Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Mystery Times Two... or Three

By Sandra Parshall

More and more mystery authors are producing two or even three series simultaneously, and I have to admit they make me feel like a slug. I admire their hard work and dedication to their writing careers, but I always wonder why they do it and whether it interferes with their personal lives. So I posed those two questions to a few friends who are on the fast track with multiple series.

Deb Baker began with the Gertie Johnson series set in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, then added the Gretchen Birch Dolls to Die For series. She now writes the Queen Bee Mysteries as Hannah Reed. Don’t be surprised if she brings out yet another new series sometime soon. 

Why do you do it? Is your imagination overflowing with ideas that demand outlets, are you just a workaholic, or do you have another reason?

At the beginning, I couldn’t sell a thing and had multiple books circulating. Finally, a publisher offered a three book contract for one of them, and three weeks later another publisher made an offer for three books in another. How could I say no? That decision produced a long period of high stress accompanied by an insidious fear that I couldn’t do it. But somehow I managed. As my writing experience grew and my characters developed, the stories came faster and faster. It now takes me between 3 and 4 months to produce a novel, if I can stay focused.

How does the work load affect your life -- and do you ever wish you had more free time?

I love my work, so it’s all play for me! My family and friends are important, so I make time for them. But I never feel the need to go on vacation to escape my desk. Instead, I’m lucky enough to have arranged a life I don’t need to run from.

Clea Simon writes the Dulcie Schwatrz series for Poisoned Pen Press and the Pru Marlowe Pet Noir series for Severn. Both feature cats prominently.

Why do you do it?  

I began doing concurrent series by accident. I had one ms. out circulating (Shades of Grey - YEARS before the S&M erotica of the same name - my first Dulcie Schwartz feline mystery) and then I finished another (Dogs Don't Lie, my first Pru Marlowe pet noir), because that's what you do while you're waiting for something to sell. Then both sold, and both publishers wanted the books to be the start of a series. I love them both, so I said, sure. At the time, the scheduling seemed reasonable. I do try to keep notes for both series current, because sometimes I'll have a Pru thought while I'm working on Dulcie and vice versa. It's a little difficult to switch between the voices -- I get caught up in whichever I'm working on -- but it does keep life interesting.
How does the work load affect your life -- and do you ever wish you had more free time?

RIght now, I have no life. I have one ms. due May 31 and one due on June 1. I have one ms. fully drafted and another nearly drafted, so I'll switch off and revise one, then revise the other, but it's a little too close for comfort. 

I should have been working on these books much earlier, but I was both waiting for contracts to be renewed and also dealing with some family issues, and so... I put them off. So, well, I guess I had my free time! Once these are in, I'll be able to relax. At least until the edits come back.

Sheila Connolly began her career by writing the work-for-hire Glassblower Mysteries for Berkley under the pseudonym Sarah Atwell. The first in the series was nominated for an Agatha Award. Now she divides her time between the Orchard Series, the Museum Series, and a new series set in Ireland. 

Why do you do it?

Multiple reasons. (1) When I first started writing, I had to justify to myself (and probably to my husband, although he didn't voice it) that I was taking the whole writing thing seriously and working hard at it. (2) I wanted to explore different approaches within the genre, which is how I ended up with one series set in rural Massachusetts, one in center city Philadelphia, and one in another country altogether. (3) I think I must be a workaholic, because I feel guilty every time I do something that isn't writing related, like house repairs or gardening. But then, I find most (not all!) aspects of writing fun, so I'm not exactly suffering. 

I have to say, I did not start out with any plan in mind, because I had no clue how long it would take to write a book, much less how time-consuming all the secondary stuff would be. The multiple series kind of came organically, once I figured out my own pacing.

I should add that after the Sarah Atwell series, all mine are ones that I chose and developed. I'm sure Berkley would be happy to have me write another one of their pre-fab series, but I'm not interested.

How does the work load affect your life -- and do you ever wish you had more free time?

Not really, because it's kind of a seamless life. Genealogy has long been my primary hobby, and at times my professional occupation, and in all of my books I get to indulge that (although not so much for my own family tree). I love to travel, and I've found a way to visit all my favorite places--and make it tax-deductible! I love being my own boss and keeping my own hours, but in fact that may take up more time than any full-time job outside the home did, since I'm at my desk by eight most days, and I work weekends. But I do it because I love it--and when it all comes together, it's better than sex, drugs and rock and roll. Occasionally.

Lorraine Bartlett/Lorna Barrett began with the Jeff Resnick series, 
written as L.L. Bartlett. She now writes the Booktown Mysteries as Lorna Barrett and the Victoria Square Mysteries under her own name.


Why do you do it?

I have tons of ideas for new stories/series, and I am most definitely a workaholic. (On my last vacation in January, I wrote 46,000 words spread over four different projects (and in 3 weeks). Three of those projects are already for sale as e titles.)

How does the work load affect your life -- and do you ever wish you had more free time?

What’s free time?


Leslie Budewitz, a Montana attorney, won an Agatha Award for Books, Crooks, and Counselors, a guide for authors who write about crime and the law. Her first love is fiction, though, and although her first mystery in the       Food Lovers Village series won’t be out until August, she’s already under contract to write the Seattle Spice Shop Mysteries (coming in 2014).

Why do you do it? 

Ever since I was a small girl, my dream has been to write fiction. Now that I have the opportunity, I want to make the most of it. I have always been a very “placed” writer, aware of how strongly setting influences our perspective and experiences. Writing two series allows me to explore that more deeply.

How does your heavy writing schedule affect your life? Do you ever wish you had more free time?

I can write two series only because my day job is winding down and I’d rather write than find another. My conversation does seem to revolve around writing, though! And I’m hoping for a garden fairy to show up soon and plant a few veggies. Truth be told, I’m a better, happier person when I spend a good deal of my time with people who only exist because I made them up. With two series going, I should be really happy –so far, so good!


Cuppa Cozy said...

How lucky for readers that there are writers willing to devote so much of their time to create stories for us to enjoy!

Elizabeth Zelvin said...

Nice post! The answer to "Why?" is very clear and common to all: They were asked, they said yes, and they love doing it. Aspiring authors note: All these ladies have files filled with rejections and unpublished mss--and plenty of persistence.

Kris Bock said...

Very interesting. I always have multiple projects going on, though typically not more than one novel at a time. Rather, I write nonfiction articles and work for hire books for kids as Chris Eboch, do manuscript critiques, and gives workshops – plus work on my Kris Bock romantic suspense novels. As a full-time writer, that's just how I have to run my business. I'd be happy to make enough from the novels that I didn't have to do so many other kinds of work, even if it meant working on multiple series!

Deb said...

Liz, that is so true. I could wallpaper my home with those rejections!

Steven M. Moore said...

Interesting...and my wife says I'm a workaholic! Like Kris, between novels, blog posts, and reviews, I generally have multiple projects going on. For the novels, it's generally editing for one relieved by writing another. My sin, I suppose, is that no one asks me to do it...well, maybe my muses (aka banshees with tasers), but they're in my head!

Clea Simon said...

What Liz said!! It's such an honor to have a publisher want your work and to hear from readers who want more. That's worth giving up free time, any day. Plus, I like to think that the more I write, the better I get. But I leave that to you folks to judge.

Leslie Budewitz said...

Thanks for including me, Sandy!

Another common thread, in addition to those Liz mentioned: we're embodying the truism "do what you love, and it won't seem like work."

But it isn't always easy. The other writers have more experience than I do -- I'm just finishing my 2d Village ms., and there's definitely a learning curve. Although I have those unpublished mss -- and my nonfiction reference for writers -- writing with a contract and a deadline really does change things!

Kaye George said...

This topic is very interesting to me, since I, like some of you, have multiple series going with multiple publishers, and they all seemed to hit at once. I'm encouraged that, if you can do it, so can I!