I’ve seen some writers, and critics and readers, complaining about the number of authors writing series of books. Now, I’m certainly guilty of doing just that, as you probably know. But why do I write in series? The simple answer is that some stories encourage me to do so. In fact, there’s a very real possibility that some of my shorter books could have been held back and put together as single works. That said, there’s no guarantee that the prospect of a series wouldn’t have raised its head. In truth, like readers everywhere, we writers get attached to some of our characters, and/or the worlds/universes we create for them! And that phenomenon isn’t predictable.
Of course, some authors set out quite deliberately to write a series. They have it all planned far ahead. They have every reason to do so, too. The emotional, creative and temporal investment in their invention is such that they would, in fact, be underselling themselves and their efforts. They know this, from the very inception of the project. I know that these circumstances exist, both from the biographies of such writers and from the fact that, many years ago, I actually planned such a series. It was, most definitely, far more than simply a series of books! I had to create detailed maps, not just of small areas but of a whole world. I had to invent new languages, and even new scripts. And then there were the numerous species, races and histories. To contemplate going to such extremes of creativity for a single tome would, to put it bluntly, just utterly foolish!
But there are accidental series, too. These can happen in two ways. First, the author recognises a potential behind the original creation – and runs with it. Second, readers can plead for, even demand, more! Of course, the author has to be able to see what it is that has so strongly hooked those readers. If they can’t, then no more can be successfully written. I would, if it was in my character, envy those authors who enjoy such demands and pleas from their readers! For myself, I’m limited to the first accidental event. I can only hope that readers share my interest in a series which is taking an ever larger life of its own.
Let me take a personal example! My novelette, Shade of Evil, was originally intended to be a single work, part of my experiment in genres I wouldn’t normally write in. Even after I had finished writing it, there was no obvious course forward. But then, during the final stages of preparation for publication, the final scenes of the book suddenly threw out grappling hooks! They took a very firm hold. The characters, and the organisation they worked for, piqued my interest. It wasn’t long, therefore, before they appeared in a new story. It was begun, and there was no turning back. Why? Well, apart from those sneaky grappling hooks, there was a question of a ‘tidy’ conclusion. Sure, Harry’s story was definitely done, but I could feel the suspended story of that intrepid bunch, the Guardians, and especially G1! So it continued, and still does.
I like standalone stories as much as anybody. As an author, they’re a lot less troublesome to write! That doesn’t, however, stop the need for some stories to go far beyond a single volume.
I probably haven’t persuaded those who bemoan the plethora of series that there are often good reasons for them, but I thought it worth trying!