Writing Stand-Alone Novels in a Series is not for the Faint-hearted

Today I welcome Gail Kittleson. She writes wonderful depression era and WW II novels. Her series Women of the Heartland is full of suspense and heart. I asked her to come today and share how she wrote a series where each story can stand on it’s own. Whether you start with the first or the third book you will find yourself totally engaged. Thank you so much for coming, Gail and sharing your wisdom with us.

gail-kittleson

Since I’ve written only one series, I’m no expert on this topic, but I do value the learning process inherent in trying something new—even something unexpected. When In Times Like These, the first book in the Women of the Heartland series occurred to me, I certainly didn’t envision writing three books.

My focus was the ways Midwesterners contributed to the Allied war effort and faced their own battles on the home front. But because the heroine of this book, Addie, enjoyed a friendship with Kate, In Times Like These also follows Kate as she seeks her downed Royal Air Force pilot husband in London.

51Y65kBii8L

In this volume, readers get a taste of British life during World War II, as well as the changes wrought in life in rural Iowa after the Pearl Harbor attack. Frequent letters between Kate and Addie, in which Kate describes what’s going on around her, encourage Addie in her personal struggles with her volatile husband through a long, bitterly cold winter.

In Times Like These reveals the upbringing of both girls. Plagued by poverty, illness, alcoholism and neglect, Addie’s family barely gets along. When Kate’s parents die in a dubious plane crash somehow related to World War I espionage, Kate moves to Iowa to live with her well-educated aunt. She and Addie are drawn together as classmates at school despite differences in personality and class.

The girls become kindred spirits sharing a love of learning, and their friendship remains strong as they age. Both marry young—Addie for stability, and Kate for adventure.

By the end of book one, Addie becomes able to stand up to her verbally abusive husband and claims her dignity as God’s child. When her husband deploys in preparation for D-Day and with Kate now widowed and expecting her first child, it seems natural for Addie to board a Red Cross ship for London to help her. Book, one ends with Addie’s courageous journey, a significant marker in her character arc.

61gD-uoWs4L

Book two, With Each New Dawn, begins with Kate meeting a mysterious Frenchman who will change her life forever. As an orphan with many unanswered questions about her parents, Kate’s great hunger for family and home eventually leads her far deeper into danger. This stranger knew her parents—what an incredible opportunity for her.

 

Researching Kate and her employer’s roles taught me about the horrible London bombings, with such physical destruction and loss of life, produced broken gas lines, incendiary bombs lying about, people wounded and dying after yet another Nazi air raid. Offices were created to oversee the cleanup efforts. Enter Kate and her boss Charles, a recuperating former pilot for the Royal Air Force.

When Kate miscarries, grief envelops her, and she needs more than her former office job to feel purposeful now. Charles realizes this, so he introduces her to the very heartthrob of the Allied forces. In underground tunnels where earth-shattering military decisions are made, she smells the very cigar smoke Winston Churchill exhales.

Then another meeting with the Frenchman who remembers Kate’s mother and father from WWI woos her into far more danger. At this point, my research moved to the French Resistance.

Parachuting into Nazi-held Southern France as an SOE agent led to Kate meeting the hero of book two, a Basque shepherd-turned-Resistance-saboteur. I “met” an online British contact through studying the national commemorations of the Resistance that still take place annually in France. This man has made a lifelong study of the French Resistance and referred me to several historical textbooks.

Online sources and other publications such as magazine articles from the time, including LOOK and LIFE, helped fill in some areas. Even archived advertisements allowed me to embrace the era more fully.

Military records available to the public also provided a wealth of wartime details and perspective about why the Allies made certain decisions. Digging back into the effects of World War I helped me comprehend some choices made by the Allied leaders—and by the Germans.

Thirty years ago, my husband and I hiked the hills surrounding a southern French town when we were studying for missionary work. Those memories invigorated the setting, as did visiting a Basque museum in Idaho, with no idea that many Basque sheepherders had immigrated to the U.S.

Characters come to me first, and the requirements of their emotional growth guide my plots. Authors who outline their entire work before beginning to write amaze me, and I sometimes wish I had that kind of long-range objectivity. I believe it would make several areas of series writing more efficient, but in general, seeing the overall picture is not my gift.

Publishing book two as a stand-alone challenged me, so I sought advice on including only enough backstory to answer questions that might stall the reader. I did umpteen edits through the entire manuscript to check for unnecessary details and took my Beta readers/editor’s advice on this.

The other big challenge was how to end With Each New Dawn. The stopping point changed several times, actually, since by this time I realized Kate’s story was nowhere near over. Again, I sought professional advice, and was very thankful my publisher shared the vision of this book standing alone and supplied an accomplished editor.

51yCaQgXidL._AC_US218_

 

Book three, A Purpose True, challenged my writing skills, because of a subplot from a different time period. As I considered including this, I wondered how to provide enough clarity for readers to follow the flashbacks. I’ve read books that bounced around in time and confused me. I didn’t want that to happen with Kate’s story.

Actual tales of high-level Nazis fleeing to a South American location my husband and I visited motivated me to proceed, even though giving each subplot adequate closure required extra research and time. In the long run, this work aided me in showing Kate’s full growth as a human being through her wartime experiences.

Working with a series offers another unique trial: keeping timelines and details straight. There are surely more effective ways of doing this, but mine was to constantly check back to be sure a certain scene coincided with a battle or the date of a Nazi atrocity.

A Purpose True ties up Addie’s story back in London too, while highlighting Kate’s challenges and Domingo’s struggles as he faces the loss of his family and his ancestral homeland. With Waffen SS tank units committing atrocities as they sweep across his birthplace en route to fight at Normandy, his angst can only increase.

Through all of this, a romantic thread evolved despite strong obstacles. I really didn’t plan this. When they first met, both characters mourned the loss of their first love and needed lots of time to heal. Besides that, Kate grieved the loss of her firstborn and hungered to discover more about her roots.

Kate and Domingo spend a great deal of time separated in this book—romance is an unlikely luxury when you’re racing to blow up bridges and running for your life from the Gestapo. But their mutual respect and commitment still blossomed and developed.

Because I believe strongly that less is more when it comes to romantic scenes, it was a challenge to show the depth of passion Kate and Domingo shared in the scenes where they are reunited. Without the time-lapse aspect of this book, I think this might have been even more difficult—sometimes it’s better to see how characters are led in retrospect than in present time.

Looking at the entire series from start to finish, I marvel at the writing journey it supplied me. The characters learned so much through their struggles, and so did I. That’s the heart of our journey, in my humble opinion—continually learning.

Thank you so much for your insights. I believe you accomplished your goal to deliver excellence in your series Women of the Heartland.

2017-02-11_15-59-06(1)

Buy link:

How to follow Gail:

http://www.gailkittleson.com/
http://www.facebook.com/GailKittlesonAuthor

http://amazon.com/author/gailkittleson

http://www.twitter.com/GailGkittleson @GailGkittleson

 About Gail:

Forever intrigued by the writing process, Gail researches ongoing World War II projects, including a co-written cozy mystery. She enjoys time with grandchildren, walking, and

reading. Winters find her hiking with her husband under Arizona’s Mogollon Rim. She loves hearing from readers, studying the art of writing, and facilitating writing workshops.

Please, don’t forget if you want to see more articles like this subscribe to Jubilee Writer Blog before you leave this page.

 

 

 

 

 

Advertisements

Spies, Flutes, and Red-Heads: The Makings of a Spy Novel

Welcome mystery writer extraordinaire, Carole Brown. I’m so excited to have her as my guest because the second book in her WW II mystery series The Spies of World War II, A Flute In A Willow is now available. She’s agreed to share a bit about how she does  her research and developed her characters and plot for the seriesDSCN4465 (3)

 

Spies:

Developing my WWII Spies series came from two things:

  • Listening to my mother talk about her life during WWII and seeing the pictures she had
  • A short story about a “supposed” civilian spy during WWII from an elderly man. Rumors had it that HE was that spy, but he neither confirmed nor denied it.

Music:

And since dangers and sacrifices abound in WWII stories—some of which I brought out in these books, I also wanted to create a sense of fun, warmth and love to lighten the suspense. One way I managed to create the feeling was to bring music into the story as a subplot.

The Red-headed Sisters:

I’d already planned to feature three red-haired sisters in their own books. It was fun to create their personalities and who the heroes would be. Fortunately, while I wrote book one, the heroes for the other two books appeared and were good matches for sisters two and three.

Let me share brief thoughts how the spies, music and sisters all work together to make this series heartwarming and suspenseful books.

With Music in Their Hearts

With Music in Their Hearts

With my interest piqued and imagination soaring, I settled on the plot for book one where the hero—handsome, smart, a minister and godly—is rejected to serve overseas but recruited to serve as a civilian spy. Sparks of jealousy and love fly between him and the heroine as they battle suspicions that one or the other is not on the up and up.

Emma Jaine Rayner, by her own claims, is a non-professional pianist, who entertains and gives an extra doze of homeyness to the boarding house residents with the nightly musical fests. Her active imagination while playing, increases her longing for a man to love—and Tyrell Walker, the civilian spy, increases the pressure by wooing her with his trained voice.

AFitW 5th image(2)

 

A Flute in the Willows

In Book Two, the heroine and hero are both rebels in their own way. She has two loves—her skating and Jerry, her husband, an overseas U.S. spy. But when he returns home looking like a skeleton trying to return to life, she’s scared. What happened in Germany to change a man so much? When his wife’s life is threatened, Jerry realizes he can’t stand by and do nothing. Jerry has to risk all for the very soul and life of himself—Josie. These two damaged, rebellious people learn the hard way that leaning on God instead of their ownselves and abilities is the only true way to love and happiness.

Josephine Rayner Patterson, the second sister, is quite different from her older sister. She’s athletic and training for the Olympics once it’s resumed after the war. But returning to her flute after a drastic alteration in her life, it’s the balm that heals her troubled heart. In spite of resisting, Jerry Patterson through her music and enduring love, finds his heart strangely drawn to what he’s never experienced before.

Sing Until You Die

The third book in this series has a tentative publishing date of 2019. The youngest sister of the WWII Spies sister overhears a private conversation while singing to the military troops and realizes it’s vital information to the well being of the United States. When she’s almost discovered, Claire barely escapes. Surrounded by zealous people she can’t and won’t trust, Claire has no options but to trust the one person she most disdains, the one person she ran from, quiet, plugging-along Wills but rumored to be the best spy serving on U.S. soil. In the midst of danger, Wills has the chance of a lifetime: to show the love of his life his love for her. Will she learn that God is her strength and wisdom and that no matter how well she can sing, how far she travels, how many men she meets, only Wills can fill the void in her heart?

Claire Roseanne Rayner is the princess of the family, the petted and beloved daughter of the Rayner Family who sings like a bird and is determined to fly away like one too. She loves God but staying away from the boy-turned-man she grew up with is never far from her mind. William (Wills) Mason has never wavered in his love for Claire Rayner. In spite of having no talent in either singing or playing, he’s fully behind Claire’s musical ambitions.

More:

Spies

Researching the spies was an eye-opening experience. Not only danger is involved, but there are tons of reasons why men—and women—serve in such a capacity. The rewards are vast—money, esteem, the parties and socializing, exotic countries—if all goes as hoped and the spy escapes detection. Caught—prison and death can be the result.

Music

It was easy to include this in these books because of my own love of music. The decision as to what or how it was brought into each book was also a fairly easy decision. Music has so many benefits besides lightening up suspense books.

  • Encouragement
  • Mood enhancers
  • Spiritual uplifter
  • Good music is healthy

and so much more.

One tidbit before I move on to the sisters. I love most instruments, but the flute was not one of them—until I heard one played by an expert. That changed my ideas about flutes, and from then on, I’ve been a devoted fan. The flute seemed the perfect instrument to include in atheletic Josie’s life.

Red-headed Sisters

I’ve always loved red hair. It’s so vibrant, rich in color and alluring. Studying and researching the subject I realized how many different shades of red there are. Choosing the shades was fun, but I wanted it to be more than fun. The shades needed to match their personalities.

All in all, the first two books have been a delight to write, and I’m looking forward to the writing the third book soon.

 

Thanks for allowing me to visit, Cindy.

Absolutely loved having you.  You are always a delightful guest. Thanks for making the time.  If you’d like to learn more about Carole and her latest novel read on.

Back Cover Blurb for Flute in the Willows

Both rebels in their own way, Josie and Jerry Patterson must figure out how to keep the other’s love…and keep the German enemy at bay.

She has two loves—her skating and Jerry, her husband. But when he returns home looking like a skeleton trying to return to life, she’s scared. What happened in Germany to change a man so much? Has another woman captured his heart?

Jerry has vowed to let Josie live her own glamourous life…especially after what happened in Germany. But when his wife’s life is threatened, Jerry realizes he can’t stand by and do nothing. Jerry has to risk all for the very soul and life of himself—Josie.

These two damaged, rebellious people learn the hard way that leaning on God instead of their own selves and abilities is the only true way to love and happiness.

Buy the Book:

https://www.amazon.com/Carole-Brown/e/B00EZV4RFY/ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_1?qid=1492661357&sr=1-1

About Carole Brown:

Besides being a member and active participant of many writing groups, Carole Brown enjoys mentoring beginning writers. An author of ten books, she loves to weave suspense and tough topics into her books, along with a touch of romance and whimsy, and is always on the lookout for outstanding titles and catchy ideas. She and her husband reside in SE Ohio but have ministered and counseled nationally and internationally. Together, they enjoy their grandsons, traveling, gardening, good food, the simple life, and did she mention their grandsons?

Personal blog: http://sunnebnkwrtr.blogspot.com/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/CaroleBrown.author

Amazon Author Page:  http://www.amazon.com/Carole-Brown/e/B00EZV4RFY/ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_1?qid=1427898838&sr=8-1

Twitter:  https://twitter.com/browncarole212

BookBub:  https://www.bookbub.com/authors/carole-brown

Pinterest: http://pinterest.com/sunnywrtr/boards/

Goodreads: http://www.goodreads.com/user/show/5237997-carole-brown

Linkedin:  https://www.linkedin.com/profile/view?id=67381031

Google+:    https://plus.google.com/u/0/113068871986311965415/posts

Stitches in Time:  http://stitchesthrutime.blogspot.com/

Question for readers from Carole:

How much research detail do you like when reading a book? Is there ever too much or not quite enough to suit you?

 

I loved learning how Carole did her research and built her story world.  I strive to give my readers helpful information and writing tools. If you enjoyed this peek into the research side of the writing world sign up for this blog before you leave and receive more interesting and fun posts in your email.