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Behind the Scenes Feature: From the Brief to the Book,...

Yesterday we had a guest post from Lucy Gilmore, the editor of the Harlequin Presents line from Mills & Boon about how connected series, like The Notorious Wolfes, gets created. Caitlin Crews shared with us the Bible that the authors are given to create the series. Today each author shares a bit about their story and how they wrote their individual but connected books.

A NIGHT OF SCANDAL by Sarah Morgan

Night of Scandal Sarah MorganThe first glimpse of the ‘bible’ always induces a mixture of awe and panic, particularly in this case when I saw that ‘my’ hero was an A list Hollywood actor. I’d never written an actor before and I immediately thought of the film Notting Hill (loved the portrayal of friendship but the central romance didn’t work for me). A bottle of wine later (only kidding) I had read the whole Wolfe brief and highlighted everything in the family background that was likely to have influenced my hero, Nathaniel. He had a really traumatic past so there was plenty to choose from!

A Night of Scandal was the opening book for this particular series and part of my responsibility was to incorporate mention of all the Wolfe characters in a way that seemed natural. I worked closely with my editor and the other authors, particularly those whose characters featured in my story. For example, at one point in the story my hero uses his half brother Rafael’s apartment in Rio and I decided I wanted a steamy scene in an elevator. So I contacted Jan (Kenny) and said ‘I need an elevator! Would it be possible for your character to live in a penthouse, would that work for you?’ and she was great and sent me some pictures she was working with so that we were sure we were visualizing the same thing. The level of interaction between authors varies for each series, but for this one we worked closely together and that enhanced the experience for me and hopefully for the reader.

Check out more of Sarah Morgan’s books at her website: http://www.sarahmorgan.com/

THE DISGRACED PLAYBOY by Caitlin Crewes

Disgraced Playboy Caitlin CrewsThe best part about writing continuities is that they shove you out of your comfort zone and force you to push your own boundaries—but of course, that can be a bit scary! Since most books happen in a very organic fashion—you think of the plot, perhaps, or the characters, and build your way into the book as you go along (or anyway, that’s what I do)—it can feel very inside-out and strange to write a book this way. You have to think about the end result (if Lucas is a famous cad, the worst kind of playboy while Grace is buttoned up and shut down, and here are all the details about why, how does that look in an opening scene? Who are they?) and try to work your way through all of the emotional connective tissue to really breathe life into these people and try to make them whole and compelling on the page. Which is not always easy and doesn’t always work! From a writer’s perspective, it’s really such a rewarding experience. It seems as if a lot of readers really enjoyed the Wolfe series, too, which makes it that much better!

Check out more of Caitlin Crews’ books at her website: http://www.caitlincrews.com/Caitlin_Crews/Home.html

THE STOLEN BRIDE by Abby Green

Stolen Bride Abby GreenI was thrilled to be asked to be a part of the Notorious Wolfes/Bad Blood series of books. It was my first experience being involved in a continuity series and it was so exciting. I’m a sucker for interlinked stories.

I really enjoyed getting ‘the bible’ and reading all of the stories as a whole and then working out how mine fit in with everyone else’s and how it all built up to a crescendo at the end, when the last story pulls all the threads together. I think that was my favourite part of the process actually. We also had a great bunch of authors to work with who were all very forthcoming in talking about the process which was really important, because along the way all of the stories interconnect with each other so it’s vital to be able to communicate so you can make sure you’re not contradicting each other in different books! Plus that’s a nice excuse for a chat and to see how others are getting on ;)!

I loved being able to write about a Bollywood actress as I’ve long been a fan of all things Indian and I’ve even sat through some Bollywood movies! Aneesa Adani is the quintessential Bollywood princess – just like Aishwarya Rai (although physically I based her on Deepika Padukone), and she is about to get married to one of Bollywood’s biggest male stars. She has it all: fame, looks, talent and…love? Apparently not, because she runs out of her wedding ceremony, straight into Sebastian Wolfe’s arms.

When Sebastian encounters Aneesa because she is fleeing her wedding, sparks fly and the electricity crackles. He relishes the fact that she doesn’t seem to know who he is, so she doesn’t know about his infamous family legacy full of dark scandals and secrets. After a passionate and very illicit night together they go their separate ways, but Aneesa discovers that she is harbouring a surprising secret and she has to go back to confront Sebastian.

It’s a real east meets west story and I tried to incorporate all of those gorgeous Indian traditions like the elaborate weddings and huge intricate intimate families. Aneesa’s family definitely falls into that category.
The fact that Aneesa was Indian and came from that rich background made my story easier in many ways because she was so opposite to Sebastian and his family. He was much more closed off and private. He literally couldn’t handle her ease with emotions and even the fact that she was very physically tactile.

It meant that when I got them together on the page, they really came alive and almost wrote the story themselves. Ah, but if only all our stories were all so well laid out for us!

I found it really interesting to have to work within a given plot structure with this story. There was something very liberating about being given ready made characters who had a story to tell and being allowed to put your own spin on it. It was fascinating to see how all the other authors approached and told their stories…

All in all it was a very positive and rewarding experience and I’m already looking forward to being asked back to do another continuity. Fingers crossed!

Check out more of Abby Green’s books at her website: http://www.abby-green.com/

THE FEARLESS MAVERICK by Robyn Grady

Fearless Maverick Robyn GradyThis was my first continuity and I was blown away by the extent of research/planning that went into the bible. The information not only conveyed a true sense of each character, including Wolfe Manor, but also how events within the series should unravel – how they should connect and when.

My hero, Alex Wolfe, is a motor racing number one who survives a spectacular crash in the opening scene. Perhaps my biggest challenge, with regard to bible requirements, was manipulating timeframes/dates so that they corresponded with:

a) the international motor racing calendar

b) time allowed for the healing of my hero’s injury [without him missing too many races, which would have pushed his primary goal of retaining his “crown” beyond reach], and

c) other important Wolfe dates, like weddings!

Drawing connected timelines on a board helped to keep it all straight.

Check out more of Robyn Grady’s books at her website: http://www.robyngrady.com/

THE MAN WITH THE MONEY by Lynn Raye Harris

The Man with the Money Lynn Raye HarrisThis was my first continuity, and my first peek at a series bible. I have to admit I was blown away by the level of detail – and also a bit intimidated. I’m a seat of the pants writer, so being given my characters, their backgrounds, and their story was somewhat frightening. Thankfully, the authors created an email loop and worked closely together on the intersecting details.

I only had two things that had to happen in my book to keep it in line with the overarching plot, so that part wasn’t as difficult to get right. Mostly, however, my characters were on their own. For that, I stuck pretty close to the bible, even though some of it seemed contrary to the way I wanted to write the story. I think it’s good practice as an author to be taken out of your comfort zone, so I truly enjoyed every moment of it.

Check out more of Lynn Raye Harris’ books at her website: http://www.lynnrayeharris.com/

THE TROPHY WIFE by Janette Kenny

Trophy Wife Janette KennyThe Wolfe bible was huge and just gorgeous. I was stunned by the detailed backstory about the Wolfe patriarch and his siblings, and excited as I read the brief on each character’s story. For my characters (Rafael and Leila), I was given a sketch of their story’s proposed outline with mentions of setting in Cannes and Rio, which resulted in new research for me. My greatest challenge was taking that skeleton of an idea and fleshing it out, breathing life into my estranged married couple so they could overcome their personal demons and find the love they’d once had, all the while staying true to the continuing concept of the overall series and in particular the interaction Rafael had with two of his brothers.

Check out more of Janette Kenny’s books at her website:  http://www.jankenny.com/

THE GIRL THAT LOVE FORGOT by Jennie Lucas

Girl that Love Forgot Jennie LucasThis was my second experience working on a continuity, but it was different than anything I’ve done before. The full continuity bible was so detailed with backstory, plot and character, it was itself as long as a Presents! Reading through it, I totally cried. The Wolfes just had such an emotional story. In the months following, I loved working with seven other authors, emailing each other on our specially-created loop and sharing ideas.

The biggest challenge for me was creating a full story from ideas that were originally not my own, and writing about a hero and heroine very different from my usual type. I tend to gravitate towards arrogant billionaires who are tamed by kind-hearted, plump secretaries/housekeepers. But in The Girl That Love Forgot, my hero is a Spanish ranch owner – he’s successful, but not a billionaire, and seductive, instead of coldly ruthless. My heroine, Annabelle Wolfe (the only Wolfe sister), is thin, beautiful, successful and wealthy, and worst of all, instead of being sweet and tender-hearted, she’s cold as an ice queen. How on earth could I make her sympathetic? But when I went deeper into her soul, to really feel her broken heart that only Stefano could heal, by the end I loved them both.

Check out more of Jennie Lucas’ books at her website: http://www.jennielucas.com/

THE LONE WOLFE by Kate Hewitt

The Lone Wolfe Kate HewittWhen I read the ‘bible’ for the Notorious Wolfes continuity, my first thought was whoever writes Jacob had got quite a tough job on her hands. Then I looked to see who I was writing and yes, it was Jacob.

Jacob is the oldest Wolfe brother, and if you’ve read any books in the series, you know he hit his abusive father when he was eighteen years old and accidentally killed him. He also had a pretty horrific childhood with a parade of stepmothers who were suicidal or drug-addicted. He took off soon after he hit his father and the series starts nineteen years later when he finally returns.

I think the biggest challenge of writing any book in a continuity is making the characters your own. In this case, I was given a lot of Jacob’s history and I had to decide what, out of the muddle of terrible things that had happened to him, were his defining experiences, and of course how they defined him. I was told he felt guilty, but I had to figure out for myself what the nature of that guilt was, and why he was holding onto it for so long. Then, as I wasn’t given much on the heroine Mollie, I had to figure out what kind of woman would be the one to help him finally heal and forgive. And then of course I had to write it.

The ‘bible’ didn’t give me any plot points beyond Mollie restoring the gardens of Wolfe Manor, and ending with a wedding with all the other siblings and significant others in attendance, which was very freeing and helped me to make the story my own. I’ve been involved in four continuities but this is the only one where I’ve written the last book, and it was fun to bring all the siblings back together at the end.

Writing a continuity book can be a challenge, but it’s one I really enjoy. The collaboration with both editors and writers is really stimulating and different from the often lonely process of writing a book on your own.

Check out more of Kate Hewitt’s books at her website: http://www.kate-hewitt.com/

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Jane Litte is the founder of Dear Author, a lawyer, and a lover of pencil skirts. She spends her downtime reading romances and writing about them. Her TBR pile is much larger than the one shown in the picture and not as pretty. You can reach Jane by email at jane @ dearauthor dot com

15 Comments

  1. Artemis
    Feb 21, 2012 @ 06:09:52

    Digging in the TBR – must get started on this series! thank you for the wonderful insight on The Notorious Wolfes. I have got to get reading.

  2. Avery Flynn
    Feb 21, 2012 @ 07:57:40

    Fascinating. I’m still scarred from college group projects so I’m in awe of how well y’all worked together to make this happen.

  3. jayhjay
    Feb 21, 2012 @ 08:32:33

    Wow, really interesting to read each author’s individual experiences. It would seem like the hardest thing would be keeping track of what everyone else’s characters are doing at a given time. Weddings or other major events, where they are traveling, etc so you don’t get them all in the wrong place at the wrong time.

    I really enjoyed reading these two posts!

  4. Loosheesh
    Feb 21, 2012 @ 08:55:46

    Truly fascinating stuff that makes me want to go read the series all over again with these new insights in mind. My thanks to Jane for putting this together, and to the authors for sharing a little about the process behind the individual stories. I see more continuity series in my future ;-)

  5. dick
    Feb 21, 2012 @ 10:01:42

    I’ve read–completely–only one series such as is described in these two posts, and the posts explain, to some degree, why I found the series uneven. To write to order and to keep others’ writing in mind while doing so–creativity on command, so to speak–seems a difficulty I wouldn’t want to accept. Do some authors refuse to do this kind of writing, I wonder?

  6. Lynn Raye Harris
    Feb 21, 2012 @ 10:07:47

    Oh dear, in reading over everyone’s responses, I feel like I was perhaps too brief. I took the message to keep in mind that it would all be one post on the blog a bit too literally, perhaps. So, a little longer explanation here in comments for those who are interested.

    Jack Wolfe is a true loner and a financial whiz. Cards, stocks, etc, he excels at it. He can also read people really well, which is why he escaped his father’s wrath a lot as a kid. Not that William Wolfe cared about him any more than he did the others — he either didn’t notice him or, when he did, Jack was savvy enough to get out of the way most of the time.

    I could connect to Jack because I love a damaged loner. I understood that he cared about his family but wasn’t close to them. He’d sacrificed a lot for them when he’d been thrust into the role of caretaker at too young an age, but now they’d all drifted apart.

    Cara was a bit harder. She’s American, and Southern, and both those things fit my usual heroine to a T. I’m both of those as well, so connection shouldn’t have been a problem. But it was. Cara is somewhat of a martyr heroine and, with the exception of Paige Barnes in Prince Voronov’s Virgin/Behind the Palace Walls, I don’t usually do martyrs.

    Cara had a big family and a father who abandoned them, and she felt responsible for sending home money to her mother to help out with the ongoing expenses from Hurricane Katrina. That didn’t quite work for me — until I re-imagined her family as a brother with special needs and a sister who was also working to help keep them above water.

    Cara’s brother is severely autistic and needs constant supervision. I felt that he gave Cara far more motivation to need money — and also to accept Jack’s proposition that she accompany him to Nathaniel’s wedding (for which he would pay her). Once that was in place, I felt like I understood her.

    The two things related to the bigger story that had to happen in my book both involved Jacob, who Jack is extremely angry with, though nothing would be solved between the brothers by the end. That was hard for me, I have to admit, as I like neat bows at the end of the book. But it was Kate’s job to solve all the relationships, and she did a brilliant job at it.

    Unlike Kate, my story did have a few plot points. Perhaps it was because I was new at this and the editors wanted to give me direction. I appreciated that, believe me! Working on this story was challenging and intimidating, but it was also great fun to share the journey with the other authors. I’ve now worked on a second continuity, and was much more at home with the process this time.

  7. Debbie Haupt
    Feb 21, 2012 @ 10:21:00

    Ooh thanks for the nitty gritty look by all the wonderful authors, it’s such a treat for me.
    deb

  8. Sarah Morgan
    Feb 21, 2012 @ 10:31:23

    @dick: some authors do prefer not to participate in continuities. But although the outline is there, the book still belongs to the author and it is up to the author to develop the characters. There is still a huge amount of freedom. I can see how from the outside it might seem like ‘creativity on command’ but in many ways no more so than coming up with an original idea and writing a book to meet a deadline which authors do on a daily basis. A continuity will always reflect the different author voices so in that way it might feel ‘uneven’.

  9. Janine
    Feb 21, 2012 @ 11:43:38

    :: Claps hands::

    This was wonderful! Thanks to all the authors who shared their challenges and triumphs with this continuity.

  10. Sunita
    Feb 21, 2012 @ 13:02:55

    I have so enjoyed both of these posts. Thanks so much to all the authors and editor for sharing how you do what you do.

    As anyone who reads my reviews knows, I’m a big fan of continuity series. I’ve always been struck by how in the best examples, the author clearly makes the character and setting her own but still manages to keep them faithful to the shared world.

  11. Sirius
    Feb 24, 2012 @ 10:26:50

    @Sunita: Sunita so you would recommend these series to me? Last time I have read Harlequin continuity series was years ago, but these just sound so cool :). Thank you.

  12. Sunita
    Feb 24, 2012 @ 13:47:36

    @Sirius: I have read about half of the Wolfes books and enjoyed them all. I also wrote a post a while back on a Medicals continuity series called Penhally Bay, which I put on my Best of 2011 list. That one is about a community rather than a family.

  13. Sirius
    Feb 24, 2012 @ 14:00:59

    @Sunita: Thanks Sunita, I guess I will try the first book then.

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