Lauren Carr is the international best-selling author of the Mac Faraday and Lovers in Crime Mysteries. Her upcoming new series, The Thorny Rose Mysteries, will be released Spring/Summer 2015.
The owner of Acorn Book Services, Lauren is also a publishing manager, consultant, editor, cover and layout designer, and marketing agent for independent authors. This year, several books, over a variety of genres written by independent authors will be released through the management of Acorn Book Services, which is currently accepting submissions. Visit Acorn Book Services website for more information.
Lauren is a popular speaker who has made appearances at schools, youth groups, and on author panels at conventions. She also passes on what she has learned in her years of writing and publishing by conducting workshops and teaching in community education classes.
She lives with her husband, son, and three dogs on a mountain in Harpers Ferry, WV.
Gnarly’s Facebook Page: http://www.facebook.com/GnarlyofMacFaradayMysteries
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There are pros and cons to writing a mystery series.
Writers who compose stand-alone novels, meaning books that don’t revolve around a group of continuing characters, are free to walk away and move on with their lives as soon as the book is released. No longer tied to those characters, these authors are free to forget about them like a one night stand at a convention in Las Vegas.
What happened in that stand-alone book stays in that stand-alone book.
Such is not the case for authors of continuing series. We have to consider continuity. What may seem like a really cool scene or occurrence to a character in this book may effect what happens in another book further down the line.
It’s challenging enough to keep track of every character, their connection to other characters, and the intricate plotlines involving each character during the course of a single book—especially when each thread connects together to bring about the solution of a murder mystery.
But, when you are dealing with characters in a murder mystery series, then you need to keep track of these same characters and their connections to each other going all the way back to the first book they appeared in.
When writing a series, the author may think of a really cool character to introduce in this book, but then, the thought comes, “I’ll be stuck with that character for the rest of the series … unless I kill him off.” Mystery writers can always kill off a character they get tired of … but then maybe not.
In Twelve to Murder, Gnarly was scheduled to spend the weekend with a friend of Archie, who was trying to breed him with her female German shepherd. I was so very tempted to have Police Chief David O’Callaghan adopt one of Gnarly’s puppies—Son of Gnarly. But then, I didn’t because then, David O’Callaghan would have that puppy forever—and my readers would have rebelled if I got rid of the pup. Since Chelsea had Molly, I decided one more dog would be too much. However, the scene of David bringing home that pup was just so-oo tempting!
Another thing that authors of series must always keep in mind: the most minute detail involving what could be a minor character in an early book needs to be remembered and dealt with. For example, recently a reader contacted me with what she mistakenly considered a lack of continuity within my series.
Archie Monday’s mother, Agnes Douglas is introduced very briefly in the last scene of Blast from the Past:
“Stand back! Stand back!” Archie recognized a big hulking man who had taken a position by her side as her oldest brother. She had six. “Let Mom get to her!”
The sea of family parted and a tall, slender woman, who hadn’t seemed to age a day in the decade since Archie had ten minutes to say good-bye, stepped forward to take her only daughter into a hug. “I always knew that one day I would get to see my baby girl again.”
However, several books later, in Three Days to Forever, Agnes Douglas appears differently:
Agnes Douglas. Archie’s mother.
No wonder Gnarly growled. He never did like her very much … and the feeling was mutual.
Shoving aside his fears about the safety of Archie, her and his family and their friends, Mac forced a wide grin on his face. After shoving the gun into the back waistband of his pants and covering it up with his sweater, he hurried down the steps to take the white haired woman into his arms. Like her only daughter, she was petite. Falling two inches short of five feet tall, Mac had to bend over to hug her. In her heavy dark blue winter coat and thick snow boots, she resembled a blue snow man.
Shouldn’t she be with Archie and the bridesmaids getting their hair done at the salon? Oh, well, Agnes goes and does what she wants when she wants. Best not to question.
“Agnes, I’m so glad to see you.” Mac clasped her arm and slipped his other arm around her waist to guide her across the slick ice to help the elderly woman up the steps and inside.
At the top of the steps, Gnarly backed away. Agnes had made it quite clear to Gnarly that he was only allowed to look, but not touch her.
“I told her that I had one of my headaches.” At the top of the porch steps, she turned to Mac. She tilted her head back to peer up at him from over the top of her glasses. She paused to look him up and then down, where she noticed that he was wearing only his bedroom slippers without any socks. “What are you doing outside in two feet of snow and ice without boots on?”
“I heard you coming and didn’t want you to slip on the ice.”
Agnes’ head bobbed up and down while she chastised him. “Do I look like I need your help? I haven’t broken a hip yet. Archie depends on you. What good are you going to do her dropping dead from pneumonia?”
Unable to come up with an answer, Mac shrugged.
Lack of continuity? No, it was not. Since I was writing a series, I was fully aware even when writing that scene at the end of Blast from the Past that Archie Monday’s mother would most likely be appearing again in another book.
Did you notice I didn’t name her in that scene? That was because I was unsure what I wanted to name her and I knew that whatever name I picked, I would be married to that name forever.
So, I kept this scene brief and wrote it fully from Kendra Douglas/Archie Monday’s point of view. In third person subjective, that means that while it is written in third person, the reader is inside Archie’s head. Readers were introduced to Agnes Douglas through Archie’s eyes. Archie, who is petite, has not seen or had any contact with her mother in ten years. The reader sees her the way Archie sees her, through the love of a child for her strong and loving mother, (at that moment tall to Archie) for this extremely brief scene.
This is the reader’s first impression of Agnes Douglas. I don’t know about you, but more than once, my first impression of someone is vastly different than how they may appear to someone else or after the layers of their character has been peeled away—which is something that reviewers and regular readers have said they love about the characters in my books.
In A Wedding and a Killing, readers saw that dew of the mother-child reunion slipping away when Archie and Mac are trying to elope and Archie tells the minister that they have to keep the marriage a secret because of her mother. She says something along the lines of “you haven’t met my mother.”
Did you notice how quickly Archie’s siblings and their families parted the seas in Blast from the Past? This was the first clue of her strength. By the time she appeared in Three Days to Forever, through Mac’s eyes, she was blunt and interfering.
Yet, through Three Days to Forever, the layers slip away until readers see, through Joshua’s eyes, the similarities between her and Joshua’s late grandmother, who raised him. She is a strong woman who has been through a lot and now, in her old age, is fighting to remain useful to those she loves.
From Blast from the Past to A Wedding and a Killing to the end of Three Days to Forever, Agnes Douglas was transformed to the big strong matriarch to interfering mother-in-law to sympathetic older woman finding her place among the characters of the Mac Faraday Mysteries.
Yes, keeping track of all these characters and their tiny nuances from one book to another is a challenge, but I truly do enjoy being married to my characters. Unlike those authors of stand-alone novels, I don’t do one-night stands with my characters.
I marry them.