Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Lorraine Heath – The Pleasures and Perils of Books in a Series

It such a pleasure to be here today. I thought we could discuss books in a series.

I was four books into my career when I penned my first trilogy. I didn’t know enough about marketing to give it a name although it’s now often referred to by readers as the Texas trilogy. The books—Texas Destiny, Texas Glory, and Texas Splendor—were about three brothers who were shaped by the Civil War and were trying to make a go of it in West Texas.

I love writing books in a series for the same reasons that I enjoy reading them. I have the opportunity to visit with the characters a little bit longer as they appear in each book.  As a writer, I come to know the characters more in depth so writing the subsequent books, while not easier, usually—not always but usually—seems to go a bit more smoothly. As often happens with writers, it isn’t until I’m actually writing the second or third story that I fully understand all that will happen in those stories.

My latest trilogy—the Lost Lords of Pembrook—comes to a close April 30 with the release of Lord of Wicked Intentions. When I first met Rafe in She Tempts the Duke, he was all of ten years old, whining about being cold and hungry while his brothers were trying to figure out how to escape the tower in which their uncle had imprisoned them. When we see him as a man, he’s the owner of a gaming hell. He’s distant and hard, refusing to give any hint as to what transpired the years his brothers were away and he grew into adulthood. Unfortunately, he was also very secretive with me. Not until I started writing his story, did I really get to explore the effect that the years had on him and what truly occurred during those years. No spoiler alerts here.

But as a series progresses I think a writer might encounter what I perceive as a peril.  Expectations are higher for the next books in the series, especially for the final book.  Readers anxious for the next book might have to wait months to read it. All the while, when I’m working on a series I worry that readers have too long to ponder what the final story might be, and they will be disappointed.  I remember the original Star Wars trilogy.  The first movie was fun, but the second was my favorite.  Although I enjoyed the third, I didn't think it was equal to its predecessor.  And so I worry.

Another challenge is that readers’ approaches to series vary. Some readers are adamant that they must read the books in order. If they don’t start the trilogy when it first comes out, they may have difficulty finding the earlier books so they may bypass the series completely or they might not want to play “catch up”.

While I don’t mind reading books out of order, I know some readers enjoy a series more if they are able to read the books in order. I also know readers who buy the books when they come out but don’t read them until they have the last book in the series in hand. I admire that patience.

What is your approach to reading a series? Do you mind reading books out of order? Do you wait to read a series until you have all the books in the series? Is there such a thing as too many books in a series? What is your favorite/least favorite part of reading books in a series?

One lucky poster will receive an autographed set of the 1st two books in the Lost Lords of Pembrook series. Another lucky poster will receive an autographed set of the 1st two books in the Darkness Before Dawn trilogy that I wrote with my son under the name J. A. London.


Stefanie said...

I often read series before I have all of the books when that series sounds interesting. The books I do have I try to read in order. Once I have the series complete I'll re-read them completely.
I love series because it's great to see how the characters are doing after their happy ending. It's also fun to see the other characters find their own happy ending.
I think there are too many books in a series when it's getting hard to memorize all the different characters and their stories.

Maria said...

I enjoy series very much and I am a purist who MUST read them in order. That said, I will mark a new book (no matter its place in the series) to read so that when I'm ready to delve into it, it reminds me to find the first book and go from there. Even if I start a book and then discover it's part of a series, I will set it aside to find the first one! So looking forward to reading Rafe's story soon!

Lorraine said...

Stefanie and Maria: Thank you so much for sharing! I'm intrigued by reader habits and their approaches to reading.

Rhiannon said...

I love to read series, they are some of my favorite books to read. Getting to read about characters and what they've been doing since is great. I get very frustrated if I am reading a book and realize that it is a second or third in a series and I have not read the others first. I have even gotten so mad I threw the book down in disgust. I don't mind reading them as they come out, but will usually go back and reread the first book or books before I read the newest one. You mentioned the expectations of reading series, I don't know that each one has to be better than the last, but I do like them to be at least equal in enjoyment. Sometimes the first book in a series will be my favorite, sometimes the last. I've really enjoyed the Lost Lords series so far, cannot wait for Lord of Wicked Intentions! Thanks!

petite said...

Series are one of my favorite choices, but I must read them in order since it is important. I want to start them at the beginning and enjoy them once at a time in succession. I look forward to the characters and their situations and how things evolve in each book. I enjoy the first for its novelty and hope that the others are just as enjoyable.

traveler said...

I find series compelling and special. The beauty of series is that you learn a great deal about the characters and their depth throughout each book, devoted to them and their lives and trials and tribulations. I read series in the order in which they were written as that is one important ingredient for me. Thanks for this lovely post and learning about your writing and your beautiful books which sound memorable and very unforgettable.

Alina P said...

I love series and only about 10% of the time do I read stand alone books. When the series fallows the same couple I usually wait for it to be finished, otherwise it drives me crazy waiting to see what happens to them, especially if it's a trilogy or some such. In general, I start the series from my auto-buy authors as they publish them, I don't like to wait like that for books from them.

I always, always read series in reading order. I go nuts if there are references or inside jokes from the other books and I have no idea how they got there :D

Thank you for the post, it's marvelous! I love your scoundrels of St James series and I can't wait to read all your other books.

Lorraine said...

Thank you all for such interesting and insightful answers. I wasn't much of a reader until my 30's but I think it was because I hadn't found books I truly enjoyed. So I came to romance late and have been playing catchup ever since. I love the dedication of romance readers.

Chrisbails said...

I absolutely love series. I have to read them in order. If I find a book that I want and it is apart of a series, I will go out and buy the other books previous books. I love watching the characters and the storyline grow through the series.

Love your books Lorraine, but had no idea that you wrote under another name and had a whole other series. That is awesome. The YA series looks awesome. Fantastic covers. Your historical books look awesome also and definitely would love to win and read those. Thanks for the chance to win.

christinebails at yahoo dot com

chey said...

My favourite way to read a series is to read them in order. More often I start in the middle not knowing it's part of the series, then getting the rest of the series when I can. I don't really like waiting for the next book to come out. My favourite parts of reading series are not having to re-learn all the background and finding out what's happened to previous characters.

Jeanne M said...

Hi Lorraine!

It nice to hear an author's point of view about reading a series and if it important to read them in order. I must admit I prefer to read them in order but it's not set in stone.

When an author's has a new book released soon I often do re-read stories by them while I'm waiting for the release and would also often like to re-read the previous books if it's a series but often when I go to my bookcases find that family and friends have "borrowed" them and they magically have disappeared to parts unknown!

Have you ever wondered where a particular favorite book of yours (whether one of your own or a special favorite) has ended up? I wouldn't be surprised if one of your books hasn't set a record for traveling the farthest!

Connie said...

Lorraine Heath: You are fabulous and I love your novels! As for books in a series - I love them if they are published fairly close together and perhaps there is a small synopsis at the beginning to enlighten those readers who are not yet familiar with the theme of the series. I do my best to try and read a series in order. That way, I feel as though I’m “up” on the plot and don’t get confused.

Congratulations on your wonderful successes! All the best!

Lorraine said...

Thank you, Chris!

Lorraine said...

Chey: There are advantages to reading the books in order.

Lorraine said...

Jeanne: I hadn't considered where a book ended up. Hmm...might be interesting to mark a book with contact information and see where it goes -- like the school projects that mark a dollar or send a balloon in the air or put a message in a bottle. I'm intrigued now.

Lorraine said...

Connie: Thank you so much!

Tiffany said...

Hi Lorraine Heath!

First and foremost, I am a HUGE fan of yours. I have been an avid reader of your books for as long as I want to remember. :)

Series are a major draw when I am choosing books to read/buy. I love to see recurring characters in each subsequent novel. I feel as if you get the chance to continue your "relationship" with them. Especially, if the next book features a character that has grown throughout the series. Actually, I like to see the growth of characters from previous books that have had a drastic change in their outlook on life, as well. Example: Houston Leigh from Texas Destiny.

Having said that, I go back and forth as to being able to wait for a whole series to come out, or to start reading immediately. It somewhat depends on if I'm in another author's series when an upcoming series comes out. Then, I'm more than likely able to wait it out. Sometimes... :)

My only grievance would be that sometimes an author has a character in her/his series that I would LOVE to see have their own book. However, not always do they get that book. But, I have to admit, that's the selfish part of me that would desire an author to write a book that they don't "know" yet. In my saner, less "Misery" moments, I understand that to force a character/story would prove worse. Does that make sense?

Summed up, yes. I LOVE series. And, I absolutely LOVE your series. To this day, your "Texas Trilogy" is one of my all time favorite collection of books. :D

Pat Cochran said...

I totally agree with you on the extra
"visiting" time given the reader and
the author with all the characters in
a series. Love following the growth of
the story and indulging in the added
information the author is able to share
with us. As I communicate with you there
is a large, hardback book next to me.It
is a copy of Texas Trilogy, which is up
next on Mount TBR, that I found recently!
I am so excited, I look forward to read-
ing this series!

Eli Yanti said...

I don't mind as long as I enjoy the book :)

Barbara E. said...

I generally like to have at least several books in a series before I start reading it, although if it's something I've been eagerly anticipating, I'll read the first one and then impatiently wait for further books. I don't thing there is such a thing as too many books in a series if it's one that I really enjoy. I'll keep reading until the series ends. I hate reading books out of order, even if you can still follow the story, there are always little things that you understand better if you've read previous books. My favorite thing about reading a series are those little things that refer back to previous books and seeing familiar characters return in following books. My least favorite thing is waiting for new books to come out. :D

erin said...

Congrats Lorraine on your success! Thanks for a very fun post! I'm also a bit OCD and have to read a series in order and if I can, I usually wait until I can get at least 3 books before starting to read. I guess that way, I can glom them all :) I don't mind trilogies but those I definitely have to have all the books before I read. I also don't mind longer series as long as the stories and characters stay fresh and interesting.

Mary Preston said...

I never read a series out of order. I just know I will miss certain facts & nuances. I do love it if I have the complete series before I begin reading. I hate cliffhangers so much, but a back to back read is wonderful.

Miranda said...

I read books out of order all the time. I feel like a book that's good should be able to stand on it's own. That being said - some series are easier to understand reading in order depending on the type of book, how many different characters, and what's going on. For example, the other day I recommended a series by Jacquelyn Frank to a friend of mine but I strongly suggested she read them in order because there are so many characters and the world building and plot are very involved.

Lory Lee said...

The first book that I've actually read was a series. So it means a lot to me. I read it any way I like. Often times, I would usually get the second installment or the third before the first and it doesn't bother me at all. I read it and enjoy it (since writers dedicated talent, time and patience to write that book) I really love it when I get a chance to read a little part of the couple who had their happy endings. But I remember reading this particular series in which I got to the sixth book when I learned that heroine in the second installment died. It really sucks! Call me idealist, but I can't get it off my mind. It really affected on my interest in the whole series though I continued to read it.

Martha Lawson said...

I don't mind reading a series out of order at all. Matter of fact, most of the time I'll start reading a book and I'll realize it's a series and then I have to go find the rest of them and then read then. I call it reading a series "bass-ackards"!! That is what I'm currently doing to Iris Johansen's Eve Duncan's series. So no, I don't mind. Thanks for the chance.

Kim said...

I've often started a series out of order and still enjoyed reading the books. That's how I discovered The Bridgertons.

Laurie G said...

I like reading a series. I don't have to read them in any order. The books must stand on their own merit. I hate repetition, rehashing in a book. I will not wait to have all in order to start a series. I have no patience!

I like a series because you feel familiar with the family or a part of a community. I haven't read a series yet that seemed too long. I like Kate Hoffmann's Mighty Quinn's, Susan Wigg's Lakeshore Chronicles, Debbeie Macomber's Cedar Cove, Robyn Carr's Virgin River, Linda Lael Miller's Creed's Jo Davis's firefighters, and Diana Palmer's Jacobsville, Texas mercenaries and the King Ranch.

Best wishes for continued success with your writing alone and with your son!