Author Donna Hill shares her guilty pleasure/inspiration for writing series (soap operas) and discusses the controversy that came from writing another story for a hero she just wasn't ready to be done with.
Readers love series and recurring characters. It’s like watching your favorite soap opera, tuning in and turning the pages to see what those heroes, heroines and villains are up to. I must admit, during my adolescence and into my teens I was a devout All My Children & One Life to Live fan — and in acceptance of dating myself — Dark Shadows (the preamble to today’s craze for vamps). It would stand to reason, that when I began novel writing in 1990 that I would latch onto the obvious and craft a family, a town or some hunk or sexy siren that readers couldn’t get enough of and that I could write story after story about those familiar faces and places. Odd, but I didn’t.
When I penned my first novel, Rooms of the Heart, in 1990 and wrote, “the end” I actually meant it. And so it went for several years, book after book, even as readers would write and ask “whatever happened to ...” In my mind, they “lived happily ever after.” Isn’t that what a romance is supposed to be about?
It wasn’t until I wrote A Private Affair (which became a made-for-TV movie and re-issued in 2009) that I became so desperately attached to my hero Quinten Parker that I felt compelled to write “a follow-up.” One of the reasons was because I wasn’t finished with Quinn. I had not planned for him to wind up with the heroine. I wanted him for the other girl, but my editor won out. So, in order to appease myself, I wrote Pieces of Dreams (and subsequently bumped off my heroine—much to the horror of my readers! Re-issued Sept 2009). The major controversy and firestorm that it created compelled me to write Through the Fire (re-issued 5/2010) and give some peace to my hero and soothe my readers. I suppose that’s when the sequel bug hit me.
I got my chance to really try my hand at it when I came to Harlequin a couple of years ago and began my Pause for Men Series — featuring four mature women who decide to open a day spa exclusively for men. That four-book series did very well and when it was time to think about writing another series I wanted to incorporate the things that I enjoyed — mystery, a little murder, mayhem and straight from the headlines stories. And The Ladies Cartel series was born. These kick-ass women are your average everyday ladies, with regular jobs and relationships, but what makes them special is that they are part of a secret organization sanctioned by the highest authorities in government to investigate and solve cases that local law enforcement, FBI or CIA don’t have the time or the man power to handle. Their cover is that they are members of Tender Loving Care body products company but their makeup kits contain all their tools of the trade disguised as blush that is really fingerprinting dust or bath beads that are sedatives. Not to mention their high-tech listening devices. So far my Ladies have been involved in corporate espionage, suburban hookers and my latest Longing And Lies (May 2010) is about selling babies on the black market. To make bad matters worst Ashley Temple is, for the first time, paired up with a partner, FBI operative Elliot Morgan. The last thing either of them want is a partner, but their animosity turns hot and steamy as they join forces — and households — to find out who is stealing and selling babies in New York.
Of course even lady spies need someone to come to home at night, so each of the novels Sex & Lies, Seduction & Lies, Temptation & Lies all have mouthwatering, sexy heroes that curl my ladies toes. What makes it super difficult for my ladies is that the men in their lives can’t know anything about what they do. Imagine keeping that kind of secret when you crawl into bed at night!
So now that I am officially hooked into writing series, I’m enjoying it so much that in spring of 2011 I will be introducing the Lawsons of Louisiana. A powerful political family that will steam up the pages with hot romances and sexy scandals. I gave readers a taste of them in my upcoming novel Heart’s Reward (Aug 2010). I’m looking forward to reader reaction.
Although writing series is much more demanding than single titles, as you have to write them closer together and keep all of the characters and time lines straight, it does afford you the familiarity of really getting to know your characters and sharing their trials, triumphs, and growth with the readers. And whatever makes the readers happy, I’m all for it!
- Donna Hill