Author Robyn Carr discusses why we love the continuing storylines in romance series in this exclusive Kindle post. Her latest release, "Four Friends," is now available.
As a little girl I lived for our favorite Saturday night shows, Gunsmoke, Bonanza and The Big Valley. The men were the kind of heroes I admired most, they were fearless, handsome and powerful but gentle with women and children. And the women in their lives weren’t simpering wimps by any means. It takes a strong woman to live in a man’s world. On The Big Valley Barbara Stanwyck played a strong feminist rancher and mother of three adult sons; on Gunsmoke Miss Kitty managed a saloon.
But it wasn’t because those shows were Westerns that I loved them. I loved the continuing saga with at least one sexy hunk at the helm. Later I was addicted to Picket Fences, a contemporary small-town drama. The continuing saga has always propelled me from show to show and book to book. They can be slim volumes like Jan Karon’s Mitford series or larger tomes like Outlander by Diana Gabaldon or Tales of the City by Armistead Maupin. An ongoing series is perfect for the writer—and reader!—who just doesn’t want the story to end.
All my series, most recently Thunder Point, were inspired by that continuing storyline, romantic dramas that featured the same characters in the same small town in story after story. The latest for Thunder Point, The Chance.
There’s something else I discovered about my own work long before I realized I discovered it—I prefer to work with ensemble casts. Even in my earliest books, there’s always been at least one strong subplot. By the ’90s I expanded from creating a couple of featured characters to a group! I was giving in to temptation and writing stories with several heroes and heroines. Everyone I meet has a story, a backstory, hopes and dreams, and I usually meet them on the page. And then I connect them—either with a location or perhaps a shared goal. While I love writing small-town romances because of the opportunity to create ensemble casts, there is another genre where that works perfectly—women’s fiction! It’s perfect for delving into the lives of several women at once, all of whom have their own issues but who share one central issue, as well. I did it first in The House on Olive Street, a very popular girlfriend book about four writers, and I’ve done it several times since. The newest and probably my favorite so far is Four Friends, newly released. In a perfect world, every year I’d write a couple of small-town stories in an ongoing series like Virgin River or Thunder Point and one big women’s fiction novel that has some real contemporary teeth, exploring current women’s issues that touch all of us.
I often find myself looking back at certain books to try to figure out what went so well. I’m merely writing exactly what I want to read because it brings me such great pleasure. But my readers tell me what they like. The characters are nice. That doesn’t sound too remarkable, does it? But when I finish a book there are very few characters I don’t respect, only the rare unredeemable villain that I wouldn’t have lunch with. Most of the characters become my friends and my readers want them for friends, too. And they span a wide demographic—love doesn’t just belong to the thirtysomethings—the teens to the grandparents have significant stories and important romantic relationships. And finally, readers tell me that the characters have real-life problems and come to healthy and intelligent solutions. That’s what we all want in life and what we want when we meet ourselves and our good friends in books.
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