After this week's release of Captivating the Countess, the sixth book in my School of Magic series, I’d like to say I’m now kicking back and taking a much-deserved break, but I’d be lying. I probably started writing Countess in spring of last year, and except for promotion, I haven’t worked on it in months. Right now, I’m deep into the first three books of a new series that won’t be out until 2022. Authors may look as if we’re “churning out” books, but the actuality is much grittier.
And when it comes to the last book in a series like Countess—it can be excruciatingly gritty. I may have mentioned this struggle before, because ending a series is not a cathartic experience by any means. By book six I have an entire world populated with familiar characters whose HEAs we want a glimpse into. I’ve built up a background story and future plot arcs for the final couple, the setting is set in stone, and my normal fly-into-the-mist story writing hits a mountain of detail. At this point, I want nothing more than to dive into a vast unknown ocean in another time and place and forget I ever visited Victorian England. (which is why I tend to switch between historical and contemporary settings, forgive me!)
Don’t get me wrong. I love my characters. I created them for good reason. And in this case, I’ve been dying to write about a Marquess of Rainford since the first one appeared in the Unexpected Magic series. The dukes have produced male physicians with Malcolm healing powers ever since Christina Malcolm married into the family back in the original Magical Malcolm series. (This Magic Moment, reissuing this fall!) They possess both science and empathy, accompanied by the enormous responsibility of running a dukedom—a story just waiting to be told. And they’ve been frustratingly elusive until now.
So the characters aren’t the problem. I am. First off, I have no memory. I keep copious notes on character names, titles, appearances, characteristics. . . I even keep descriptions of their friends, relations, and homes because all the people in all the books visit each other. By book six, I have a volume of notes. (Doesn't this make you tired just thinking about it?)
And even though I spend half my writing hours looking up details I’ve forgotten, I still manage to mess up. For those of you in my Facebook group—here’s the reveal on the Big Boo-boo I mentioned—I called the villain by two different names. The Villain. A Major Character. If I can’t keep up with my own villains, how can I keep up with all the other details? (I’m hoping the new edition online has the corrected version) But even after all my notes, months of revising and editing, two editors poring over every comma and period, a mistake that large can still slip through.
Which makes me anxious all the time but even more so with the final book when there are so many things that can go wrong.
Names really are my downfall because I keep changing them. So I suppose I should be grateful that by book six, most of the names are fixed, and I can’t play with them anymore. That doesn’t mean I can’t forget that the marquess's estate is in York (that's York Castle in the image, definitely not the seat of a duke anymore <G>), not Northumberland, where it’s been since the very first series and really can’t be moved. No editor will remember that. That’s all on me.
So I really have to stop at book six, say fond farewell to my beloved characters, wish them well, and move on somewhere a continent and a century or more away. Of course, I’m now filling my head with a new set of characters and problems, but for the moment, they’re fresh and not causing me too much grief. That will come when my editors get their hands on the stories I’m currently hoarding in my computer. <G>
Are you sad when a series ends? Or do you look forward to something fresh and new?