When Wench Anne asked the question, my reply was far too long, so I thought I'd blog a bit more about series, linked books, and worlds. (That's Charlie and Billy in Christmas garb, looking happy because they have lots of glitter-loot.)
Why write linked books?
As I said on Wednesday, my instinct toward series was there from the first, and I'm not sure why. I can't remember reading any. A series of books with the same protagonist or protagonists, yes, such an Angelique and the Lymond Chronicles, but not what we mean by a series today — a run of books, each about one member of a group.
The closest would be Baroness Orczy's Scarlet Pimpernel books, which I discovered and fell in love with at a very early age. However, I've only now read up about her and the books, and discover the popularity of The Scarlet Pimpernel came about because she and her husband wrote a play based on it and it did well in the West End. Now that's a form of promotion I'd not thought of!
I was delighted to read that she had a very happy marriage.
I wish I still had my battered old edition with line drawings, but I can only offer Anthony Andrews in the role.
Each book in the pimpernel series has a different romantic couple, but as best I remember they are all built around the French Revolution and rescuing aristocrats so that the context is arguably a stronger link than the people and their relationships.
Here's a scarlet pimpernel flower.
In the modern romantic series, the links are through friendship and family and the context can be quite different for each story.
Questions. Am I correct? Please feel free to argue with me.
What character-linked series from the first part of the 20th century have I missed? There must have been some.
Anyway, as I said on Wednesday, as soon as I settled to writing romance novels, back in 1977, I had series in mind, and now it's hard to imagine writing a completely independent novel. If I started one it would turn out to be the beginning of a new series! This is not, however, true of novellas. I don't know why, but I'm not bothered by writing stand-alone novellas, and not tempted to make them the beginning of a series. Perhaps it's a matter of length. As long as I'm not with the world too long, I can escape their seductive tendrils.
My mindset about linked books is odd, and I'm about to reveal another oddity.
My big confession.
I'm not particularly fond of reading linked books.
I read and adored those Heyer books, and they were nearly all stand-alones. Thinking about it, I've decided that there was was a tidiness to them, a completion; a beginning, a middle, and an end, and at the end off they went into the sunset. The rest was left to my imagination, and I did imagine the future for my favourite characters, so that they lived on actively in my mind.
Perhaps I feel a bit deprived by a linked book because I know I'll probably meet those people now and then in later books and learn how they're getting on. I'm not free to invent it all for myself.
Does that resonate with anyone, or am I just crazy? Is inventing ongoing stories for characters perhaps something only writers can do?
How do I reconcile this contradiction? Well in part by writing as I want to write, which seems to have worked out pretty well, and also because my characters seem so real to me, I really have no choice.
The picture? This is the High Street of Northallerton, Yorkshire, which Prudence Youlgrave and Catesby Burgoyne cross in the early pages of An Unlikely Countess. It's slightly relevant because setting is part of continuity of fictional worlds.
This photograph isn't 18th century, of course, but it's probably closer to that period than the modern view. The width is typical of towns along the Great North Road, and of course it was lined with inns.
Most are now shops, but they're still there, with their Georgian lines above the modern shop fronts, and often still with the high arch into the coach yard.
Over the years I have come to think of my linked books not as a series, but as set in a world.
All the characters I've written as being alive in, say, 1816, are alive in 1815. Nearly all of them live in England in aristocratic circles. They go to London and other fashionable places. Many of the men are Members of Parliament, in the Commons or the Lords. Some of them are keen hunters who are bound to be in Melton Mowbray for at least part of the hunting season. Some are patrons of the arts and sciences, and some are interested in industry and technology. It really doesn't matter if I give any of them a part in a book, either walk on or speaking. They're there anyway.
Of course 15 of my Regency-set books are in the Company of Rogues series, so they have the link of friendship, and sometimes family links as well, so I call it my Rogues World, but there are others. The Ashbys and Kyles of the trad. regencies, and also the Dark Angel and the Daffodil Dandy. Sax and Meg from Forbidden Magic, and yes, Knox the parrot. I don't look for them, but when I need a reference to some member of the ton, quite likely it will be one of them, an Easter egg, as Janice put it for the fans who know the books as well, and perhaps better, than I do.
The ongoing characters that grab us.
Which reminds me of Susan/DC's comment about Beth and Lucien in the Rogues books. "For example, I liked many of Jo's Company of Rogue books. I'm sure, however, that I missed important details of some of the books because I was on the lookout for references to Beth and Lucien, my favorite couple in the series." That interested me, but I think I know why, and why they appear quite often.
Most of the couples end up with their problems solved and their future comfortable. That is the gift I try to give them after throwing a great many problems at them. Beth and Lucien have substantial differences, however, and their marriage will clearly be a work-in-prograss. Thus, it's interesting to see how they're managing, whereas visiting many of the other couples would simply be a matter of sitting down to a cup of tea and a bit of a chat.
On the appearance of past characters in books, I try to pass the test that their part in the book will change something in a meaningful way. Which happens in An Unlikely Countess. (Have to put a plug in for my March book.)
One more thing. Despite my love for writing linked books, it can become overwhelming, when the background cast of characters is huge, and there is a delight in starting with a blank slate. So I've taken to writing trilogies that start with completely new characters. But still in the World, remember.
At the moment, that's my Malloren World, set in the 1760s. All the characters from 12 books, including the minor ones, are alive there, but when Robin, Earl of Huntersdown met Petra d'Averio in a French inn, they were both new to me.
In that case, I knew the Malloren link, but when Catesby Burgoyne rescued a woman on the dark streets of Northallerton, Yorkshire, they were both new to me and without any Malloren connection at all. It's very liberating. My vague intent there was to have a trilogy of countesses, and I'm now writing A Scandalous Countess, but I didn't plan any tight connection. Then along came Peregrine Perriam….
Any impression that I am in control of my worlds is, well, a fiction!
I've put up a new excerpt from An Unlikely Countess here. I'll be back to say more about it, especially the adventure of checking out the locations when I was still living in the north.
Here are some northern sheep and lambs. I saw lambs in a field on Wednesday and knew spring was here!