A is Forever
by Jan Grape
When first began writing your first novel did you plan on a series or a stand alone? I absolutely hoped I could do a series with my Private Investigators, Jenny Gordon and C. J. Gunn. This was in 1980 and Marcia Muller and Sue Grafton had both published female private eye books and I wanted to be part of that cadre. I totally hoped for a 3 book contract. I completed my first in the series in 1981. It was titled April Anger. If Grafton could do the alphabet, and John D. MacDonald the colors then perhaps I could do the months.
And in keeping with the genre, Robert Parker had a white PI and tough black friend who always helped with the case. I definitely wanted to explore the relationship between the white woman, Jenny Gordon and the black woman, C.J. Gunn, my wonderful black girlfriend, the late Choicie Greene named the character in the book, C.J. Gunn. The initials stood for Cinnamon Jemima Gunn. I wanted to show this relationship could be as close as sisters which Choicie and I were.
I completed the novel, sent out query letters to editors I had met at mystery conferences. I got some good feed-back and then an editor wanted to publish it. The editor was ready to present to the editorial board and then the editor left that house and went to another house, taking my property along to the new house. But that house wasn't interested.
The next editor was very interested but just as they were presenting found out that another editor had just purchased a female private eye book and they couldn't purchase a second one. Of course, other houses purchased and published more than one MALE PI novel I thought, but sent the mss out once again.
The final time, once again an editor wanted to publish then the company went out of business. In the meantime, I had started the second in the series, May Madness and I began writing short stories that featured these two female private eye characters.
It was a couple years later that an editor wanted to see the first novel as she really liked the characters in the short stories. But once again it was rejected, The editor said she really liked the characters. However, she thought they had grown-up and past the mss in the short stories and didn't think this mss worked anymore. So I put that mss away in the closet.
I don't think many authors think of doing a series book, they just like the first really well and if it gets published they hope the editor wants a second or a third.
After Austin City Blue, came out the publisher did want the second. Dark Blue Death came out. In the meantime, I wrote, What Doesn't Kill You a non-series stand alone. I still have not finished the third in the Zoe Barrow series. There were personal upheavals and publishing upheavals and one thing led to another.
I still think I should do the third and I've had ideas a couple of stand-alones. But have only done short stories and co-edited anthologies.
I would like to hear from my fellow writers about series or no series.
25 November 2013
31 July 2013
My wife and I vacation in Port Townsend, Washington most years, as I have written before (and before). She spends most of the week taking music lessons and I spend mine communing with the muse, or trying to.
But sometimes the best part of a week off is spending time with old friends. That is certainly true of this trip. Not only did I see various music buddies, but I also ran into two writing friends: Elizabeth Ann Scarborough and Clyde Curley.
However, those aren't the friends I want to write about today.
I first met Leopold Longshanks almost thirty years ago in a coffeeshop in Montclair, New Jersey. I didn't really meet him there; I just got an inkling that he existed. It took many years for him to solidify into enough of a character to write a story about.
I spent two days on vacation writing a story about Shanks and his wife and had a great time visiting with them. After a dozen tales, they are like old pals and it is great to catch up with them, see what trouble they are getting into.
Then there are Thomas Gray and Delgardo. They have only appeared in one novella and it is by no means certain that I can turn them into series characters, but I got 2000 words into a new piece, and had a lot of fun with them. Since they have had only one outing I am still trying to figure out what is essential to their stories and what is, so to speak, accidental.
These are pleasures you only get by writing about a character more than once. I was thinking about this recently as I read Janice Law's third story about Madame Selina in AHMM. As I recall Janice said she had never talked about reusing a character until I suggested this dishonest but oh so clever spiritualist needed a return voyage.
So, hwo do you guys feel about revisiting your old friends/enemies?