Monday, July 10, 2023

KEEPING A SERIES FRESH: Guest Post by Cathy Ace

This month, the 8th book in my WISE Enquiries Agency Mystery series will be published, and I already have a dozen deadly Cait Morgan Mysteries published too (the thirteenth will come out later this year), so I dare say that “keeping a series fresh” is something I grapple with on an almost daily basis.
Of course, my hope is that readers find that I do – in fact – manage to keep both series fresh (!) so I’m going to proceed on that basis (LOL). 
For the Cait Morgan Mysteries, the challenge is eased by the fact that each book has a totally different setting: Cait travels the world tripping over corpses (please suspend your disbelief for that aspect, dear readers…but be happy that you don’t have a boarding pass to the same destination!) so I’m able to use the location to frame the tale each time, and do my best to craft a story that’s quite specific to the place. I also get to introduce a whole new cast of characters in each book – with Cait Morgan (professor of criminal psychology) and her now-husband Bud Anderson (retired homicide detective, with a past that involves high levels of security clearance) always being there, of course. There are also a few other recurring characters (Cait’s sister is in the next book, and we haven’t seen her since Cait and Bud got married in book #5), but – in the main – each group is specific to each book, which allows for high stakes as far as they are concerned. This is really helpful, because readers expect Cait and Bud to emerge, if not unscathed, at least able to continue with their adventures when they’ve solved each closed-circle puzzling mystery. 

However, my WISE Enquiries Agency Mysteries feature a quartet of soft-boiled female PIs who run their business out of a converted barn on the Estate of a Welsh stately home. Thus, in these books, the cast of characters from Chellingworth Hall and the village of Anwen-by-Wye, as well as our detectives themselves, are all featured each time (not forgetting Gertie and Rosie the Labrador pups, Bunty the calico cat, and McFli, the Jack Russell who is the dowager duchess Althea’s constant companion). These are quintessentially British mysteries, but told with a Welsh accent, because that’s where they’re all set. Wales is a beautiful country with a long and storied history, and I showcase different parts of it in each book, beyond the stunning Wye Valley, where Chellingworth Hall sits. However, to be honest, the challenge of bringing enough small and large crimes to the attention of a group of four female private eyes who live in bucolic surroundings keeps me on my toes.
To keep things bowling along, I like to weave several cases into the plot of each book: some might be “small” cases (like The Case of the Purloined Pickles, in The Case of the Disgraced Duke, for example) or they might be utterly devastating to certain people (like The Case of the Suspicious Sister, in the forthcoming The Case of The Uninvited Undertaker). I do my best to allow all my main characters to be fully involved in each book; while I hope that readers can suspend their disbelief about four women being able to make a living being private eyes in a Welsh village, I want to show how all of my detectives can apply their specific, and group, talents to non-paying cases by helping out folks they know, as well as successfully tackling cases which line their coffers…which often take them beyond the confines of the village to other parts of Wales, and the rest of the UK. 
Thus, each of my series presents a different challenge when “keeping things fresh”. To be honest, I believe that the main reason that readers keep coming back for more (and you do, thank you so much!) is because I enjoy writing both series, which appears to translate to readers enjoying them too. And, trust me, I know how very fortunate I am to have readers who follow my characters through thick and thin; you’re always on my mind as I write.

For those who want to find out more about my work, you can do so at my website:
Or you can stalk me online at my Facebook page:
my Twitter feed: @AceCathy or on Instagram:


Cathy Ace said...

Thanks ever so much for inviting me to write about this, Janet

Lawrence Rothstein said...

Thanks for the ideas on keeping a series fresh. They are very helpful.

I too am a new mystery writer. My first novel Venetian Bind will be published by The Wild Rose Press. I hope to create a series with the same detectives. I am editing my second novel Ripped Genes and have started a third The Tell-Tale Art. Check out my Facebook page Rothstein's Mysteries for more info and some interesting legal scenarios.
Lawrence Rothstein

Kim Hays said...

Thanks for these tips, Cathy. I'm only just starting my Polizei Bern series (first "Pesticide and now "Sons and Brothers," with a third book on the way in 2024), but it's still very useful to think about how to get readers interested in following the series. My protagonists are two police detectives in the Swiss capital city of Bern, which means they can't move around too much; still, I've already given them cases based in two different regions of the canton of Bern. Your points about alternating new characters in each book with recurring ones and introducing "mini" cases along with the main ones are helpful. Happy writing!