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30 May 2016

Series writing - Continuity & Change


My new release London Gambit ends with a major game changer that pretty much guarantees that at least the next novella and novel in the series will take place out of Britain. This opens a lot of intriguing new options I’m excited to explore. But it also means that not all the ensemble cast will be present. Over the course of the series that cast has grown. I like large casts of characters, so from the first the series focused not just on married agents Malcolm and Suzanne Rannoch but on their family and friends (not to mention enemies). And as the series has gone on, new characters who were part of one story have become key parts of the ensemble.


For instance, Harry and Cordelia Davenport. I added them four books back because i realized I needed a soldier character in Imperial Scandal, which focused on the battle of Waterloo. And with the tangled marriage and competing loyalties of my central characters, Malcolm and Suzanne Rannoch, it seemed thematically appropriate for Harry to have an estranged wife. I knew Harry and Cordelia would become friends of the Rannochs and appear in subsequent books in the series, but I didn’t quite realize that they would become the Rannochs’ best friends and major ongoing characters who are an integral part of each investigation. Looking back, it’s hard to imagine the series, or Malcolm’s and Suzanne’s lives, without Harry and Cordelia.



I love ensemble series, in books and on television. I love getting to a whole group characters and returning to a familiar world. As an author, I love exploring their ongoing interactions. But there’s no denying that as the cast grows, it can tricky to work such a large cast into each story. So in a sense it's refreshing to have a new locale with new people for Malcolm and Suzanne to interact with, and not to have to constantly think "but this character would be there." Or "they would go to that character for help." Even when all the ensemble cast doesn't appear in a book, I feel I have to account for where they are. With the next book, they will simply be "in Britian."

And yet-- Already I find myself missing Malcolm and Suzanne's friends and family as much as they do. Already I'm working on ways to bring at least some of them into the next story.

How do you feel about ensemble series? Do you enjoy a large cast of continuing characters? Do you like it when a change of scene limits the cast, at least for a book or so, or do you miss your old friends?







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4 Comments:

Blogger Lucy Warriner said...

I like your ensemble cast and find myself growing more and more attached to some of the characters as time goes on. After Imperial Scandal, I was fairly desperate for more Cordelia and Harry, and I've loved the glimpses of their marriage that you provide. Now that I've read London Gambit, I hope we'll see more of Oliver and Bel at some point. And I hope that the future holds better things for them.

8:52 PM  
Blogger Helena said...

I've just been indulging in a complete re-read of the series (including the three in which they're called Charles and Melanie) and I was thinking only yesterday, as I started London Gambit, how large the cast has grown. I love the fact that you put the dramatic personae at the start of each book (makes it so much easier for the reader). I do like revisiting the characters but I can see how, as an author, you might like to be free to not include some of them now and then! And I think you'll be able to now.

I can think of at least one person who is likely to pop up in the next book, given his peripatetic lifestyle and particularly close connecting with the family -- Raoul O'Roarke. I hope he does!

2:30 AM  
Blogger Betty Strohecker said...

I love ensemble casts and look forward to checking in with old friends. As you said, it's hard to imagine the series without Harry and Cordelia now. I also love seeing the children grow and interact. It reminds me that our characters are real people who have children and must think of them as they go about their adventures. I would think that some characters might not appear in all novels, depending on the setting, and that's to be expected. With the ending of London Gambit, I look forward to adventures in Italy, and liked your hint that Harry and Cordelia might visit.

That being said, I would think it would be very hard to always integrate the ensemble cast. You do a wonderful job of doing that! I also appreciate the dramatis personnae that you include.


10:35 AM  
Blogger Tracy Grant said...

Lucy and Betty, I love that you are so attached to Harry and Cordy. I'm extremely fond of them and find it hard to remember they were ever not part of the series.

Helena, the novella takes place on the way to Italy (they stop along the way and visit a real historical character) so Raoul is still traveling with the group. And the novel begins with their arrival in Italy, so he's present as well. Given his connections to the family and particularly Laura and Emily, I imagine he will be a frequent visitor at the very least!

5:29 PM  

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