series. As for building my career, I'd already done that over the past 20 years. This is a different genre, and I'm finding my way and readers as I go. To my surprise, a large number of readers from my romantic suspense and paranormal books have jumped right onto this series and seem to be embracing it. Q: What were the challenges that you perceived of getting readers to buy in to not only your debut book, but of a debut that was also the first in a series? Sharon: I think getting readers to buy anything these days is a challenge. With the onset of digital publishing, the mass of available stories is seemingly endless. The quality is all over the place, which sometimes frustrates the readers. But I have a great publisher in BelleBooks, and am so grateful for all their support. They've done amazing book trailers, furnished all the PR material I could want, and basically done all and more from their end to give this series a chance to catch on. The last report I had from them, they were very pleased by what was happening with sales. Q: What were the advantages that you perceived of having a series to stand behind your debut? Sharon: The advantages of having a hit series is, of course, continuing sales. If the readers like the characters, premise, and the way you tell a story, then the readers will always await, with eager anticipation, the releases of the next books. It's like guaranteeing a certain amount of book sales regardless. And, there's always the hope that you'll pick up new readers with each release, which will have them going back looking for the preceding books to complete their sets. Q: If you could go back in time, would you change anything in how your debut and the rest of the series was published? If so, what and why? Sharon: The whole experience has been so well-received, it would be hard to say how I would WANT to change anything, but if I COULD go back, I would have written that third book before I sold them. It would have been nice to have the third in line for another quick release. However, in the following months I will write two more and get them slotted as soon as the publisher can find the space. Happy reading everyone, and check out the series. Even though I wrote them in the beginning for the Young Adult market, according to my readers, they're stories for all ages. Many thanks, Sharon Sala
Leave a comment to win one of two complete trilogies of Sharon's latest romantic suspense series', The Searchers or Storm Front or one of five of Joan's custom handmade bookmarks for her debut Fever.
Tell us your favorite element of a series. What makes or breaks a series for you? What is that cohesive element that ties each book to the main concept? What is your favorite element of a series?
Joan Swan is a triple RWA® Golden Heart finalist, and a double Kiss of Death Daphne Du Maurier finalist. She writes sexy romantic suspense with a paranormal twist, and her first novel with Kensington Brava, FEVER, debuts February 28, 2012. Her second novel, BLAZE, follows in October, 2012. Currently, she works as a sonographer at a one of the top ten medical facilities in the nation, and lives in magnificent wine country on the central coast of California with her husband and two daughters.
Fever is available for preorder at: Amazon| Barnes & Noble | Booksamillion You can catch up with Joan at her website, blog, Twitter or Facebook.
~*GIVEAWAY*~
As Joan mentioned above, her and Sharon are giving away two of Sharon's series and five custom Fever bookmarks, open Internationally! To enter, just leave a comment answering their question at the end of the post and then fill out the rafflecopter with your name and email address. Additional entries are available but not mandatory. Good luck!

57 comments:

Julia Broadbooks said...

For me, the most important elements of a series are the characters. Unique and well developed characters always bring me back for more because I need to know what is going to happen to them next.

Mary said...

For me it's the story, if it flows easily and I can follow along without getting disrupted by too many things happening to break the flow of the story up, then I will usually like the book. So for me it's the flow of the story.

miztik_rose@yahoo.com

CYP @ A Bookalicious Story said...

My favourite element is the relationship between the characters, and then it's the plot. For relationships, there must be romance (I'm a romance-junky. Proud of it!), and for the plot, there must be suspense and action, and it musn't be too simply or convenient.

Victoria said...

A breaker for me is sex just for the sake of having sex. I will stop reading if that occurs. Drives me nuts!
I need a plausible plot that flows well where I can relate to the hero or heroine in some way. I don't have to like them but I do have to respect them.
Excellent post. I'm learning quite a bit from you Joan :).

vsloboda(at)gmail(dot)com

Joan Swan said...

Julia -- Couldn't have said it better myself! Nicely done!

Joan Swan said...

Hi Mary -- that's one of the very things I've had to learn over my decade of writing. My CP has drilled the KISS standard into my head as I love to keep throwing more complications at my characters. I've learned, too many can be, well, just too many and take away from the characters development, the main plot and the enjoyment of the story for the reader. Great point.

Joan Swan said...

Victoria -- I'm shocked!! No sex for sex's sake???? :) I hear you, girl. Sex, like any other plot occurance, needs to happen for a reason--which, when done right, either advnaces the character arc, the plot, increases tension, foreshadows...all of the above :).

Joan Swan said...

CYP - Romance Junkies UNITE! You and I are definitely on the same page! Romance and suspense=AWESOMENESS!!

SilverRose313 said...

For me, I have to love the characters because it's their story. If I don't love the characters, I will not pick up the second book.

Na said...

I want to see the characters grow throughout a series and that issues are active. I don't want the same or a single issue dragged out (prolonged is fine) but for the characters to evolve, face different situations and develop.

Yto said...

it's a mix of well developed characters, a really good plot and an interesting world created. i love to see development in the characters and their relationships.

Arianne Cruz said...

What I love about a series is the continuation of the story especially if I fall in love with the characters. What I don't like is that if something is resolved on the first book at the end, I wouldn't want to read the rest - i.e. Wicked Lovely by Melissa Marr.

Michelle Bledsoe said...

It's the feeling of family that I love with series. Whether it is a family or just a neighbors is a small town. The way an author can keep the characters and story line straight amazes me. I can barely keep my day to day life straight....LOL
Thank you ladies for the interview. I love hearing more about my favorite authors.
Sharon has been a favorite of mine since she wrote for Kismet(a long time ago...LOL)
Joan I am so eager for FEVER to come out...Good Luck.

koonie2888 at yahoo dot com

alainala said...

i have to have a happy ending! i hate having a series end on a horrible cliffhanger.. i mean.. dont have the main characters love intrest die/get maimed/etc and have things looking horrible.. then end it.. lol. i love having the characters re occuring and i even really like when they occasionally have one of the side characters fall in love with someone during the book..

alainala AT hotmail DOT ca

and awesome prizes thanks for the chance to win!

mbreakfield said...

The characters are what keep me coming back again and again.

Joan Swan said...

Good point SilverRose. Thanks for coming by!

Joan Swan said...

Na, Good point - that even though you may seen characters as hero/heroine in one book and secondary in another, that doesn't mean they can't keep growing. Suzanne Brockmann is particularly good a this.

Joan Swan said...

Yto, that third element - the world created - is often a very big draw in series. Great mention.

Joan Swan said...

Arianna, Right, you need that purpose to read on, which is why you need both the overarcing goal - the bigger, meaner, all-encompassing plot and the plot within a plot, the one that can be resolved w/in one book, but not kill the suspense of the series. Nicely pointed out.

Joan Swan said...

Hey Michelle,

Thanks so much! Funny you should mention Kismet...Suzanne Brockmann's debut came out from Kismet (she recently interviewed with me on USA Today's Happy Ever After - I think I saw your name there :)). Sharon and Suzanne go way back -- very, very impressive!

My editor was just mentioning the family factor in series, she was saying how women love that sense of family the repetitive characters bring to series and you've just proved her point :)

Joan Swan said...

Oh Alainala, I'm with you. I actually do read quite a few thrillers and mainstream suspense, and absolutely LOVE it when they have a romance thread, BUT (and this is a big, big BUT) there is no guarantee that that romance will end with an HEA, so there is a real risk there, which I really don't like.

With a romance series, even if there is suspense, you can (99%) be guaranteed of that HEA.

Emily Tardy said...

Thank you for the chance to win, I love reading Sharon Sala's books! I like books is a series for the reoccuring characters and keeping up with what's going on with them, even if it is in the background =)

emilytardy@yahoo.com

BlackWolf said...

For me are the characters, they need to grow throughout a series in their relationships.
and the happy ending..

Sophia Rose said...

Any series that has really grabbed me has that 'family' element you spoke of amongst the large cast of players, it has a plot that runs through in an interesting way as well as a kind of resolution in each book individually, and it also has some growth in the characters without them growing entirely into different persons. In fantasy, I also like getting a feel for that world and then details being teased out over the course of the series.

Thanks for the fascinating interviews and for the giveaway opportunity.

sophiarose1816@gmail.com

Sebrina said...

I have to be able to visualize the characters. If there isn't enough of a description, I get frustrated. I don't like to make something up in my head on what they look like. I remember reading a book recently and I had to make it up as I went b/c it just wasn't in the story; then about 75% through it, the author finally let it known what this persons hair and eye color were. Then I got mad b/c that's not the way it was in my head throughout what I'd already read. *I'm a dork, I know* :) On the series part, if the 2nd book doesn't reflect back on things that transpired in the 1st, whether it's the characters or events, then to me its another book and not a continuation (series) of the storyline, of the 1st. Does that make sense? The Voice in My Head is telling me that it makes perfect sense! I've had that experience before, that's why I brought it up...LOL I will say that I'm so excited for Feb to come along so I can get my hot lil hands on Fever! In the meantime though, it looks like I've discovered a new author in Sharon Sala. Thank you so much!

Helen said...

the creativity of a story. It has to be able to seem as if it could happen but be different from everyday life

marybelle said...

Usually my favorite element of a series is the world building. If the author has created an inspiring unbelievably readable world I want to continue with the series. Throw in fabulous characters & BAM. I'm in.

Blogger Name: Krystal Larson said...

I usually love the characters' development :)

erin said...

Great Post! Thanks for the giveaway!

Once I get involved in a good series, I'll stick w/ that series thru hell and high water. It takes a lot (massive repetitive writing/plots, no character growth, character doing a 180 in tone/actions) to make me drop a series (point in case, I still read The Stephanie Plum series). I can only think of like two series that I stopped reading b/c the characters/plot irritated me to the point I couldn't redeem it. A few series, I thought I would stop reading and just went one more book and that book was so great it saved it for me. Sometimes, I'm not in the right mind frame to read a series and I'll stack em in my TBR pile instead of giving up.

Thanks for the great giveaway! I haven't read this this author so crossing my fingers!

Grandma to Twins + One said...

The characters make or break the series. I like the romance/suspense aspects; however, when you add the paranormal, my interest just increases!!

Thanks for the great giveaways!

ladystingray72118(at)gmail(dot)com

Lolarific said...

My favorite things about a series are getting to stay and touch and follow up on my original favorite characters and their lives. The breakers for me are when story lines aren't followed through or we're still left hanging on small things on Book 8. Or dropped parts of the story. Like your favorite soap opera when they realize something not working, way too late, and poof something's changed.

Cannot wait to read Joan's book!

Thank you for the giveaways!

ML said...

My favorite part of a series are the characters-I can forget a lot in a series if I'm in love with the characters. Some of my favorite series have the same primary characters in each book (instead of switching off to make a secondary a lead) JD Robb's In Death series, Karen Marie Moning's Fever series, etc.

So it's really the characters, their relationships, how they interact and grow within a book of a series or throughout a series.

mljfoland AT hotmail DOT com

dawnmomoffour said...

Wow! Awesome giveaway. Thanks for the chance at such great prizes. I haven't read your books yet but they look like something I'd definitely love. Great way to get started too :-)
I'd have to say the most important element in a series, to me, is how the characters interact, whether it all "flows" together or not. It has to keep my interest and that's the way to do it!
-Dawn aka dawnmomoffour
thedoyle6@rogers.com

Di said...

I like a series to be connected thru the characters, as a family (biological or friends). Each book would highlight a couple, but most members would appear in each book. I like to see what the main characters in the early books are up to.
sallans d at yahoo dot com

Joan Swan said...

Emily, well said. I love watching primary characters in other books move on in their lives as secondary charactes in future books!

Joan Swan said...

BlackWolf, You are definitely in with the majority here. Love hearing how many are enthralled with characters even after their book is over!

Joan Swan said...

Sophia,

I love the way you described the details being "teased out" over the course of a series. That will definitely keep a reader hooked! And I too love that family feeling -- maybe even moreso as a writer!

Joan Swan said...

Hi Sebrina, I get what you're saying...if there is little or no tie to the previous plot or characters, it's not really a series.

~Danni said...

I love a series that sees a character grow. The experiences in previous books change them, even if it is only a tiny bit. Knowing that the person at the end of the series is not the same one you met in book 1. The best example I have of this is Eve Dallas in JD Robb's In Death Series. Now that is a woman that has grown, and I love seeing all those changes!

A series can be killed for me if a character is killed just to kill them. If there isn't a just reason, or one that makes sense to the overall plot I can get very disappointed in the author. But I'm a HEA kinda gal, so I don't like many "good" character to die.

Karen C said...

I love Sharon Sala's books and would love to win one of her trilogies.

It's difficult to answer those questions because it isn't something I stop and think about. I guess it would have to be strong characters above all else and can work for each of those questions.

kacbooks(at)hotmail(dot)com

donnas said...

Its really all about the characters and the story. If you dont feel for the characters or dont "get" the story, the series isnt worth it for me. I also really like finding out what happens after the book and main story finishes and finding out more about the secondary characters.

bacchus76 at myself dot com

Lisa Richards/alterlisa said...

I've read Sharon's books for almost two decades, awesome, awesome writer.
The continuity in the world building is what ties the books together for me. I like that you often get a visit from characters from earlier books. It's rather like having a family reunion.

Anne said...

I think the first thing is the characters must be likeable and have chemistry (sexual or non). If I think the main characters are too stupid to live I won't go any further. Then a storyline that makes sense (within the confines of the genre) and gets us from point A to point B in a coherent manner.

Joan Swan said...

Hi Dani, yes, killing a character would just about be the death of a series for me (no pun intended) even if it wasn't the main character, but a good character...there are many ways to get a character off screen other than killing them.

Joan Swan said...

Hi Karen,

I agree, I think for a lot of readers it's intuitive, but I think you've hit the main vein there -- characters.

Joan Swan said...

Hi Donna,

Can't remember the person who said this, but "Character is conflict, conflict is story." It's one of my mantras. :) Sounds like it would be one of yours too.

Joan Swan said...

Lisa, that world building is crutial, agreed. Even series set in the modern world, like mine, still have a world, a culture, a lifestyle, a certain cast of characters, a set of rules that have to be followed "or else", etc. That is a "world" that needs to follow with the plot and the plot changes.

Romancing the Book said...

I love series. If the series is following the same main character, then I want to see growth. I think that's what is frustrating me with the Stephanie Plum books... there's no growth (and rehashing of the same plot, book after book, *sigh*). But if the series is following a family or some other theme, I like when there is an overarcing plot that continues and advances in each of the books and it ultimately solved when the series concludes. Since I also HAVE to read series in order, I do enjoy having old characters make appearances in later books.

Jen

latishajean said...

One of my favorites is the characters and the romance in relationships in a book! I love happy ending ! I love to read series because I get hooked on characters and want more of them! Thank you for the great giveaway!

Jasmyn said...

The quality of the characters makes or breaks a series for me. If I can't love them or love to hate them, then I quickly lose interest.

Kara said...

I love a happy ending.

Joan Swan said...

Jen, I feel so much better knowing I'm not the only one who HAS to read a series in order!! :)

And you make a good point about the Steph Plum series. Thing happen, change takes place, but no significant growth in Stephanie. I hadn't read anything since about...12...13 and recently picked up 17. Still funny, still entertaining. No growth. Maybe that series offers something different, I don't know.

But I too appreciate growth.

Joan Swan said...

Latisha and Kara -- yes, those HEAs are a must for us romance readers!! So very true!

Joan Swan said...

Hi Jasmyn,

Those love-to-hate characters are luscious, aren't they? I LOVE writing them as much as I love reading them!

Jolene and Family said...

The first book in a series has to really grab me. I love having other planned characters introduced and give me an idea of what's to come. If there are secondary characters, then I'm itching to get ahold of their books. Stand alone books in a series are ok, but I love it when they are all tied in and having a past character show up in one of the later books is something I also love. Let's me see how things are after their book ended and it feels like they never left

Denise Z said...

A make or break issue for me is the main protagonist. I have to like them and want them to be a friend I would stand by and revisit with at the beginning of each new journey. I do not like whining or too bitchy females or males that have no sense of humor and take everything too seriously; unless they are secondary characters LOL Thank you share with us today and for this incredibly generous giveaway opportunity.
dz59001[at]gmail[dot]com

Amanda Nicole said...

My favorite element of a series is the continuation of the characters stories but it's also a make or break element for me. I have to like the characters enough to want to revisit their stories, learn more about them, see them through the rest of their journey. Thanks so much for this giveaway, it's awesome! :)