Surprise: You’re Writing a Series!

Idyll Threats Final3I never thought I’d write a series. After my first book came out I had a few people ask, “Will you write a sequel?” My look of horror might’ve been puzzling. My “God, no!” was less ambiguous. Don’t get me wrong. I liked Natalie, the protagonist of My Summer of Southern Discomfort. But I didn’t want to spend another moment with her. We were done. The same was true of any short stories I’d written. Never wanted to revisit the characters, the setting, or the plot. Nope. Done and on to the next thing. There were so much rich story ore to mine! Why spend it in the same damn cave, pickaxing the same patch of rock?

And then I created a character I wanted to revisit after featuring him in Idyll Threats, my latest novel. It’s funny, because as a character he’s taciturn, blunt, and short on speeches. Not the sort of guy who’d seek attention. Maybe that’s why I liked him so much. He’s macho, somewhat conservative, and gay. Oh, and a cop. If, years ago, you’d told me this was the character I would want to write a series around I’d have laughed until I choked. “I’m going to write what?”

But Police Chief Thomas Lynch speaks to me. Not literally. This is another thing that distinguishes him from prior narrators of mine—who would just barge into my almost sleeping brain, begging for their story to be told. No. He just sits, in his absurd 1970s decorated home or at his desk at the police station, clockwatching. Waiting.

I like his complications. I like his clever, mean thoughts. How he’s smart but not academics smart. How he sizes up people and situations. How he never uses four words when two will do. I can always tell I’m losing his voice when I see I’ve written him ten or more words of dialogue. I like how he prizes fraternity even when it threatens him. I like how straightforward he is about sex. I like his attitude toward being told how to be gay (utter contempt).

If ever I would write a series, I knew it would be a mystery series. I’ve read them since I was old enough to muddle through my grandparents’ Agatha Christies. (Though the Briticisms would confuse me for years—why were they using torches instead of flashlights?) I followed in book after book the adventures of Kinsey Millhone, Peter Wimsey, Roderick Alleyn, Stephanie Plum, Adam Dalgliesh, and Vicky Bliss. In each, I liked the character at the heart of the story. The crime that was being solved was secondary.

Thomas Lynch has won several fans already. My agent adores him. My editor offered to buy the book because of Thomas’s character. Beta readers asked what happens next to him. I started thinking, “What does happen next?” And I wanted to know.

So Thomas and me are in it, at least for another book. And I suspect perhaps one more. Because despite his gruff manner, he’s a man worth following. And he needs me to hold the torch (flashlight) to illuminate the path ahead.



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