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Notorious Wolfes

Behind the Scenes Feature:  From the Brief to the Book, A Writer’s Perspective on Continuity Series

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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Behind the Scenes of a Connected Series at Harlequin: The Making of the Notorious Wolfes

Behind the Scenes of a Connected Series at Harlequin: The Making...

I emailed Sarah Morgan and asked if she would take us into the world of connected series books. Mills & Boon published a terrific, eight book connected series called the Notorious Wolfes (US) or Bad Blood (UK). Heroically, she came through with insight from the Harlequin Presents editor and all of the eight authors. It’s a fascinating look behind the scenes.  Part one posts today and is about the backstory. Part two posts tomorrow and is about the individual stories.

The Notorious Wolfes

 

Behind the Scenes of The Notorious Wolfes

Lucy Gilmour, Editor Harlequin Presents

I think it’s a truth, unanimously acknowledged here in Harlequin’s London office that we LOVE brainstorming continuities – and if you were twisting my arm I’d have to say that The Notorious Wolfes series has been my absolute favourite so far.

Commissioning continuities for a series allows authors the scope to deliver a bigger read whilst sticking to their series word count – not only does the reader get a hero, a heroine and a happy ending, but also, in this case, the opportunity to get to know the whole family – the good, the bad…and even the ugly.

So how did we put the idea together? I’m glad you asked…

First of all, we decide on the setting – has Harlequin Presents recently been flooded with Sheikhs / Greeks / Italians? What would add strong variety to the line-up, but also deliver the glamour and intensity readers expect? And we also like to try something just a little bit different – in the case of the Wolfe family we made them British, and conceived a dangerously dark and rather more murky past than usual.

Next step – research! We’d never be able to come up with half the sensational exploits without the scandals of celebs through the ages. So we trawled through magazines and websites looking for suitably scandalous inspiration. Up to date with the essential pop culture, we armed ourselves with a LOT of coffee, sufficient amounts of biscuits (sugar really helps!) and off we went…

The Notorious Wolfes was brainstormed by eight editors, locked in a meeting room for around an hour a day. It was massively intense, but so very rewarding. There’s definitely a real creative buzz in the office when there’s a continuity brainstorm on the go.

Creating the Wolfe family came first. We had SO much fun coming up with the sordid and brutal past of patriarch William Wolfe and definitely get carried away (hence the 81 pages of the final continuity ‘bible’ – 15 pages of which were devoted solely to William, who is dead before the continuity even opens!!) Get that many creative and romance–loving brains in a room together though, it’s a wonder that we pulled together a document that made any sense at all!

Then it’s on to the individual stories… We know in advance which authors will be writing which book, and we kept that in mind when creating their characters. We try really hard to stick to just set up the hero and heroine, their conflicts and pasts…it’s no secret that we can get really carried away. However, what’s so important to us is that the authors feel able to connect with their characters so we try very hard not to be too prescriptive.

As mentioned, we draw a LOT of inspiration from real-life notorious families and Hollywood A-listers – so as we’re brainstorming, most of the characters are known by their ‘celebrity’ namesake. It’s only right at the end that they get give a proper name! For example, can you guess which one the tortured and tormented Wolfes, was 100% Christian Bale… in fact, he’s still referred to by editors aplenty as Christian!

By the end of the process (usually about 2 months of daily meetings) the bible is ready to be sent out. Not only did we felt like we knew the Wolfe family better than our own but were all not-so-secretly in love with at least one of the heroes –  I have to admit to being torn between two…which is no hardship!

The books are edited by the author’s individual editors, and are then given a ‘continuity edit’ by one editor – hopefully to eliminate any major timing gaffs etc. However, from the moment the first Notorious Wolfe manuscript was in house they were being frantically e-mailed around the editorial team – we just couldn’t wait to see these stories come alive.

The next Harlequin Presents continuity, The Santina Crown is coming in April 2012 – we hope you enjoy….it’s over to you to guess the celebrity inspiration behind each of the characters! Coincidentally, we’ve literally just started to brainstorm the continuity for 2013 – so if there’s anything you’d like to see, now’s the time to let us know…

The Wolfes

THE BIBLE

Written by Caitlin Crews.

The “story bible” is the foundation of any continuity series.  The purpose of the bible is to lay out the world as well as the background details and shared history of all the characters in the series, so that the individual authors will be able to use it to tell separate yet connected stories set in the same universe.  The bible also lays out the basic plotlines of each of the proposed books, and notes certain details each story must contain in order to advance the larger continuity plot.  But this isn’t the same as being handed a detailed plot synopsis or outline, by any means.  The bible creates a foundation and suggests some architecture for the series and the separate books, but it’s up to each author to build a rich story of her own.

The Wolfe bible was 81 pages long.  It reads like its own book!  It starts with a newspaper article describing Nathaniel Wolfe’s precipitous departure from a London stage (which opens the first book in the series, Sarah Morgan’s A Night of Scandal) to give us a taste of the story but also show us what kind of people the Wolfes are.  Then it tells the long, scandalous, and often heartbreaking tale of William Wolfe and the women who bore his eight children.  It’s very detailed.  The bible also gives us the real story of Jacob Wolfe, whose reappearance is such a major event in his siblings’ lives.  Then the bible breaks down each of the eight different books.  In the Wolfe series, they gave a lot of backstory for each character, and then sketched out the basic plot they wanted us to write.  If the author finds that some of the details don’t work on the page as she writes, though, the editors are usually quite open to hearing suggested changes—they do very much want the authors to make the books their own.  At the end of each plot sketch, there are some bullet points of continuity items—for example, characters who need to talk to each other, or certain relationships that have to be shown building in, say, book two so the author of book five can really hammer them home.  The bible contains a selection of pictures (of Wolfe Manor, for example, so everyone was describing the same place) and a detailed time line of everything that happens in all eight books, as well as a historical timeline of all the history mentioned throughout.  There’s a family tree and, finally, a detailed character chart noting all the characters’ looks, heights, ages, significant others, and so on.  It’s quite extensive!

In addition to the bible, the authors usually set up an email loop where they can all discuss the continuity together.  They also tend to email back and forth when using each other’s characters in their books, to make sure the characterizations stays consistent throughout.

The editors suggest that all the authors read through the bible and refer to it, but then let it sit in the back of their minds as they write their own stories set in this world they’ve built. I hope readers feel we all pulled this off!

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