Publishers like series. Readers like series, too and that’s why publishers like series. Authors write series because it is reassuring to build a family of characters and watch them grow through the books and the author doesn’t have to sit and work out a character’s attributes for each book because they become like brothers and sisters and a known quantity.
Just occasionally, though, we like to break ranks and write a standalone with completely new characters. It’s a kind of freedom, like not going to see Aunt Mabel because it’s Tuesday but going to a pop concert instead. This is what happened when I first thought about The Angel Killer. I decided to set it in Wisconsin, the only part of America I know, but when it came to getting down to the nitty-gritty, Wisconsin didn’t work. But Lincolnshire did. Of course, by this time, I had already written 55,000 words!
I can’t begin to list the difficulties bringing the book from the US setting to the UK setting, but here are a few of them. Different police procedure, including the ranks and responsibilities; different speech idioms and rhythms; different food; different landscape; different names for characters even. To paraphrase Auden’s Funeral Blues, I thought this would be easy: I was wrong.
What positive do I bring out of this? Next time, don’t re-write. Adjust the plan and start again. I’ve satisfied the need for the pop concert and will reinstate visiting Aunt Mabel for the foreseeable future. And, just in case Aunt Mabel floats your boat, you can always read the latest book in the Georgia Pattison Mysteries, Laid In Earth.
And the supreme irony? One reviewer has said that the characters in The Angel Killer are too good to only stop at one book and a series would be nice.
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