We’re pleased to have Jennifer Estep join us today. By night, Jennifer is an author, prowling the streets of her imagination in search of her next fantasy idea. By day, she’d an award-winning features page designer for a daily newspaper with a wide range of media and journalism experience. She’s also a certifiable fan girl and an authority on fantasy literature and culture.
Some of you might know me as the author of the Elemental Assassin urban fantasy series. The books focus on Gin Blanco, an assassin codenamed the Spider who can control the elements of Ice and Stone. When she’s not busy killing people and righting wrongs, Gin runs a barbecue restaurant called the Pork Pit in the fictional southern metropolis of Ashland. The city is also home to giants, dwarves, vampires, and elementals – Air, Fire, Ice, and Stone.
The first two books in the series are Spider’s Bite and Web of Lies. Venom, the third book, just came out on Sept. 28. Tangled Threads, the fourth book, will be published in May 2011, while the fifth book (untitled) will be released in October 2011.
I’ve also sold a young adult urban fantasy series called Mythos Academy. The first book is called Touch of Frost and will be out in August 2011. The books focus on Gwen Frost, a Gypsy girl who has the gift of psychometry, or the ability to know an object’s history just by touching it. After a serious freak-out with her magic, Gwen finds herself shipped off to Mythos Academy, a school for the descendents of ancient warriors like Spartans, Valkyries, and more.
So today I thought I would talk about writing a series, since Venom, the third book in my Elemental Assassin series, came out earlier this week. I think writing a series is one of the toughest things that an author can do, no matter what genre she’s writing in, whether it’s urban fantasy, romance, mystery, or something else.
Why? Because writing a series is a balancing act. You have to think about everything from your characters, to what happened to them in the last book, to what sort of trouble they’re getting themselves into in the new book, to where you might want to take them in the next book. It can be tough to incorporate all those elements, not to mention any plot threads and relationships that continue from book to book, and make it all fresh and interesting for readers.
Usually, the first book in a series is my favorite since it’s the one that introduces me to the characters/world. Sometime, I like the later books in the series just as well as I do that first magical book. Sometimes, I don’t. I know that I’ve quit reading some series because the characters never seemed to grow or learn or mature, and it just felt like I was reading the same story over and over again.
So how do you keep people hooked and interested in reading your next book? In my books, I always try to have my characters go to at least one or two new places in every book. Not only does this help me expand my world, but I think that it helps keep the books fresh and interesting. The same thing goes for the characters – whether they’re good or bad, you always want your heroine to interact with new people who can challenge her in unexpected ways. This is especially true of the bad guys.
For example, in Venom, my heroine goes to a riverboat casino and a mountain mansion, two places that I haven’t taken readers to yet. She also tangles with a giant along the way and has to figure out how she can defeat him, since he’s one tough customer himself. And my heroine finds some of her relationships deepening and changing, which is something else that I think is important to keep your series moving forward.
I know that I try my best to juggle all these things and more, and write the very best book I can every single time, whether it’s the first book in a series or the third or the fifth. My goal is to make each book a little better than the one before. Having a reader e-mail and tell me that my latest book is her favorite (so far) always brings a smile to my face because it tells me that I’m doing my job as an author – and it’s one that I want to do even better the next time around.
What about you guys? What are some series that you like? Do you think a series can get better as the books go along? Why or why not?