Today it's my pleasure to hand the reins of the blog over to author Mary Jayne Baker to talk about the challenges and benefits of writing a series.
The Perfect Fit, was released last month. In it, readers return to the sleepy Yorkshire village of Egglethwaite – first encountered in A Bicycle Made for Two – as the villagers try to save their village hall by organising a Christmas pantomime.
This is my first time writing a series – in fact, when I came up with the idea of Egglethwaite and its colourful inhabitants two years ago, I had no idea they were destined for more than one book. I wrote the first in the series, A Bicycle Made for Two, as a standalone. I think it was my agent who suggested to me that the characters were too good for a one-off and suggested turning it into a series.
I wasn’t sure at first. I worried that a series would be susceptible to the curse of the sequel, with fans of the first book comparing later instalments – perhaps unfavourably – with what came before. And then there were the main characters. A Bicycle Made for Two had a wonderful, feisty, no-nonsense heroine in Lana Donati, but at the end of that book I’d left Lana to her happily-ever-after. I wanted to write a brand-new blossoming romance rather than simply catching up with Lana and Stewart in the next phase of their lives.
A new romance meant a new hero and first-person heroine, plus their friends and relatives, and suddenly it felt like I was in danger of getting buried under characters. I really wanted the book to work as a standalone for readers who hadn’t already read the previous book. What if there were too many characters for new readers to keep track of? But then, if I left any favourites out of the story that could disappoint fans of the first book. What if I couldn’t do the characters who’d appeared in the first book justice now they’d be sharing page space with these new cast members?
On the plus side, I’d completely fallen in love with the Egglethwaite villagers in A Bicycle Made for Two – especially my comic relief, eccentric chef Deano – and the idea of revisiting old friends was very appealing. I’d long wanted to write a story about a village pantomime, and this seemed like the perfect job for my community-spirited Yorkshire folk.
And once I’d got started… well, I was riddled with anxiety for at least the first 30,000 words, terrified I’d made a mistake in committing to a second book. But despite that, it was wonderful to hang out with the recurring characters again. Deano was the perfect choice for director; grumpy morris dancer Gerry plays the dame; cougarish WI chair Yolanda is the ideal Fairy Godmother; whereas arrogant actor Harper Brady brings his own set of challenges when he agrees to cameo in exchange for a starring role for his wife Maisie (a glamour model with very wooden acting skills).
The hardest character to write for at first was my new heroine, Becky Finn. Having already connected with Lana, I found that I was constantly pushing my new heroine into a passenger-seat role so I could spend more time with the one I already knew. The solution was to keep Lana back from the early part of the book a little to let Becky find her voice, and eventually I learned to love Becky just as much as I already loved Lana. One thing I’d noticed about Lana while writing the first book was that she seemed to lack female friends her own age, and I loved building the friendship between her and Becky in their scenes together.
There was also the opportunity to create a new hero. As previous hero Stewart would be present in a secondary role, I needed to make sure any new love interest was equally appealing to readers. Having fallen for Deano’s quirky sense of fun, I decided to give him a brother, Marcus, a professional magician and children’s entertainer. Playing Buttons opposite Becky’s Cinderella, the two soon begin to grow close – which has repercussions for for Becky’s relationship with her fiancé Cole.
Will there be another book in the series? The answer to that is I’m not sure yet – possibly one more before I leave the good folk of Egglethwaite to enjoy their happy endings. But having done it once, I’d definitely consider writing more series in future. The big advantage is in already knowing the characters and setting, so as soon as you think up a new adventure for them you can dive straight in!
After years living in London, costume shop owner Becky Finn is trying to build a new life for herself and fiancé Cole in her old home of Egglethwaite, a sleepy village in the Yorkshire Dales.
Keen to raise funds for the struggling village hall she loved as a child, Becky soon finds herself at the head of a colourful group intent on resurrecting Egglethwaite s Christmas pantomime. But, as she quickly discovers, there s more to panto than innuendo and slapped thighs.
As opening night grows closer, Becky starts to wonder if her embattled panto will ever make it to the stage and, with handsome co-star Marcus on the scene, if she s picked the right man for her after all.
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