Thursday, 12 December 2013

Evolving a series…

Today we have a fabulous guest post from Nancy Jardine on the problems and joys of writing a series. Over to you, Nancy ...
Not everyone ‘sees’ a whole series at the outset of writing the first book. I don’t know about the people reading this post but my progress towards series writing was a very slow and almost accidental one.

When I eventually had my signed and sealed contract for The Beltane Choice in my hands all I could think about was “At last! My labour of love is going to be published.” It had taken a number of years to get to that point- two rejected submissions to romance-only publishers and many redrafts along the way. I had no real intentions of writing a series of Celtic Roman Britain novels at that time: my task was done in that I had my story set in the era I loved to teach about. I was ‘happy dancing’.

Only much later did I entertain the concept of doing a follow-on novel. While going through the long processes of getting The Beltane Choice published, I wrote two contemporary sensual romances. The first of these, my debut novel Monogamy Twist, hit the e book and print shelves in August 2011. A reader/ reviewer of it asked when the sequel was coming out and I had no answer. I couldn’t even imagine how I would do a sequel to that one, but the idea of extending another book of mine tucked itself into the back of my brain. As I was going through the last edits for The Beltane Choice, I could see how it would be possible to move on into another Celtic adventure.

One problem with romance novels, though, is that there is the expectation of man meets woman/ they have issues to deal with/ they live happily ever after. That is the nub of a romantic novel, the HEA. The Beltane Choice is what I would call a combo romantic historical adventure. Having strong romantic elements, it already had its lovely happy ending, so doing another story about the same two main characters- Lorcan and Nara - was not going to be a great idea. However, one of the themes of The Beltane Choice is that Nara has a son, Bethan, who is predicted to become a great Celtic leader. The obvious choice for story number two is Bethan. I imagine my readers might think this too, but I confess that I’ve never actually asked any of them, yet.

I launched into planning Bethan’s story. Five thousand words in it wasn’t going to work for me. Bethan was born in AD 72. He would be a mature man by somewhere around AD 90. That, in itself, wasn’t too much of a problem but there was such a lot had happened in Britannia between AD 71 and AD 90. If I accelerated Bethan’s growth process, I would be skimming out too many fantastic historically based opportunities. What would you do, I wonder? Continue with Bethan’s story as number 2 and then dot back and forward on the timeline to fit other stories in?

I’m a bit too ‘anal’ to miss out on adding some of the exciting Roman Empire’s campaign advances of that time, and too focused on getting dates correct. I’m sure some of you might give the advice that you don’t need to mention dates and that it’s not necessary to pen in actual realistic durations in novels. I’m afraid that I can’t manage to do that since I like to include factual detail when I can – albeit a fictionalised interpretation of those facts. To me dates in history are fixed and always will be!

Something had to happen to another character in between those years till Bethan matured. I was now writing three novels. Yay! I thought- I’ve got a trilogy.

I delved around to see who might be a good candidate for the middle novel. Brennus, the brother of Lorcan of Garrigill in The Beltane Choice, in some ways gets a raw deal- a shame since he’s such a likeable, trustworthy, highly principled Celtic warrior. I liked the idea of giving this lovely lad his own tale.

There was just one little problem. I had sort of killed him off on the battlefields of Whorl where my northern Brigantes fight the forces of the Roman Empire. Yet I knew I could use that ‘sort of’ to my advantage. Set in AD 71, news was spread purely by word of mouth. Perhaps Brennus did not die? What if…?

Can you see what was happening?

The second book in my Celtic Fervour series was started in September of 2012, a few weeks after the launch of The Beltane Choice. I spent the next couple of months mainly researching the Roman occupation of Brigantia and into what is now Scotland, since I was going to make the advance of Rome move ever northwards with Brennus. By February 2013, I was finding it difficult to complete Brennus’ story. It had mushroomed beyond the reasonable 80 – 90 K word count. By April, I was well into writing a sequel to my sequel yet it was still the one novel at 140 K words.

Major dilemma.

What would you have done?

A new character, Ineda, was having her own story told alongside Brennus’ tale. Since this is another romantic historical adventure -  although there is less of the romance and more of the historical in it – I took stock and did a bit of slash and burn. Well, maybe more of the cut with a sharp knife and trim the edges. There was very little that I wanted to remove from my story so it became two novels – each intended to be a stand-alone novel.

Therefore, what I now have in my Celtic Fervour series is 1) The Beltane Choice. This is followed by two closely linked books which have a closely linked title; 2) After Whorl: Bran Reborn (being published 16th December 2013) and 3) After Whorl: Donning Double Cloaks (being published sometime in Spring 2014).

Having already completed After Whorl: Donning Double Cloaks I now have the ideas for another novel which will take on a minor character from book 3 thus eventually making my series a total of five novels – one of those Bethan’s story when he really is a man!  I now need to do a bit more writing - *winks and smiles*.

I wonder if there are other authors reading this post who have had similar dilemmas to those that I faced.  I’d love to know how you have resolved your situation.

My thanks, Lorraine, for inviting me to share my dilemma with you today!

After Whorl: Bran Reborn is available for pre-order in paperback from Amazon UK (

Facebook Launch Party **Giveaways**
For a chance to enter the draw for a ‘triquetra’ necklace and other prizes join Nancy’s Facebook Launch party  and look for details of how to win the prizes on offer.

Blog launch Tour **Special Prize**
A special Blog Tour ‘friend’ will WIN a mystery gift for the most commented visits to blogs during the launch tour for After Whorl: Bran Reborn. (i.e. most comments between 9th Dec and 18th Dec wins the prize)  To be sure you don’t miss any blog posts check Nancy’s Blog regularly between the 9th Dec and the 17th Dec.

Nancy Jardine lives in the fantastic ‘castle country’ of Aberdeenshire, Scotland, with her husband. She spends her week making creative excuses for her neglected large garden; doesn’t manage as much writing as she always plans to do since she’s on Facebook too often, but she does have a thoroughly great time playing with her toddler granddaughter when she’s just supposed to be ‘just’ childminding her twice a week.

A lover of all things historical it sneaks into most of her writing along with many of the fantastic world locations she has been fortunate to visit. Her published work to date has been two non fiction history related projects; two contemporary ancestral mysteries; one light-hearted contemporary romance mystery and a historical novel. She has been published by The Wild Rose Press and Crooked Cat Publishing.
You’ll find Nancy at the following places: Amazon UK author page    Amazon US author page   Blog    Website   Facebook  Goodreads   About Me   LinkedIn   Twitter @nansjar  Google+  

Ravaged by war

…AD 71. After the battle at Whorl, Brennus of Garrigill is irrevocably changed. 

Returning to Marske, Ineda finds her grandmother dead, though Brennus is not. Snared by a Roman patrol, they are marched to Witton where he is forced to labour for the Roman IX Legion. 

Embracing his new identity as Bran, Brennus vows to avert Roman occupation of northernmost Brigantia. Ineda becomes his doughty spying accomplice, though sometimes she’s too impetuous. Trading with the Romans lends excellent opportunities for information gathering. Over time, Bran’s feelings for Ineda mar with his loyalty to Ineda’s father. 

When she disappears, and cannot be found, Bran enters direct service with Venutius, King of the Brigantes.

Critique Service for Writers

Flash 500 Home Page: Flash Fiction, Humour Verse
and Novel Opening Chapter and Synopsis Competitions


  1. Good morning! I'm delighted to return to the Writer's ABC Checklist. Any questions you have I'll be delighted to answer. :-}

  2. Wow! Such a busy schedule of works in progress,Nancy.

    How on earth do you keep your timelines in order, both with your writing and in the 'real world'? I presume you must come up for air sometime?

    With that sort of dedication, it's no wonder that I have been firmly engaged in your books to date.

    Good luck with the launch!

  3. So that's how the series came about! Really interesting Nancy. Thanks for sharing your journey.

  4. Thank you, Laurie. It's excellent to know that you are enjoying my books. More coming soon...

  5. It's been fascinating to discover how your series came about, Nancy - and I'm in awe of all the research you do for your books, too.

  6. Hi Paula. It's lovely to have you pop in, thank you. Research time and a poor retentive memory is the reason for it taking me so long to write a novel!

  7. Hi Lorraine. I'm taking another opportunity to thank you for hosting me on my mini launch tour. Have a great Christmas!

  8. You're very welcome, Nancy. I hope you also have a wonderful Christmas.