By Bethany Maines
In this day of Marvel Universes and streaming limited– run shows, no, it’s not a surprise that it’s a sequel. It seems like everyone is embracing the sequel world-building ethos. But how is it that Marvel is thriving while DC can’t seem to figure out how to connect… anything? Or, for that matter, how does a novelist keep their world churning along? Well, if you’re this novelist, the answer is… (drumroll) spreadsheets. That’s right, this world and the fictional world all run on Excel. And a lot of imagination. I have written four series and assisted in building one shared universe, so I’ve figured out a few systems to make a series cohesive.
For the universe I share with two other authors, we have to agree on everything from technology to swear words, spelling, and historical facts. There’s an ever-expanding word doc and a spreadsheet that tracks names, unique vocabulary, and the books in which the words appear. But if you’ve ever met an author, you’ll know that updating “whenever we like” turns out to be the seventh of Nevermber. So there has been some scrambling to ensure we don’t let the others down, but in general, we have benefitted from sharing brain space to create a vibrant, textured universe. (Check out the Galactic Dreams books if you enjoy science-fiction, fairy tale retellings, and want to see our results.)
For each of my series novels which include The Carrie Mae Mysteries, the San Juan Island Mysteries, the Shark Santoyo Crime Series, and The Deveraux Legacy Series, I’ve come to recognize a few keys to success. Rule #1 – Know where you’re going. It really helps to know how you want the series to end when you start writing, and can write through the stories with that in mind.
Now, do I always follow this rule? Absolutely not. The San Juan Islands Mysteries feature Tish Yearly and her grandfather, Tobias, solving mysteries. Each novel is a singular adventure, and while character arcs continue from book to book, there is no overarching story. Tish and Tobias find a dead body, help their island friends, and solve the mystery (usually while arguing). The End. But in general, that is what the readers want from an almost cozy mystery full of quirky Pacific Northwest island residents.
But with the Shark and Deveraux Legacy series, it’s the characters that readers love, and they want MORE of those characters. For Shark and the Deverauxes, the books leading up to the final story have an adventure per book but also share an overarching plot line that links the entire series. But by the time we get to the last book, the readers know the players and the bad guys, so the challenge becomes wrapping up the series in a satisfying conclusion. This is a bit easier with the Deveraux Legacy (final book releases October 18!), which features the four cousins of the Deveraux Family, and now that I’m out of cousins, it gets a little hard to come up with a new story. But the real problem with writing a series where I know the end is that I know that sooner or later, I have to say goodbye to my fictional friends. And I haven’t figured out any good tips for saying goodbye just yet.
About The Fallen Man (Deveraux Legacy #4):
When orphan and convicted felon Jackson Zane (now Deveraux) realized that he was part of the wealthy Deveraux family, he thought he’d found his proverbial happily ever after. But he quickly realized that each of his three new cousins had problems. For the last seven years, Jackson has dedicated himself to fixing and protecting his new family, all while ruling out love for himself. Katie St. Cloud, the in debt up to her eyeballs bartender-slash-model, has been on the run from love too. But when she meets Jackson, Katie thinks she’s met the perfect definitely-not-a-boyfriend of her dreams. It’s only when the Deveraux family’s enemies come crashing into her life that Jackson and Katie have to face the truth—they may be in love, and that may not be enough. And as the family faces one last threat, Jackson finds that saving the Deverauxes might just mean giving up on love for good. But the Deveraux cousins aren’t going down without a fight, and Evan, Aiden, and Dominique set out to fix their mistakes, save Jackson, and cement the Deveraux Legacy once and for all.
Meet the Author:
Bethany Maines is the award-winning author of the Carrie Mae Mysteries, San Juan Islands Mysteries, Shark Santoyo Crime Series, and numerous short stories. When she’s not traveling to exotic lands, or kicking some serious butt with her black belt in karate, she can be found chasing her daughter or glued to the computer working on her next novel. You can also catch up with her on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and BookBub.