Contemporary romance author Barbara Freethy delves deep into her own expereinces and history to explain how she creates a community based series.
Last year I launched my Angel's Bay series with SUDDENLY ONE SUMMER. This spring books two and three, ON SHADOW BEACH and IN SHELTER COVE were released and a fourth book, AT WHISPER FALLS will be out early next year. I've written quite a few books in my time, but this is the first ongoing community based series that I've penned, and it's both fun and challenging.
To make a community based series come to life, you have to start with the location. I came up with Angel's Bay, which is a fictional town located on the coast of California, during a drive down the Pacific Coast Highway with my husband. The scenery along the spectacular rugged coastline of Big Sur inspired me and as I read about some of the local history, I was intrigued by the idea that off the central coast there are deep underwater canyons that are only revealed during certain tidal events. That's when the idea of a shipwreck came to me.
I decided to use California history a bit more and make it a ship leaving the San Francisco Gold Rush back in the 1850's laden with gold. When the ship goes down, the survivors make it to the shores of a sheltered bay which they name Angel's Bay in honor of their lost loved ones. From there sprang a series of legends and stories that play into the current contemporary story lines.
I think it's important that the town in a community based series be as important as any other character. It's what draws the reader back time and time again because while the people may change, the town is always there welcoming newcomers in.
Having created a rich history for Angel's Bay, it was fun, although a bit complicated, to tie the present with events of the past. Another great part of Angel's Bay is the quilt shop which is the heart of the town. The original survivors of the shipwreck made a survivor's quilt and to this day descendants of those survivors continue to stitch the quilt. In addition, the quilt shop has become a big business drawing quilters from all over the country.
This is the first time in my writing career that I've had to create a "bible" for my town to keep track of all the characters, the places, and the historical threads. I hope these extras enrich the stories and give them more intriguing depth which is something I always strive for in my writing.
I've always loved reading series and watching episodic television. It's fun to go back to a place with continuing story lines and characters that become almost like family. The Gilmore Girls was one of my favorite shows - I loved the town of Stars Hollow and Luke's Diner. In books, Robyn Carr's Virgin River series is also one of my favorites.
Do you enjoy reading community based series? What draws you to an ongoing series? And is there a certain number of books that works -- is there a point where you wish the author would move to another town or do something new?