Hello everyone! Today I am thrilled to welcome Ava March to the blog.  Ava writes fabulous m/m historicals (you can check out some of my reviews of her work here).  She is here today to talk about a direct series, one where the same characters recur in multiple books.  I love her Bound series and Ava gives us lots of good details on how the books were developed.  

Plus, Ava has brought a FABULOUS giveaway! She is offering one lucky commenter a choice of  either the entire Bound series (Bound by Deception, Bound to Him, Bound Forever) or the Convincing series (Convincing Arthur, Convincing Leopold).  I loved them both this is an awesome prize! So please join me in giving Ava a big welcome!

I love romance books. I love the warm fuzzy feeling that comes at the end of a romance, that feeling of knowing the characters have found true, lasting love. As such, as an author, I find it hard to leave characters with a Happy for Now ending. I want to get them to their Happily Ever After, but sometimes it just doesn’t work out in one book. And that’s when a book becomes part of a direct series.

My direct series books weren’t initially planned to be series. The original idea for Bound by Deception was for it to be a standalone novella. A neat, compact, and hot book about unrequited love and friends to lovers. But as I got into writing the book, I realized one of the guys simply wasn’t ready for an ‘I love you’ yet. He needed time, and I felt the best way to do that was to give the guys a sequel. But by the end of Bound to Him, I still hadn’t gotten him where I ultimately wanted him. Got the ‘I love you’ out of him, but…it’s a romance. Love needs to be close to equal for me to feel secure in the knowledge the main characters will remain together forever. He needed to realize he loved his partner with a similar depth, intensity, and need as his partner had always loved him. Therefore, a third book was in order. Took me almost two years to write Bound Forever, but I was finally able to give the guys a solid HEA.

The way I look at direct series books (those with reoccurring characters) is to view the complete series as an overall relationship arc, with each book dealing with a major event in the relationship. At the end of each book, the characters should have grown both individually and together, with the Happily Forever After firmly cemented by the end of the series.

In order for the characters to grow though, something needs to happen. A catalyst, either internal or external. Something has to push them to that next step. It could be something that’s been building between two books in a series and finally comes to a head, or it can be an event in a book. That catalyst or event can be the source of the conflict that’s keeping the characters from their HEA, or it can help propel them toward their HEA. But if it’s the latter, then there needs to be another source of conflict acting against the HEA.

Well, that was a nice bunch of writerly speak. *pats self on back* Probably easier to show it with an example.

Bound by Deception – The catalyst is Oliver wanting one night with the friend he’s loved for years. The conflict is that Vincent won’t admit to himself that he prefers men. At the end of the book, Oliver professes his love for Vincent, and Vincent realizes he wants a relationship with Oliver.

Bound to Him – Six months have passed, and Oliver is growing mighty tired of being Vincent’s bit on the side. Oliver’s afraid Vincent will never tell him he loves him. The tension was built off page, with it coming to a head at the beginning of the book. But the book needed another layer of conflict. So I went back to book #1 and looked for something I could use – Vincent’s need for approval from his father. Given Vincent’s age and social standing, it fit that he’d start to get a nudge to marry, so I gave him a demand from his father.  Both characters grow by the end – Oliver stops being a doormat and takes control of his life, and Vincent realizes he loves Oliver and tells his father no.

Bound Forever – Over a year passes. Oliver and Vincent have been happily in love, yet the threat one day Vincent might need to marry to secure the title still looms over Oliver’s head, keeping the couple from a secure HEA. The catalyst is that Vincent learns his older brother has produced an heir. Now the threat is gone, but something else needed to propel the book. So again, I went back to the previous book and picked up any loose ends I hadn’t tied up in that one. The obvious one was that Oliver talked about topping Vincent, so he got to do it in Bound Forever. And from that scene came the internal conflict I needed. I will admit, the end of the book was tricky to write. The guys had been together as a couple for over a year and a half. They’d grown throughout that time, they knew each other well. In order to pull off a believable end-of-the-book argument, I had to go back to Bound by Deception. Oliver doesn’t have much money, whereas Vincent has a fat bank account and has always been successful. Their financial disparity was an unresolved issue in Bound to Him, and it comes to a head in their fight in Bound Forever. By the end of the book, Vincent realizes he doesn’t want to live without Oliver, and Oliver realizes he needs to be more understanding, and not so prickly about money, to make their relationship last forever.

It’s no coincidence the explanations for each book got longer as I got further into the series. I’ve found that’s how it works with a direct series – each book gets more complex to write. There are more pieces to keep track of, and I have to figure out how to get the characters where I want them, while staying true to the characters I set up in book one. And that’s the trick with direct series – book one is the foundation, what I do there sets up everything else. Characters grow, they overcome challenges, their relationship progresses, yet it needs to be believable that they were once those people in book one.

Those are my two cents, and more, on writing direct sequels. I find them challenging to write, but getting the characters to their HEA is wonderfully rewarding and definitely worth the effort.

Thank you so much to Ava for stopping by to talk to us about writing her series.  And now if you want to enter to win a copy of either her Bound series or Convincing series, be sure to leave a comment below.  The contest closes on Sunday, July 22 at 11:59 pm EST.

  • By entering the contest, you’re confirming that you are at least 18 years old.
  • Winners will be selected by random number.
  • If you win, you must respond to my email within 48 hours or another winner will be chosen. Please make sure that your spam filter allows email from Joyfully Jay and leave your email address if it is not in your profile.
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