Last week, I had the fun of finally meeting in person my fellow writer and History Hoydens contributor Lauren Willig. Lauren was in California as part of a book tour for her novel The Seduction of the Crimson Rose. If you haven’t already discovered Lauren’s Pink Carnation books, do so now. They’re a wonderful Napoleonic Wars spy series, filled with adventure, intrigue, romance, playful allusions to The Scarlet Pimpernel, and an equally fun modern-day frame about a contemporary graduate student who is uncovering the history of the Pink Carnation while researching her dissertation in London. I was so excited to have a new book in the series to read, and it was a special treat to get to meet Lauren in person.
Lauren and I had a great time talking about writing and research and the joys and challenges of writing a series. The Seduction of the Crimson Rose features two characters who had woven in and out of the earlier books in the series. Neither, Lauren told me, was originally intended to get a book of their own, but as she wrote the series she realized they were calling out for one. (As a reader of the series, I second that–I’m very excited to read about Vaughn and Mary!). I think that is inevitable in writing a series. No matter how carefully one plots things out, characters change and develop, new characters emerge, and the carefully thought out story can shift. While there are overarching plot and character developments for Charles and Mélanie and other characters that have stayed the same in my mind from the start, new characters I hadn’t even dreamed of when I was first writing Daughter of the Game/Secrets of a Lady have grown to take on significant roles in the series, and existing characters have shifted somewhat to demand different plot developments. As I mentioned in last week’s post, I originally had no intention of giving Raoul O’Roarke his own love story. But Raoul and the lady in question found each other and quite interfered with the love story I had planned for someone else.
As a reader, one of the things I love about a series is speculating on what will happen next. Lauren mentioned that readers write to her with all sorts of fascinating ideas about what might happen, who might fall in love with whom, what direction the story might take. I certainly do that when I read a series. Maddening as the wait was between the books in Dorothy Dunnett’s House of Niccolò series, it was so much fun to speculate between books, to reread for clues and construct elaborate theories. My friend and fellow writer Penelope Williamson and I spent hours discussing and debating the Niccolò books over lattes and on listservs (where we also made a number of wonderful friends). We do the same thing with favorite television series–we used to spend hours debating Alias and earlier this week we were speculating over Lost. I used to do the same with The X-Files and Buffy the Vampire Slayer.
In the comments on last week’s post about ex-lovers in books, Sharon mentioned “How likely is it for one to become close friends with the former lover of one’s spouse? From what I’ve read so far, I can’t imagine Charles ever being so close to Raoul as Rafe is to Robin, or as Beth is to Blanche.” I was very intrigued by the idea that readers might think about what would happen to and between my characters in future books, much as I do with series I love. It’s particularly interesting as I’m currently in the early stages of working on the fourth book in the series. So I thought would ask–are there any particular things (plot twists, revelations, character development) you think will happen with Charles, Mélanie, and the other characters as the series progresses? Any developments you’d particularly like to see occur, whether or not you think they’re likely to happen? How do you think Charles and Raoul’s relationship might play out? (Bearing in mind that the demands of the plot and of their circumstances won’t allow them to ignore each other). Will Mélanie be able to keep her secret? If not, what might happen to her and Charles and their friends? (JMM had some interesting thoughts on this as regards to David in the comments on a recent post). What about Jeremy Roth and his relationship with the Frasers? Gisèle and Andrew? The Elsinore League? Which characters would you like to see more of or learn more about? And much as I love talking about my own characters :-), do feel free to talk and speculate about other series as well!
In honor of being just past Valentine’s Day, this week’s addition to the Fraser Correspondence is a letter Mélanie writes to Charles (but never shows to him) on their first visit to Scotland, when she has made the disturbing discovery of how much he has come to mean to her.