Guest blogger Jennifer Estep

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.

Her newest book, Venom, will be available in October. You can find out more about Jennifer and her books on her website.

Greetings and salutations! First of all, I want to say thanks to Edie and the other folks here at Magical Musings for having me on the blog today. Thanks, everyone!

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?

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11 Responses to Guest blogger Jennifer Estep

  1. Edie Ramer says:

    Jennifer, thanks for being our guest today! Love the topic, especially since I’m planning on writing a series. My favorite series is Jayne Ann Krentz’s with the Arcane Society, that she also carries through in her Jayne Castle and Amanda Quick books.

    For me, the more I know about the three different connected series, the more I love them. Her books get more depth, and that’s the same thing you do with Gin in your Elemental series. I contacted a reviewer last week who’d put up a recent review of Web of Lies. I mentioned that I knew you, and she gushed about your books. I gushed about you right back at her. I love it when that happens. :)

  2. Pingback: Tantalizing Thursday » Edie Ramer

  3. Hi, Edie! Thanks for having me back on the blog and the nice words about my books. I appreciate it. :cool:

    You know, I’ve never read Krentz (or any of her other pen names). I need to add her to my TBR pile. She’s one of many people that I need to read.

    That is too cool. I’m glad she was digging the series. Since the weather is getting cooler, I think it’s time to indulge in my Beechwood addiction again …

  4. Edie Ramer says:

    Jennifer, that’s the second reader that spontaneously gushed when I mentioned your name. That is so great!

    We were near Beechwood on Tuesday–it was my hubby’s BD and we went kayaking near there. We’d planned on getting cheese on the way home, but we ended up taking a different way (during which hubby explained that men have different “degrees” in being lost than woman).

  5. LaDonna says:

    Hey Jennifer, so happy to see you at Magical again! :smile: And boy, do I love series! I think delving deeper is always a great thing. Since I’m a character gal, I always wonder what happens next at the end of the book. With a series, it’s a like an extra layer of chocolate on the cake for me.

  6. Edie — Heh. I say that lost is lost.

    LaDonna — Thanks for having me back. :cool:

    Me too. I like seeing how characters grow and change over the course of a series. And I always love looking in on a couple from a previous book to see how their happily ever after is progressing.

  7. Liz Kreger says:

    Hi Jennifer. Thanx for joining us here at MM. Well, your series is one that I love. It’s different and as you say … you try to bring something new with each book. I can see where that’s gonna be tough. I’m trying my hand at a UF series, and we’ll see that works for me. :lol:

    I love Patricia Briggs’ series, Carrie Vaughn’s “Kitty” series … that’s a series in which you really see the growth of the main character. Anything by Keri Arthur and I’ve discovered a new UF author, Faith Hunter. These are just a few authors that I’m hooked on.

  8. cories5 says:

    Hi, Jennifer! I am reminded of both the Harry Dresden and the Mercy Thompson series. For both I didn’t read them in sequence, but I did think of certain books in the series as the “vampire one” (“Grave Peril” and “Blood Bound” respectively) or the “fae/faerie one” (“Summer Knight” and “Iron Kissed”).

    I also love Jayne Ann Krentz’s books, but they don’t have many in a series with recurring main characters like the aforementioned two series.

  9. Jennifer, thanks so much for being here! I really appreciate the way you’ve explained so many of the different elements we have to juggle to craft a book. I’ve never written a series (at least not yet!), but I’m fascinated by ones that are written well. Those that resolve a story plot or two but still have an overarching issue that runs between books. As far as series books I love, I was a big fan of the Janet Evanovich novels for quite a while. For me, they did run out of steam after 10+ books, but I’m still so impressed by the way she kept the series going through those first 8-9 novels. Looking forward to reading more of yours, too!

  10. Jennifer, thanks for returning to MM, we love having you!

    As I’m writing a series at the moment, I totally know what you’re talking about, although none of my books are out yet, LOL. I have this strong feeling that every book has to be MORE than the last, and I’m finding all the characters’ dark, secret places and trying to shed a little light on them. It is by far the hardest thing I’ve ever done.

  11. Liz — Thanks! I’m glad that you are digging Gin and the gang. I haven’t tried Vaughn’s books, but the Kitty series is one that I keep meaning to read … along with about a dozen others. LOL.

    Corie — Hi there! I really like the Dresden series. Bob the skull is definitely my favorite character. You gotta love a guy who reads romance novels.

    Marilyn — Hi there! I know exactly what you mean about the Evanovich books. I loved the first 6 or 7, but after that, I wanted Stephanie to grow up a little bit — or at least make a decision between Joe and Ranger.

    Michelle — Thanks for having me back. :cool:

    You put it perfectly — every book has to be more than the last. Have more action, more twists and turns, more emotion and still do everything that made readers fall in love with the series to start with. It’s a very tough thing to pull off!

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