Message From The Author
Storytelling through Time
AUTHORS MERGE HISTORICALS AND
CONTEMPORARIES UNDER ONE SERIES BANNER
By Faygie Levy
In her newest book, The McKettrick Way (Dec., Silhouette Special Edition),
Linda Lael Miller connects two
of her continuing series -- the McKettricks and Stone Creek -- as Meg McKettrick "hooks up" with one of the O'Ballivan men, Brad, from Stone Creek.
Nothing unusual about that, right?
What makes this so unique is that while both the McKettrick saga and the Stone Creek series started as historical romances, The McKettrick Way is a modern-day love story.
Connecting a historical series to a contemporary one is nothing new for Miller. Her McKettrick series began as historical romances back in 2002, before the family moved into the 21st century in December 2006 with Sierra's Homecoming.
And she isn't alone.
Authors like Jayne Ann Krentz and Julie Garwood are finding that connecting their contemporary and historical series -- and even futuristic ones in some cases -- through their novels is paying off creatively and in terms of sales.
Even Nora Roberts/J.D. Robb took a stab at it in some form with her 2003 release Remember When, a 2-in-1 mystery that begins in contemporary times and moves into the future as heroine Eve Dallas solves the case of some missing gems and the murders that went along with it.
For Miller, the decision to move the McKettricks into
contemporary times came in part from her editor's urging. The author, who had until then been published by Pocket,
had just moved to Harlequin, which requested a contemporary western.
"I was thinking about that and I thought, 'What would
happen if I revisited the people from the Triple M Ranch [where the McKettricks live]. What would their descendants
be like? What would the ranch be like?' Harlequin liked
the idea, and the books wrote themselves," she says.
Her readers, Miller concludes, "love a series. They love to read about families. History has proven that I try to make them feel a part of that family, and that if they showed up at the Triple M they'd be welcomed."
For Krentz, the decision to have her Arcane Society series -- about a secret society dedicated to paranormal research -- cross timelines was easy.
"At this point in my career, I have defined for myself
what it is that I love to do best," she says. "My 'core story'
is romantic suspense with a paranormal or psychic twist regardless of the time period.
"This is the story that excites me the most, the one I'm most passionate about. So, I decided to set up a series that will allow me to incorporate those elements."
To that end, she has written Arcane Society novels set in
the present -- White Lies and this month's Sizzle and Burn, both under her Krentz name -- and the historical Second Sight and the upcoming April release The Third Circle, written as Amanda Quick novels. The society was
even mentioned in her last Jayne Castle futuristic novel,
Silver Master (2007) and, the author says, the society will play a "slightly bigger role" in the Castle title Dark Light, due out this summer.
While not technically a "series," Julie Garwood does connect her historical and contemporary romances through the Buchanan and MacKenna families. Garwood first wrote about the Buchanans in her 1999 historical romance Ransom, before moving on to contemporary romantic suspense novels that feature their descendants.
In last year's contemporary, Shadow Dance, Dylan Buchanan wed Kate MacKenna, despite the revelation of
some ancestral hatred going back to medieval Scotland.
The Buchanan and MacKenna clans of historic Scotland will
play a part in the upcoming Shadow Music (Ballantine), Garwood's first historical novel in several years.
While there can be definite challenges to writing a story that spans decades, if not centuries (like trying to remember which couple had which child and in what era), there are definite benefits as well.
Krentz says she enjoys writing an interconnected series,
in part because each novel explores a different aspect of the society. "In the historicals, we see the start of some of the elements of the society that have been established in the contemporaries: The beginning of the society's investigative branch, Jones and Jones, for instance, will be an Amanda Quick story. The beginning of its matchmaking agency -- which has gone online in the contemporaries, ArcaneMatch.com -- is also
a Quick story.
"Readers who read both the historicals and contemporaries will see the society from a variety of angles," Krentz continues. "I hope they find it as interesting as I do."
And getting readers to jump on the time express with them is actually what the authors who mesh their series hope to do. This isn't as easy as it sounds. While some readers are more than happy to cross genres (historicals to contemporaries and vice versa), some are more entrenched and refuse to budge.
That's what Suzanne Enoch discovered when she did a 2-in-1 novel, Twice the Temptation, in 2007, half of which was set in 1814 and included the ancestors of her contemporary series hero Rick Addison.
"I thought it was the opportunity to introduce my historical readers, of which there is a larger reader base, to Sam and Rick," the contemporary series characters, explains Enoch. "I think the contemporary readers accepted the historical better than the historical readers accepted the contemporary story."
While both tales featured Enoch's humorous take on a caper story, some historical readers thought the language and scene descriptions in Sam and Rick's story were too graphic.
Still, she wouldn't have traded the experience for anything. "It was a lot of fun. It was very different from anything I had done before," says Enoch, "because I knew Rick's character
as a contemporary hero, and I had to go backward from that to say, 'Where did he come from?' I want to see parts of Rick in [his ancestor] Connor, but I don't want the same character plopped in historical times."
For Miller, the ride is nothing but sweet. "I think people like having both kinds of books," she says, noting that she believes there are readers who are willing to cross the time barriers to enjoy a good story with characters and families they love.
"I have no way of quantifying that, but I hope there is a crossover. We know some people will only read contemporaries or historicals, but by sales, I think we've had a good crossover, and that's really all you can hope for."
And with several of Miller's contemporary Stone Creek O'Ballivan novels expected out from Silhouette Special Edition in the coming months, Stone Creek readers will have more opportunities to move into modern times. Because, as Miller notes, in the end, it may all boil down to this: "Readers love connections with any characters they've read about before."
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