I got an email from a reader the other day wondering how two characters were doing. Had they resolved their disagreements and were they friends again. Of course the smarty pants part of me wanted to email her back and say, "Sure they are! Why they just went bowling the other day . . . " But then after a few moments I had a different sort of response--I was truly and honestly touched that a reader cared enough to ask about one of my characters. That these two men from my stories had entered her heart, just as they'd come out of mine and become family.
Who was I to joke about these characters taking on a life of their own, when I collect my characters around me and spin their stories and delve into writing huge, convoluted, inter-connected series and love every minute of it, simply because it allows me to revisit the folks that I can't let go of, i.e. Temple and Diana from Stealing the Bride. I've even dedicated part of my books and website to proudly displaying their family trees.
And those are just the family trees I show off in public. My writing files are filled with notes about the Danvers, the Marlowes, the Langleys and Knolles. The family trees I've mapped out and filed away for future books--like this one of Thatcher's family (the hero of Love Letters from a Duke.) Before he became the Marquess of Standon, two uncles and a brother held the title. To me these were important facets in creating his character, but they also brought his family dynamics to life.
I like to think that these families represent every family out there--well, minus the wealth, power, titles and servants--but they represent the families we come from--from the uncle who embarrasses you at family weddings by singing Danny Boy off key and too loud, or the grandmother who can't help meddle in your love life--I had two of those!--or the incredible loyalty a family can show when one member is struggling, sick, or just plain in trouble.
So in answer to my wonderful fan, yes, Alex and Jack are still friends. Best of friends. Just like family ought to be.
What do you love about books built around families? Series that continue? What makes you stick with them?