One of the things I love about blogging and the follow-up comments is how one topic can lead to another. That happened when the discussion on my blog last week about Disneyland and world building led to a discussion of book series (not so very far offtopic, as one of the things I love about series is the rich world building they allow for). A number of my favorite books have always been series, going back to when I was a child. I loved the Oz books–I liked a lot of the later books even better than “The Wizard of Oz”. My mother scoured used books stores and interlibrary loan trying to get the whole series. I moved on to Lloyd Alexander’s Prydain Chronicles. Traveling back and forth to Washington D.C. with my parents on business trips, I’d read two Nancy Drew mysteries each way. I loved the Georgette Heyer books that were connected (“These Old Shades”, “Devil’s Cub”, “An Infamous Army”), and I always wished her characters ran into each other more often.
On the trip where my mom and I started plotting our first book (“The Widow’s Gambit”), we were both reading Anthony Trollope’s Palliser series. In high school I devoured British “Golden Age” mysteries, particularly Dorothy Sayers, Margery Allingham, and Ngaio Marsh, and fantasy and science fiction series, including Barbara Hambly, Katherine Kurtz, and Marion Zimmer Bradley. The summer between high school and college I discovered Dorothy Dunnett’s Lymond Chronicles and didn’t come up for air for weeks. I hurried out to buy the first book in her House of Niccolò series the day I read a review and spent many happy hours discussing the series online and in person over the years it was published.
I had been very excited when the 1982 “Scarlet Pimpernel” aired to learn there were more Scarlet Pimpernel books, but in the days before the internet it was difficult to find them. But in college I discovered them in the stacks of Green Library at Stanford and was happily able to catch up on the aventures of Percy and Marguerite and the rest of the League. These days I’ll rush out to buy Elizabeth George’s latest Lynley/Havers mystery or a new entry in Laurie King’s Mary Russell series the day it’s published.
When my mom and I started writing, we naturally thought in terms of continuing characters. All our Anthea Malcolm Regencies had connected characters as did our one Anna Grant historical romance and the three I wrote under my own name. I knew very early on that I had multiple stories to tell and about Mélanie and Charles and their friends and family (not to mention antagonists:-).
In thinking about reading and writing series, I was trying to work out what it is I love about them so much. I think it’s partly the appeal of returning to a familiar world, whether it’s Prydain or Darkover, Duke’s Denver and Peter Wimsey’s flat in Picadilly or the cottage Mary Russell shares with Sherlock Holmes. But it’s also seeing relationships develop over a series of books–Peter and Harriet’s courtship and marriage; Lynley and Havers’s partnership, Lynley and Simon’s friendship, and the various other relationships in the books; Percy and Marguerite’s marriage; Holmes and Russell’s partnership and marriage. It’s unpealing layers of character over multiple books, such as Dorothy Dunnett does with Francis Crawford of Lymond. It’s being able to tell the stories of a rich array of characters and their inter-relatinships, perhaps focusing on different characters in different books, one of the things I really love in Elizabeth George’s books. Perhaps above all, it’s the chance ot spend more time with old friends and get to know them better.
Do you like to read series? Any particular favorites to recommend? Speaking of my own series, be sure to check out the latest entry in the Fraser Correspondence, a letter from Charles to Mélanie that’s a companion to last week’s letter to Colin.