A few months ago I was chatting with someone on the verge of launching a new series and I said I imagined that must be quite stressful, not knowing how fans would respond. Today I was looking at a member page where the author mentions she's starting a new series as well.

I certainly know what it is to fall in love with a series and look forward to more. I also know what it is to be a writer, pushing yourself. Personally, I never want to feel like I'm producing the same work over and over again, I always want to put new challenges in front of myself.

My question goes on two levels: Authors/Writers, what are some of the hardest risks you've taken in your writing and how do you feel that affected your growth as a writer? Were you glad you did it?

Readers, can you think of authors who've successfully transitioned from one series to another and been able to carry you over? It is about the author, or it about the characters? Anyone you think is long overdue to try something new, they've gotten formulaic and stale?

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In the case of Lawrence Block, I love pretty much everything he's written, from Bernie Rhodenbarr to Matt Scudder to the Hitman books. Same for Dana Stabenow and her two series. But I never could get into the 87th precinct books, though I liked Ed McBain's fairy tale titles set on Florida's west coast. But I grew up reading Agatha Christie's many series, so I guess that predisposed me to like anything a particular author wrote.
Every new project is the hardest risk. Otherwise it wouldn't exist.
When I think about what I've seen said on lists/forums, I can't be sure I agree. I look at how people criticize Patricia Cornwell, and others they think just produce formulaic books. I didn't want to go the road of bashing (and I don't read PC or several of the others routinely pummeled) but I have a lot of admiration for authors who deliberately put new challenges in front of themselves.

I see Val McDermid doing this, with a range of series and standalone books. I also have a lot of respect for the fact that Simon Kernick has never done 'just one thing' from the beginning of his career. I'll follow Ken Bruen's work in any direction. I know it may be easier to build up the fan base with a popular character but the writer in me respects the risks.

And I do think there's a bigger risk in moving on from a popular series and starting fresh. You may have to rebuild your entire fan base. I imagine it must be nerve-wracking. It's not the same for me and yet I feel it, with only one book out. There are miles between SC and WBW, it might not work for everyone. But I would hate to think I'm writing the same book over and over again - I would get bored.
Not sure I'm following--but I was just speaking for myself. Every new project has been a risk, both financial and creative. Moving from an established series and starting fresh just sounds like par for the course to me. Without the risk, what's the point?

Well, to answer that question myself, the point is money, obviously. Which is a perfectly valid point.

But for me... It's fiction. It's not mass-produced 11/16" hex-head screws in convenient blister packs. Two different things, two different approaches.
What I mean is that if an author goes back to the same old popular series just because they know it will sell, even if their heart isn't in it, it really isn't a creative 'risk'. I perhaps should have made that clearer in my initial thoughts, but there are risks... and there are risks. If someone has three or four books out in a popular series certainly they can be tempted to do a few more (and maybe they should) but I think it takes a lot of courage for an author of a popular series to put it on hold and start something fresh.

I mean, I'm a die-hard Rebus fan, but I'm looking forward to seeing Rankin do something non-Rebus. Not that I'm accusing him of going to the well one too many times, not at all, but there is a risk with a long-running series of that happening. Some authors never move on to something new because they aren't willing to take the gamble.

And as for 'mass producing'... there are certainly some authors who've been accused of it. I'm not offering personal opinions on them because I don't read them, but I do see what the readers say on lists and forums.
I don't want to state names, but there are several authors I have dropped, either because they have cemented themselves into a mold or because they have become so prolific it seems as if the same book is reworked with changes only to names, locales and Maguffins. These are huge authors, who have become too afraid of stepping outside their formula and losing their grip on the fame and fortune.My $25 or $30 bucks for their first editions are then freed up so I can invest in authors that stimulate my interest. But authors like Grafton, Lehane, Lippman or O'Connell, that move their characters and challenge them to grow, that watch them struggle and develope, they keep getting my dollar. As for authors that develope new series and bring me along, you'd have to include greats like Bruen, McDermid, Connelly and many others. On the strength of their talent and courage, I follow them anywhere they take me... into a new series, into stand-alones. They've earned it!
I am aware of a few authors who tried to do something new because, by their own admission, their writing had become stale and they wanted a new challenge. But their fans were so diehard that they rejected the other series and so many other readers had given up on their works as formulaic rehashes of their early work, that they are forced to return to the tried and true.
I think there's a lot of truth in this. Fans don't like to see authors "wasting" time on pursuits other than the one that they've come to love. Misery, anyone?

Personally, I can think of one author I would definitely like to see spend a little more time writing books outside of his successful series. He's written a few, and they are, in my opinion, very good. I'd like to see him spend a little more time on them because as good as it is, the series is getting a little stale and perhaps some time away would do some good.

Another author I'm a fan of, John Lescroart, does something that I find very interesting. Most of his books focus on Dismas Hardy and the cases he handles. Since Dismas is an attorney in a large firm, there is quite a supporting "cast" of characters in each book. On occasion, a different character will take center stage, as in the latest novel. To me, it's all part of the same series, although some would probably consider some of the books standalones since they don't focus on Dismas, even though he's present in nearly all of the books. It's an interesting way of keeping the stories fresh and different.

I have found myself giving up on a series because it just gets too disappointing to read-I don't like the direction the author has taken the characters, the plots have become too predictable, too similar, too "ripped from the headlines"-and it's always a tough decision. Dropping an author is like losing a friend-you keep hoping something will change to save the friendship, but there's nothing you can do.
EvilKev, that is so true. And so sad. I

find that one of my chief joys in reading an author's work is discovering the surprises that come next. If I find myself stuck in a rut, I lose interest. I can't imagine what a writer, or an actor must feel when they feel forced in suppressing their desire to stretch because they are not allowed to. Typecasting in any form of entertainment must feel like death to an artist. And the Catch22 of it all, is that they may be preserving a fan base to a certain extent, but are losing other fans along the way.

On the bright side, it does allow readers like myself the freedom to search out emerging talent and new writers to follow.
I think writing primarily for the money is always a mistake, and the biggest mistake I made myself was giving up my day job, because then I had to write for the money as well as for love. On the other hand, I'd reached a point where writing nights and on the weekends was wearing me out, not to mention having totally depleted anything like a social life, so when I finally got a contract big enough to live on for a year, I quit the day job without really thinking I might be putting myself into a position where I might not be able to get another one. I always forget the age factor, and where day jobs are concerned there sure as heck is one.

As a reader, I read the author not the series. Though there are some authors where I have preferences among their work. Val McDermid is one -- I much prefer her standalones or the Tony Hill series. Ian Rankin, I'm the opposite. I'm a Rebus fan and couldn't get into the non-Rebus book or two that I picked up. John Sandford, a favorite of mine, I'll read anything he writes. As I wish the heck Elizabeth George would break out into something really new.
Dianne, have you read The Flood by Rankin? I love that book.

I had been really looking forward to the non-Rebus serial in the NY Times, only the NT Times doesn't seem to think it's important for us to know when it's going to be running - not even my friend in NY can find out and she just asked me yesterday. Grrr. I'd hoped to get print copies but that's likely out so I guess I'm waiting until next year when Orion prints it as a book.
Some of these have already been mentioned, but the authors that I can think of right now are: Val McDermid, Ken Bruen, John Harvey, Peter Temple, Gary Disher, and Denise Mina. There are also authors who have branched out with a series of standalones rather than a new series, like Ruth Rendell and Laura Lippman. Sometimes the main reason you follow a series is because you like the character; at other times you like the way the author writes so much that you would read their shopping lists if that's all that was available. :)


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