I’ve been blogging about my Arucadi series for the past several days, so you may wonder whether I’m only interested in writing novels in a series or whether I also write stand-alone novels.
The answer is that I do both. My stand-alone fantasy novel Seduction of the Scepter is due out in October fromWiDo Publishing. I have two other completed stand-alone novels waiting in the wings as well as an urban fantasy that, if it sells, can become the first novel of a series. But it doesn’t have to lead to a series. Its story is complete in itself. I would like to explore the characters further if I get the opportunity, however.
So what determines whether or not a novel will lead to a series?
I can’t answer for other authors, but for me it has to do with the characters. In some cases the characters grab me and refuse to let go. They have issues that simply can’t be resolved in one book. Or the issues that are resolved lead to other issues. Or a minor character in one book demands a larger role in another.
My characters become very real to me as I write. And sometimes characters take on a greater role than I’d intended when I introduced them. In the case of the Terrano Trilogy, the second book, The Gift of the Trinde Tree, was actually the first I wrote. And the scene in which China Terrano first appears in that novel was my first introduction to the Terrano family. I didn’t have any idea then who she was or what her role would be. That isn’t to say that I didn’t have a plan for the novel and a way I expected it to end. I did, but China walked in uninvited and completely changed the plan. She threatened to take over the novel, but I bargained with her–told her I’d give her another book, in which she could be the protagonist, if she’d behave in this one. (Yes, I know that sounds weird, and I also know that many authors would deride me and say that it just doesn’t work that way. I can only say that it does for me.) We had a deal, but as I started to work out just who China was and what it was she was after, I came up with the plot for Shadow of a Demon, which became the first book of the trilogy. It required me to develop a backstory and a history for the Terrano family, a family consisting originally of Riccard Terrano, his wife Nida, his daughters China, India, and America (called Meri). Into that family Riccard brings Paolo, his son by his brother’s wife. But that first novel was not the novel I’d promised China. Her sister India is the protagonist, the one with a problem that must be resolved. India is the one who changes over the course of the story. The novel comes to a conclusion when her problem is resolved. I don’t do cliff-hanger endings. In The Gift of the Trinde Tree, which I originally planned as a stand-alone novel, the protagonist is Melalie Noris, who appears only in that novel, and whose problem is resolved in it. Bailey Marshall, the other principal character, appears as a very minor character in Shadow of a Demon. He has problems left unresolved at the end of The Gift of a Trinde Tree, and reappears as a viewpoint character in the third book, as does K.T., an important character in Shadow of a Demon, who does not appear at all in The Gift of the Trinde Tree but reappears as a viewpoint character in the third book, currently titled Touch of Death. (The title may change.) China Terrano is the protagonist of Touch of Death, but the story goes back and forth between her, Bailey Marshall, and K. T. Malloran, with Paolo Terrano also being a major, but not a viewpoint, character. My point is that these characters recur because they have unresolved issues that I wanted to explore and deal with.
In the Arucadi series, characters also have unresolved issues that I deal with in later books, but also, in that series, I have established a world that in itself offers opportunities for unrelated novels and stories. Arucadi is a large nation that provides a vast canvas for numerous tales and a variety of characters. It illustrates the fact that the setting of a novel can invite other tales told in that setting. And by setting, I don’t mean only the topographical features of the land but its political, economic, religious, and sociological features. And of course, its history. When an author puts a lot of time into building a world, it’s hard to resist finding other stories to place in that world.
But stand-alone novels can be equally rich in character development and in world building and still be quite satisfactorily wrapped up in a single volume. In a stand-alone novel the focus of the novel is so firmly fixed on the protagonist that when his or her problem is resolved, there is no further need to explore issues with other characters.
I don’t mean that every question raised throughout a stand-alone novel must be answered. It is, in fact, better to leave questions unanswered for the reader to mull over after closing the book. That makes the book more memorable. The author should always leave the reader wanting more. But that doesn’t mean that there must be more. It only means that the “more” is left to the reader’s imagination. And sometimes that provides the most satisfactory ending.
Please watch for my stand-alone fantasy novel Seduction of the Scepter, scheduled to be released October 9th.