My mother always used to say that concentrating your words to a succinct few was the hallmark of a good speaker—or writer. I’m guessing she’s sighing heavily wherever she is whenever she takes a peek at my work, because dear peeps, it seems to me abbreviation is a skill I am not good at. I like spinning yarns, weaving various threads into the basic warp of my narrative, and as a consequence, my prose flows richly.
The first time I let my mother read one of my drafts, it came back with a LOT of red. What can I say? She was a language teacher and would drill me endlessly about verb tenses and sentence syntax. “When do we use subjunctive in Spanish?” she might very well say as an opening remark. I, of course, knew that by heart.
That first draft had no Spanish subjunctive in it. It did, however, have a lot of adverbs, and my mother was like a rabid badger when it came to adverbs.
“There is no excuse for all this verbiage,” she’d tell me. “Not when writing in English where, if you make an effort, you can find just the right verb to express the full meaning.” And off she went giving me examples like rush vs run and whatnot.
Thing is, I rather like adverbs – even if I do try to weed them out.
Leaving aside the use of adverbs, my narratives just grow and grow. Every single book I have written has started out as “a book”, only to quickly evolve into “two, perhaps three” books and then, just like that, I have a series on my hands. Take, for example, my latest Castilian series.
“Just one book,” I told my BFF.
“Right,” my BFF replied, not even trying to hide her disbelief.
And now, I’m about to publish the third book in the series, Her Castilian Heart, and have already started on number four.
BFF, dear peeps, smirks.
My first book, A Rip in the Veil, celebrates its ten-year anniversary this month. One book became tow, became three, became four, became…TEN! And I still have readers contacting me and asking for more Alex and Matthew. Much more.
“Hmph!” Alex says, glancing at me from where’s she reclining, safe in her Matthew’s arms. “I much prefer reading about all your new characters. I’m done with adventures, you hear?”
“Were your adventures as exciting as ours?” Noor, protagonist of the Castilian series asks. Her mouth turns down. “Although I am not certain exciting is an adequate word. Harrowing is better.”
Alex sits up. “Oh, honey. You’ve not seen anything yet. Nothing!”
She has a point. Alex and Matthew had survived curveball after curveball. Which is not to say Noor won’t experience a few more before I’m done with her and Robert (MWAHAHAHA!)
So why does this happen? How does one book, grow into a series? I think it’s because of my characters. I become so invested in them, I just have to know what happens next, and as I rather like adding those little subplots mentioned above, there is always a loose thread or two I can yank on to build the next instalment in their story.
Another reason for my expanding stories is my research. Like when I started reading up on Welsh rebellions after Edward I’s brutal conquest in 1283 and realised I just HAD to write about rebel Madog ap Llewellyn. Thing is, Madog rebelled in 1294, which is rather a long jump forward time wise, hence a future fourth book in my Castilian series. (I rub my hands: rebellion, torn loyalties, friends facing off on a bloody battlefield, and in the midst of all that a little orphan who suddenly realises he is not who he thought he was, and where will Robert FitzStephan stand in all this?)
But for now, I will not think too much about my next book. No, I will live in the moment and relish the fact that I have finished Her Castilian Heart. (Want to prorder? Click HERE!)
“I am right glad I survived,” Robert mutters.
Too right. I smile at him. “Don’t worry. I wouldn’t kill of my protagonist before the last book.”
He gives me a black look, gesturing at his scarred and maimed body. “And this?”
“Pshaw! You survived, didn’t you?”
“Don’t expect her to feel sorry for you,” Adam de Guirande, protagonist in The King’s Greatest Enemy, says from his corner. He limps as he moves towards us—badly. Oops. My fault. Adam gives me a smile, his beautiful grey eyes narrowing slightly. “Just pray she never gets round to writing that last book.”
I stroke his cheek, feeling his fair bristles tickle my hand. “I’m thinking of sending you off on a new adventure.”
He perks up. After all, he keeps on telling me he is much too young to be retired, and I want to give him an opportunity to get over his heartache and perhaps mend his relationship with his king. Plus, I love him, just like I love all my characters. Maybe that is why I cannot abbreviate their stories. Maybe I just can’t let them go!