Monday, January 05, 2009

What Happens Next?

So I'm working on a short story featuring the hero and heroine from a full-length Nocturne I'll have out this fall.  It's a 'what happens next' kind of story.  I left them, as the romance genre dictates, in love and committed to one another, and very likely soon to walk down the aisle.  I loved the characters so much I had to explore what happened after that final page.  I was curious.

Are you as a reader ever curious about what happens next to the characters in the books you read?  

I notice that series have become very popular in the romance genre.  They are usually trilogies that don't necessarily feature the same hero and heroine in each one, but characters from the same family or friend circle.  But usually, if you follow the series, you may get an update or glimpse into the life of former hero/heroine combinations.  I love that.

Because what does happen next?  We've left them happily ever after.  But will it be?  How can it be?  Some of these couples get together within a matter of days.  Do we really believe they didn't just have a fling then ditch each other a few months later for someone newer and more interesting?  I want to know!  

So tell me, do you ever find yourself thinking about a favorite romance couple long after you've read that final page?  Do you wonder what they're up to?  If they've even a chance to survive after all they went through in 400 pages?  Or maybe you're giving them children and grandchildren and moving them to a big old house on the coast.  Do you ever wish the heroine would have hooked up with a secondary character and left the hero with the best friend?  Do you buy series because you like reading about continuing characters?

The fourth book in my Bewitch The Dark series is in bookstores now!  Go pick it up.  You don't have to buy it; just pick it up and put it on the top shelf, cover out.  ;-)  Okay, you can buy it if you want.  

I do like to write books in a series, but I also like to be sure that each story stands alone, so you don't have to read #1 to understand what's going on in #3.  The connection in this series is the world of witches vs. vampires.  And in this story in particular, the son of the hero and heroine from book #2 gets his day in the spotlight.  Well, maybe not the spotlight, exactly, he does work for the devil Himself.  Hmm...

ps - I'm interviewed over at The Vampire Wire today. Stop by for a chance to win a complete set of my Bewitch The Dark series.


Keri Ford said...

Michele, I do like reading series. I like getting that glimpse into past couples.

I'm usually not worried that they have broken up. I think people can indeed fall in love over a matter of days. Especially when they spend so much time together like they do in our books!

I think of it this way. You date a guy twice a week, see him 2-3 hours at a time. In a romance book, the h/h are together sometimes nonstop for 5-6 days! That's bumping on 144 hours! It'd take a month of twice a week dating to reach that time together (I think). And most adults can tell pretty quick whether they mesh or not. I mean heck, I was 17 when the hubs and I met, 3 months later we both knew we'd be getting married. And we did! (not then, much later, after I graduated school and we both had steady jobs!)

Playground Monitor said...

I enjoy reading a series where multiple characters get their HEA. But I'll admit I don't think about them once I've finished the book and moved on to another book. I'm a big fan of the epilogue and I put one in my book. I knew my hero and heroine would get married and procreate, and I wanted the world to know it too. ::grin::


Cindy Gerard said...

Love this topic, Michele. My friend Lavryle :o) had Abbey and Jesse DuFrane from Hummingbird show up The Gamble a few books later and it was like seeing old friends. I was SOOO excited to get an update on them. I think that's why I love writing series. As a reader I enjoy catching up with old friends and as a writer I enjoy it too.
Mega congrats on the new release! the cover rocks!!

Betina Krahn said...

Michele, I love updates of characters in succeeding books! But some books and their characters are just more compelling than others. Some I've yearned to learn more about and see how things worked out. . . others, I'm not especially curious about.

Two examples, one from the dark ages. Back when historical romance was new, Jude Deveraux wrote a fabuluos "Velvet"-titled series of four books about the Montgomery men. . . brothers in late medieval, early rennaisance times. Great books-- at least the first two. My sister also read them and we discussed them and couldn't wait to see if the next brother's story would really come out. Have to say that books 3 and 4 were something of a disappointment, but it was still
good to get a peek at the happy lives of the first two pairs.

Another series that hooked me was JR Ward's Black Dagger Brotherhood. Couldn't wait to see what happened to the next "brother" while enjoying the continuing story of the previous hero and heroine.

I have to say, there is a difference in linking "stand alone" books, versus spreading the H&H's story over three or four books. It's pretty tricky getting satisfying closure on a hero and heroine's story while delaying a committment and HEA for three whole books! (Or ten. . . like the Stephanie Plum books) Not many writers can pull that off.

Kylie said...

Michele, I like glimpses of past characters, too. I've often wished category lent itself to a series with one recurring character who meets the hero in book one and it takes two or three books--and more adventures--for them to find their HEA. But we work within the parameters we're given, LOL!

amy*skf said...

Yes, I love catching up with characters--love series. I find it interresting you wanted to write a short story about your characters who had already had their HEA--I love it.

Michele Hauf said...

Keri, I like your dating math. And I will admit, I met the hubby on a blind date. That night after our first date I went home (was staying at parents at the time) and told my mom that was the man I'd marry.

Anonymous said...

Betina - I am in COMPLETE agreement with both your assessment of the "Velvet" series and the Plum series.

But to answer the question, yes I love series. I will follow along and read book after book.

There is a caveat to my statement...If the books come out a year or more apart, I sometimes lose interest or forget. Or if I know there are a certain number of books in the series (like 5), I'll wait until they are all out (like 5 years!) and then read them. I LOVE Karen Moring. Her latest series has too long between books and I can't remember what happened in book 1 to read book 2 and I don't have the time to keep rereading the early books as the new books come out. Awful of me I know, but that's the truth.

I know everyone isn't Nora or have Nora's clout, but when she has a three book series that comes out in three consecutive months, I think it sells better.

One of my favs is Maureen Child's Nocturne series, The Guardians. I have been waiting for book 3 for over a year (and believe me, poor Maureen has had to put up with me moaning and begging for a early copy!) I am hoping Nocturne goes to 4 a month.

So, Yes, Michelle, I would like a short story that tells me about what is happening to a couple from a book.

Phew. Long post! But I seem to have some opinions on this subject!

I didn't post yesterday, but Deb's Duel on the Delta is a great contest. I was a finalist in 2007, didn't enter 2008 but giving serious consideration to 2009.

Debra Dixon said...

Michele-- I used to wonder about epilogues being so popular in romance until I realized they served the very purpose you are talking about today. Readers want to know that the romance "took!"

Part of the appeal of series is the "coming home" factor. We feel like we're being welcomed back into a world we loved.

Debra Dixon said...

Cyndi-- Yes, absolutely! Enter DUEL ON THE DELTA this year. :)

Kathleen Eagle said...

This is always an interesting topic, Michele. I don't think I've ever started a book with the intention of writing a spin-off or a series. It comes about when I learn something about a secondary character that really interests me and the character wants developing. Sometimes the character doesn't appear in the first book, but he plays a role that's intriguing enough to explore. I have to say that reader have asked for spin-offs that I haven't written. I'll give it some thought and decide that it doesn't go anywhere.

I'm trying to think of a series that has hooked me through a long string of books. Hmm. Nancy Drew.

More often than not, I lose interest halfway through the second or third book. I'm not talking about the brief nod to the main characters in a first book--yes we're still together and we're producing offspring. I don't go looking for that, but it's fine. (It's expected in category, and if you don't do it, the editor will give you a nudge.) Now, if the first book characters have a real role to play, that's great. It makes sense that they might figure in somehow. But it has to serve the story in the second book. That's the challenge for the writer, because if it comes across as gratuitous to the reader, it's not so good.

Debra Dixon said...

My editor's revision always included, "And can you fix that ending?" Which was code for "Please do more than ::smooch:: they lived happily ever after."

Not every time. (g) But I had to learn to respect the readers need to let go of their characters and story gradually rather than booting them out of the book.

Michele Hauf said...

Arkansas Cyndi brings up a good point. Series that take to long to come out, perhaps a year between books, drive me insane! I love some so much, I will wait that long, but by then I've forgotten completely what I've read in the previous book. Then, I really appreciate it if teh author catches me up a bit.

The series coming out one month after another is a pretty new thing, but it seems to be catching on as well. This Bewitch The Dark series took three years for the four books to all come out. That's a very long time. WIth my next series, the three books are coming out every other month. I think that'll be key to keeping reader's interest. And if they did like book #1 and look forward to the next, then then won't have forgotten about it a year later.

Is it too much to ask to expect the authors to write faster? I know it is. BUt I do believe the authors would put out their series books closer together if they were able and if the publisher could schedule them that way.

lois greiman said...

It's almost as if you share a little secret with the author when she writes about former heros/heroins in later books. Like...oh yeah, I KNOW them.

As for facing books out on the shelves, Michele, genius!! Wish I had thought of that. :)

flchen1 said...

I'm a big fan of the linked stand-alones--I am always curious to revisit characters I've met and see what happened after the HEA :) I do dislike when there's so much set-up or so many characters that it becomes difficult to follow, but in general, I love the connections and the feeling of community in the related stories. I'm less fond of the no-real-HEA series, where you follow one couple on their way (presumably) to an HEA, eventually. I'm way too impatient for that! ;)

Kathleen Eagle said...

Here's another observation, and this comes from my reader self. I jokingly mentioned Nancy Drew, but now that I think about it, I haven't followed a continuing character through more than a couple/few books since Nancy. Not that I didn't want to. I read a book fairly recently that I was wild about. Recommended it to everyone I met. First book, beautifully written, great character, the beginning of a series with the same engaging protagonists. I couldn't wait for the next book. Unfortunately, I couldn't get through the next book. Much of what I loved about the first book was missing from the second book--mainly the tension. One of the characters took a back seat. The relationship ceased to sizzle. Lost me.

I'm sure the book appealed to many other readers. The writer is very skilled. So it has something to do with my taste and what brings me into a book and holds me to the end. I know that primarily I want a great stand-alone story. I'm not a soap fan. Generally not even a television series fan, although I will get hooked when the characters are well-rounded, flawed, unpredictable. Loved "The Sopranos" and "Carnivale" and "Rome." Took me a while to get into "Deadwood," but I tried it again the second season, and I was in. Just discovered "Mad Men" and went back for the first season dvd. So I do like continuing stories. But, man, those character have to be strong enough to keep me coming back.

Kathleen Eagle said...

Hmm. Building community is one of my favorite themes. I wonder if I would be able to do that through several books without making it soapy. But what kind of community? Hmmm.

Helen Brenna said...

This is interesting, Michele. Before I became a writer, I really did NOT want to see old characters appear in new books. I think because if I loved the book, it would make me miss too much when their story wasn't resolved.

I remember the specific example Cindy pointed out about LaVyrle's Hummingbird characters showing up in the Gamble and while that was exciting for a second, it was then disappointing because I wanted to know MORE!!!

Does that make any sense?

Now that I'm a writer, I'm always wondering what happens to my characters. Usually not the hero and heroine, though. It's usually the secondary characters I want to know.

Kathy, this Superromance trilogy I'm currently writing is set on a fictitious Apostle Island on Lake Superior. It's my first chance at building a community in my stories and I LOVE it. It's so much fun!!

Michele Hauf said...

I agree with Kathy that I'm not so much into following a series with the same characters book after book. It does lose that initial spark and tension. The community series is better. You might have really liked a secondary character in one book, then surprise! that character gets his own story. That's cool.

I admit, I fell in love with my villainous devil character Himself, so had to bring him back for The Devil To Pay and tell a little about one of his former romances. And he's even popping up in my next series out starting summer of '09. Why not? He's such a charmer. ;-)

Kathleen Eagle said...

Helen, I did an imaginary Caribbean island years ago, and it was fun. I had a revolution. But I didn't start out with that idea at all. The story started in North Dakota with no plan at all for warmer climes until the hero went to negotiate for hostages. It was fun. The 3 books were eventually reprinted in one volume.

Playground Monitor said...

I attended Deb's workshop at RWA in 2004 and she used her book HOT AS SIN to illustrate the book. She also said she'd had so many readers write to ask about the H/h, so she wrote a little epilogue and would send it to them. Correct me, Deb, if I'm remembering this incorrectly. Anyway, I tracked down a copy of that book, read it and agreed that I would have loved an epilogue to show the H/h's romance "took." Deb's experience is the reason my book as a brief epilogue.

I agree that dragging the HEA out over many books makes me lose interest. And for the record, Plum book #15 will be out this June and I haven't even read #14 yet. I read the first seven over a two-week period so I could be ready when #8 came out. Lately, I've dragged my feet about reading them. Just get her hitched to Morelli and I'll be a happy cupcake. ;-)


Christie Ridgway said...

I'm always surprised when readers write and ask me "What happened next?" about chars who got their definite HEA. But it's usually from readers who tell me they are new to romance. As a reader myself, though, I enjoy getting glimpses in another book of previous characters. Don't =need= them, but enjoy them.

I just added an epilogue to a book at the copy edits stage because I wanted to give readers a wrap-up about everyone in the trilogy. =I= needed it! I wrote it from a kid's POV and it was fun.

Liza said...

I like to know what happens after the HEA, but don't have to know if the book isn't in a series. I do love to read series, especially when characters I loved from other books come back.

FIONA said...

I love series books. I love getting to know a cast of characters and their world. I think SF/F fantasy lends itself to this very well. Lois McMaster Bujold's "VorKosigan" books are a wonderful universe, with great romances.

Karen Rose's first two books in her new trilogy are out, the second, SCREAM FOR ME, is out in paperback today, and the third, KILL FOR ME, comes out next month. I have a little contest for the first two books in the series over at

There is a different romance in each book, but they are tied together by the mystery.

Debra Dixon said...


You got it right. HOT AT SIN was a book so many readers wanted to know more and they wanted a dead character to come back to life and have his own book! LOL!