There’s no doubt about it that continuing characters in fiction are very popular. Some of my favourite authors write series books and I open each new installment with a special sense of pleasure. Not only am I confident that the author is going to take me on an exciting journey but I have the added thrill of making that journey with old friends.
I’ve been taking people on that same journey myself with the ten books so far in my series featuring ex-Special Forces trainee turned bodyguard Charlotte ‘Charlie’ Fox. I’m constantly being emailed and messaged by people who’ve discovered the books and the character and are bemoaning the fact that I don’t write fast enough to satisfy them.
But having written the tenth book about Charlie, her troubled relationship with fellow bodyguard Sean Meyer, and her boss in the NYC close-protection agency she works for, Parker Armstrong, I had the urge to do something different.
I must be mad.
Crime and thrillers still have the strongest pull for me but I have quite a few ideas I’d like to explore that don’t sit comfortably within the boundaries of Charlie’s world. Plus they would be difficult stories to tell in a first-person narrative, which is how I’ve always written the series books. Or maybe the voice that comes to me to me as that of the main protagonist is simply somebody new.
It took me a while after Charlie introduced herself to me before I discovered her voice. I really want to write KILLER INSTINCT: Charlie Fox book one in third-person but she just wouldn’t talk to me that way and after ten books from her exclusive point-of-view I think it would be too much of a jolt for readers if I tried to change things.
However, it’s harder to write a multi-strand novel from inside the head of only one character and when I had the idea for THE BLOOD WHISPERER—about a disgraced crime-scene investigator turned crime-scene cleaner who went to prison for a crime she can’t remember—I knew I needed a fresh start.
But it’s still a step into the unknown. The main protagonist of THE BLOOD WHISPERER—Kelly Jacks—is not Charlie Fox although there are similarities. Kelly can take care of herself but prison tends to do that to you pretty fast. She emerges from her experiences tougher, warier but with a lack of faith in herself and everyone she thought she could rely on. All she wants to do is get on with her life and forget the past. The past, it seems, does not want to forget her.
I don’t intend this to be the start of a new series except possibly in a very roundabout way. In between the Charlie Fox novels I’d like to tell the stories of other strong female protagonists, like Kelly. The only common feature apart from that would be that these are all people for whom calling in the cops at the first sign of trouble is not an option. In Kelly’s case this is because she rapidly becomes a suspect in another murder that eerily mirrors the one she was convicted of.
Still, I’m aware that it’s a step in the dark for me. A leap of faith. Will the fans of Charlie Fox jump with me, or will they wait instead for the next installment in that series? Fingers crossed!
I’ve read various series by my favourite authors but I know I tend to prefer one in particular. I loved Dorothy L Sayers’ Lord Peter Wimsey novels, but didn’t take to her travelling salesman sleuth Montague Egg at all. I read JD Robb’s IN DEATH futuristic cop series, but not her Nora Roberts romances. On the other hand I followed the late Robert B Parker across from crime fiction into Westerns and one about baseball player Jackie Robinson.
So, maybe if I want to stretch myself beyond Charlie Fox I might be better making it a long stretch and moving further away from crime? And with all the cross-genre novels currently abounding that’s more of a reality. Is this a good time to mention that I’ve also written a supernatural thriller (with slight crime overtones—there are murders and policemen in it) about a mysterious hitman who you summon with grief but pay with your soul …?
So my question is have you followed an author across different series and with what result? Or across genres? And if you’re an author are you tempted to write outside your current genre? Have you tried it already? And if not, what’s stopping you?
Any of you over in the UK for CrimeFest at the end of May, please stop by and say hello. I’m honoured to be on three panels—one on Thursday afternoon and two on Saturday morning. We’ll be covering topics of Forgotten Authors, Guns For Hire, and When Can You have Too Much Research. Be great to see you there if you’re going!
It’s always been my habit with blogs to have a Word of the Week. This week’s is concilliabule, meaning a secret meeting of people who are hatching a plot. Also concilliabules, secret plans.
You can find out more about Zoë and her work at her website. You can friend her on Facebook, follow her on Twitter as @authorzoesharp and see what she's reading on Goodreads. Zoë was also one of the longest-standing contributors to the much-beloved Murderati blog.