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.
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!