Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Planting Seeds, Growing a Series

by Kathleen Ernst

I’m grateful to Deb Baker for allowing me to be a guest here on Cozy Chicks. And I’m grateful to readers! I love my work, and I’d be nowhere without you. Leave a comment here, and your name will go into a daily drawing for one free book. The winner can choose any of my sixteen titles. Old World Murder, one of my American Girl mysteries, a Civil War novel—the choice will be yours!

What’s even more fun than holding a copy of your own book in your hands? Holding a copy of the first book in a new series. After fifteen stand-alone titles (most in the juvenile/young adult realm), I’m launching an adult mystery series this month: Old World Murder, A Chloe Ellefson Mystery (Midnight Ink).

My protagonist, Chloe Ellefson, is the new curator at a huge historic site called Old World Wisconsin. She’s struggling to leave behind some heartaches, and wants nothing more than to get off to a good start at the historic site. On her first day, however, an elderly donor begs (unsuccessfully) for the return of an artifact she’d donated to Old World years earlier. Moments after that meeting, the woman dies in a car crash. Chloe soon discovers that the artifact is missing—and that someone else who wants it is willing to kill.

I knew from the get-go that I wanted Old World Murder to begin a series. Structure-wise, I thought it would be fun to have Chloe visit other historic sites as the series progresses.

But as a reader, I know that what keeps me coming back to favorite series is the personal arc that propels complex and appealing characters from book to book. So I made some choices that will, I hope, give me lots to work with in the future.

First, I decided to have two point-of-view protagonists. The second is Roelke McKenna, a part-time patrol cop in the small village of Eagle. Roelke is struggling with some personal issues of his own, including the fact that his family and friends think he made an enormous mistake to leave the high-intensity Milwaukee police department in favor of a small town. He’s got a good heart, but when pushed too far, can cross professional boundaries.

Planning a series gave me the fun opportunity of creating complex backstories for both Chloe and Roelke. Chloe has some unfinished business with a colleague in Switzerland. Roelke keeps a photograph of a woman who disappeared years earlier. Chloe’s parents, who live nearby, are affectionate but detached. Roelke’s father was an alcoholic, and his brother is in prison. I’ve dropped some references to these situations into Old World Murder, but I’ll be exploring those relationships in later books.

I also had fun creating a couple of recurring secondary characters with their own complicated backstories—all providing more opportunities for future storylines. Book 2, tentatively titled Deadly as Diamonds, is well underway.

I earn my living as a novelist, and I know how lucky I am. I am also enormously grateful to the readers and publishers who make that possible. I hope you enjoy reading Old World Murder as much as I enjoyed writing it.

What keeps you coming back to your favorite series?


Kathleen Ernst is celebrating the publication of her first adult mystery, Old World Murder (Midnight Ink). She has also written eight mysteries for young readers. Several have been finalists for Edgar or Agatha awards. For more information see her website, http://www.kathleenernst.com, or her blog, http://sitesandstories.wordpress.com.

43 comments:

Rayna M. Iyer said...

That book definitely sounds a must read. I am putting it on my list of books to buy in November (maxed out for this month, unfortunately).

deer757 said...

This book sounds wonderful!

I keep coming back to my favorites because of the characters! They start being like family and I'm always learning more about them as I read the books.

Thanks for the opportunity to win!

Denise

mj said...

As a Library Director, I am acquainted with the author and am excited to see her expanding her fan base with adult books. I love mystery series because I grow to love the characters and can't wait to see what they are up to in each and every book.

~ Babs ~ said...

Glad to have on on the bog as this does sound like a good read. I keep coming back to the series I like because of the great characters I have come to love and want to see what will happen next.

Bookwoman said...

As others have said it's the characters that keep me coming back to my favorites series (ok, there are a few series that include recipes and I buy them like I buy cookbooks), but for the most part it's the characters. They become like friends and family. Picking up their next book is liking settling in for a long session on Facebook. You care about them and you want to know what's going on with them. Good writing also will bring me back - a good writer can make me interested in a character I don't particularly like. I'm looking forward to your new book. I like history and this series sounds wonderful.

Mamacessories said...

This sounds great! It is the kind of series I would want to keep reading! I love series that have a good plot and great character stories. Ones where you are just as interested in hearing about their lives as you are reading about them sloving the mystery. Sounds like this series will fit the bill for me!

Karen B said...

Another book has been added to my wish list - and it sounds like a great read!

kpbarnett1941[at]aol[dot]com

Sarah said...

Congrats on the new series, Kathleen! Sounds like a good one :-)

Lover of Books said...

This sounds fantastic! I love new series cause of the characters I get to meet as well as the places they go. After awhile it feels like giong home and being with family, I agree 100%. Congrats to you for writing adult books and hopefully the second one writes as easily as the first one sounds like it did.

ladymluv @ yahoo.com

Krista

Merry Lu said...

YAY YOU! I'm looking forward to reading this.

chris V said...

Sounds like a fun book. I've been to Old World several times and love it. Be interesting to read about places I've been.

As what keeeps me coming back to a series is the style and the character. I love humor and a fun character.

Heather Webber said...

Old World Murder sounds great, Kathleen. Love the idea of Old World Wisconsin. What a great setting.

Kathleen Ernst said...

For some reason I'm having trouble leaving comments here today, so forgive me if something shows up twice! Anyway -- thanks so much for the encouragement and good wishes, everyone!

It sounds like we all agree that compelling characters keep us coming back for more. And for some, recipes, style, and humor.

Recipes aren't included in Old World Murder, but I am sharing a couple very soon! On 10/15 I'll post Chloe's Maple Blueberry Cake on vintagecookbooks.blogspot.com. And on 10/17, I'm guesting at www.mysteryloverskitchen.com about "Ethnic Eating." Stop by!

booklover said...

Congrats on the book! First I must ask how do we pronounce "Roelke"?? The reason I come back to series is definitely character development...I enjoy the natural progression a character should take but often doesn't...I will stop reading a series if I don't see growth in the characters...I've put your book on my list, it sounds like a fun read!
Nanc

Kathleen Ernst said...

Roelke is pronounced Rell-kee. Speaking of backstory, Roelke is his mother's birth name (maiden name). He's German-American on his mom's side.

Mandy said...

Another one to add to my growing list! I share the same thoughts as the other posters, I enjoy coming back to the characters and their stories..hate it though when the series come to an end!

Stephanie said...

I am excited to read your new book! I read almost exclusively series because I enjoy strong characters that I can connect to and that I can keep coming back to over and over again. I can't wait to get to know Chloe and Roelke!

Stephanie Jarkins said...

I look forward to reading your book. As almost everyone else said, characters will bring me in; but, interesting mystery plots with variations make me stay.

Anonymous said...

Since I grew up in Wisconsin, I really enjoy books situated there. This sounds like a great series to follow.
Kathy Franklin

Anonymous said...

Ooooh, goody. A new series. Sounds interesting and fun. I have added it to my Amazon wish list.

Kathleen Ernst said...

Stephanie said "Characters will bring me in, but interesting mystery plots with variations make me stay." I think that's a good point. Even a series with great characters won't last long without a fresh plot premise each time out. The authors I admire most seem able to do it all... characters, plot, voice.

And I especially love it when an author weaves a plot in book 6 or 8 that had seeds planted way back in book 1! That takes vision!

Bettyann said...

Must find a copy of this book...sounds interesting...the characters are what I keep coming back to...I like some humour, lots of imperfection in the character and some kind of lessons learned..thanks for the giveaway..

Kathleen Ernst said...

Chloe has a self-deprecating sense of humor that she sometimes uses to diffuse a tense moment. (Roelke, though, needs to lighten up a little!)

And those imperfections are important, aren't they? I can't relate to a better-than-human character, no matter how much I might admire her!

vtcjan at yahoo dot com said...

Wow, your book and ideas for the series sound interesting!

My tie to this group is Maggie Sefton. I love her cozies for the knitting and fiber ties, but also for the sparks of romance.

I like my books paperback because they are more easily carried when commuting, and take up less space, so I'm not up to date with Kelly Flynn right now, but I'm hoping to get caught up soon!

Trollbaby said...

A new series, yay! And a new (to me) author, double yay! I would love to win this book but I'm afraid I can't stand the wait. I'm going to Amazon and download it to my Kindle right away. Now I know what I'll be doing with my evening... :o)

Deb Baker said...

Thanks for visiting, Kathleen, and introducing us to your world!

Professor Stacy said...

It is all about the characters for me. I want characters that I cannot wait to see what they will be up to next! Thanks for sharing information about your new series. It sounds fascinating.

Rita B said...

This sounds like a must read for a
wisconsinite like me. And I love series. they allow you to become invloved with the charecters. Best wishes for success!! I WILL be buying this book a.s.a.p.

Anonymous said...

Well another series for me to add to my TBR list. I will have to wait a bit to buy as I too have spent my limit for this month ( and then some).

Glad that Deb had you come for a visit.

holdenj said...

What a nice guest post, I'm glad the chicks had you over! I've added the book to my TBR list.

Vicki said...

Welcome Kathleen! I found your website and was reading about your American Girl books. I am a 4th grade teacher and have long loved those books, especially the Molly series. Looking forward to your newest book!

Kathleen Ernst said...

Thanks for all the encouragement, everyone. What a nice crew.

By the way, I've got lots more stops on my blog tour this month, with a giveaway every day. Some of the sites are not so well known, so the odds won't be too bad! You can find the schedule on my own blog, http://sitesandstories.wordpress.com. I also link to my author page on Facebook.

Kathleen Ernst said...

Vicki - I've spent a lot of time with fourth graders! I love that age, when their reading horizons are expanding but they're not yet too cool to show how excited they are about writing and reading.

Dru said...

The characters and the setting will keep me coming back to a series. When I finish a book, I'm so sad because I know I have to wait at least 6 months to a year before I can a visit again.

Vickie said...

I concur, the mystery and story can be great, but it's the well-drawn and intriguing characters that bring me back to a series. The potential to learn something new about people who almost become friends just sucks me in and has me looking for the next in the series.
Your new series looks super, locale, characters, mystery, a big ol' winning package.

Renaissance Women said...

You asked what brings me back to a favorite series....the main characters. I love to be an observer on their lives and watch them grow and just deal with life, in additions to whatever catalytic event that is occurring during the book.

Anonymous said...

I am looking forward to the setting, OWW,becoming a character in its own right...thanks, Kathleen, for choosing it as your first site -- Kori

Kathleen Ernst said...

Kori - it's in our blood, I think. A very special place, and we were lucky to be there in the early years!

Michele L. said...

Hi Kathleen!

I love your books! What a wonderful surprise that you are branching out into adult mystery. This book is definitely a must read for me! Can't wait to get to know your new characters!

Series books are always fun to read. I have several keepers on my shelf from favorite authors.

Congrats on your new book Kathleen!

Kathleen Ernst said...

Thanks again to everyone for the warm welcome, and to the Cozy Chicks for hosting. I had a great day!

And... the winner of the book drawing is Merry Lu! Please contact me via email so we can work out the details.

Miki Willa said...

I am looking forward to reading this book. I like the premise already.

Merry Lu said...

YAY! Thank you, Kathleen!

Aurian said...

It sounds like a great new series, I definately will check it out. Have fun writing more books. Aurian