Flirting with the Edge

Is there a point at which a series author needs to know when to give their fans what they want, when authors put off a book that is past overdue to be written?  When has an author strung the fans along enough for either marketing or “creative” reasons?  I have been asking myself these questions a lot lately.  I am not saying that author’s need to take advice or plot direction from their fans – not at all.  If I could write, I would.  I can’t, so I read.  I want them to come up with the plots, the dialogue, the characters, etc.  That isn’t what I am talking about.  I am talking about a trend that I see that is driving me nutty.  The idea that, within a series, there is a couple that everyone knows is going to come together, but the author keeps putting that book off.  Is there a point at which enough is enough and the author should just write what the fans want and stop stringing them along?

Let me give you a few examples. First off, I like G.A. Aiken’s Dragon Kin series.  There are five books in the series with a few short stories from anthologies, as well.  In the second book, About a Dragon, published November 2008, there was a potential couple that was introduced – Izzy and Eibhear.  Izzy is the hero Briec’s step daughter and Eibhear is his brother.  The two seemed destined to be together from the start.  It is now three books later, at one published a year, and the two are still not together though their story continues to be a subplot.  It is getting frustrating.  I understand that the author may have a big story arc going on in their head, and I am fine with that.  So far, I understand what she felt needed to happen between the two and I can understand.  But to wait four years to write the story that you prep the reader on in another story?  Is that asking too much?  Is this done for artistic reasons or marketing purposes?  That I even have to ask myself that disturbs me.

Shall I give another example?  J.R. Ward’s very popular Black Dagger Brotherhood series.  The tenth book will be published in March, Lover Reborn.  In the fourth book (again, at an average of one a year), a controversial couple began to be hinted at.  Many fans were at first blindsided by the love story of Blay and Qhuinn, two men who work for the Brothers.  And I understand that maybe some of the delay in their story being written was a concern with how the market would take their story and time to convince the publishers that this was the story that the fans wanted.  But, again, at what point have the fans waited long enough?  Is there a point when the fans will start to give up on an author?

So far, with these two series, I am hanging on strong.  But the other day, when I went to look at one of G.A. Aiken’s other series under the name Shelly Laurenston, I have to admit – I didn’t buy the book and start on the next series.  I was intimidated.  I was afraid that another sub plot would end up stealing the show and I wasn’t willing to set myself up for that.  Although the next Dragon Kin book, How To Drive a Dragon Crazy, has just been announced (2/15/12) to be about Izzy and Eibhear, I am still leery to start another series that would result in a long wait.

I know that if I steered away from series romances, this problem would disappear.  But I like them.  I like the continuity of a family of characters and the way we get to “return” to beloved characters.  I like never having to say good bye to them completely.  However, I will admit, there is a limit to how long an author can string me along.  And some of my favorite authors are flirting with the edge of that cliff.

Does anyone else feel this way?  Is there an author you see flirting on that edge?  Am I being unreasonable in wanting my cake (a series) and wanting to eat it too (getting the books I want)?  What are your thoughts?

- Louise AAR

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23 Responses to Flirting with the Edge

  1. Katja says:

    For me I think the answer depends very much on the kind of series. It it’s a more losely connected series and the individual books are well written and interesting on their own, I’m not too bothered about the wait.

    On the other hand if a series is more like one book cut into several chunks, I tend to wait until the last one is out and then buy (and maybe read) them in one go.
    This is especially true since at least two series I was following have been stopped by the publishers in the middle. So no closure at all, a story arc left hanging in mid book … that’s just not for me.

    And yes, I can see how that will ultimately hurt everyone, because if more people are unwilling to buy earlier books in a series, then the greater the likelihood that series will be discontinued. But I still can’t help myself.

  2. Wendy - AAR says:

    I don’t get turned off by a series unless the quality of the books declines. How long was it that we “waited for Rothgar” all those many years ago? I do get impatient with implanted stories like Blay and Qhuinn’s that don’t ever go anywhere, but I let that series go due to other reasons. Mostly nowadays, I’m just waiting for Nix to have her turn.

  3. wenmc says:

    The only series I quit was Suzanne Brockmann’s, when we were led up to the Sophia/Decker couple, then she completely changed direction. I just couldn’t help being totally put off by this.

    I guess if I think things will be resolved in the end, I will hang on. I do hope the Quinn/Blay storyline is resolved soon though! There is only so much angst I can take before the HEA.

  4. louiseaar says:

    Wendy – you bring up a good point, indirectly! :) When you have a series like IAD, when there are a bunch of characters that people want stories for and all that, what about when authors start a new series? Instead of filling in the stories that readers want (like Nix – I am with you there!), authors now start a second series. I understand that there may be creative reasons involved and all that (getting another storyline going so the author doesn’t become bored with the one), but now that authors like Cole and Ward have multiple series going on, the wait time between the next book lengthens. So the time to get that book that you really want gets longer. At a book a year, series like IAD and BDB will take that much longer to “resolve”.

  5. farmwifetwo says:

    The problem with Izzy and Eibear was their ages and the author mentioned that in a newsletter. I’m expecting this will be another time jump – the previous book was 5yrs into the future – since the she’s now a general.

    Yes, it’s nice they got their book. No I’m not happy about the time jumps. Does that mean now we move forward to the children’s stories….

    I’m wondering if this will be my last of this series.

  6. farmwifetwo says:

    The Shelly Laurenston’s book are all in the same world. She’s pretty much gotten everyone together. The next book I was wondering if she was going to move back to the Smith/Reid’s but she’s chosen another couple instead.

  7. louiseaar says:

    Farmwifetwo, if you ask me, I think Ren will come after Izzy and Eibhear. I see her slowing increasing his role and giving more and more tidbits about who he is. Then maybe Brannie and a few others. Since they live so long, a five year jump isn’t a big deal. I kind of like that it moves the ages of the kids up and maybe brings in more of the younger generation (maybe by HTDADC Gwenvael and Dagmar may have a kid and/or Keita and Ragnar). I wouldn’t mind watching Briec as his perfect, perfect daughter finds her mate! :)

  8. maggie b. says:

    I read a lot of series. The simple fact is there seems to be almost no avoiding them these days. And for the most part, authors do a good job with them. Yes, you have the occassional Brockmann fiasco but how often is that?

    But I think these hotly anticipated books can be a double edged sword for authors. I know many people who won’t buy Brockmann anymore after the Sophia/Decker book. I know lots of people were disappointed with her Max and Gina book. The danger of a couple that you string out forever is that people rarely feel the book has lived up to the hype.

  9. louiseaar says:

    That is an excellent point, Maggie! How can Qhuinn and Blay ever live up to years of hype for their relationship? It almost puts even more pressure on the author and they have no one to blame but themselves (and maybe their editors. :)) But I will say, Cole did a great job with Lothaire. That was a highly anticipated HEA and she came through with that one. :)

  10. Jane A says:

    louiseaar, I have to admit I’m disappointed to hear that Kresley Cole is starting a new series – and YA at that which I’m not much interested in. I love the IAD series and gobble them up. I agree that Lothaire lived up to my hopes and expectations, despite the length of this series it hasn’t gotten stale yet.

    I have a theory about KC’s move to YA and I’ll admit up front it’s perhaps a bit cynical. She strikes me as a very savvy businesswoman as well as writer. I think she saw the exploding popularity of YA titles and decided to jump on the bandwagon. I’m sure she has some creative ideas about that series and I suspect it will be very popular, I don’t begrudge her for the move because she’s directing her career as is her perfect right.

    Anyway, I got off track from the main point of the blog post. I dislike most any series where we’re left hanging for books on end waiting for a particular couple to take center stage. Brockman and Ward have both dropped off my radar. I don’t really put Cole in that category because we’re not teased with snippets of interactions between a couple for book after book. Yes, we’re waiting for Nix’s story but we have no idea who her hero will end up being. Somehow I find that less annoying.

  11. dick says:

    If the book I am reading at the moment is good enough to hold my interest to the end, I only rarely think about the next one in the series, except to make a mental note to check it out when and if it appears; I have enough trouble remembering the contents of the preceding books and considering whether the one I’m reading fits with what preceded. I envy those who can do this sort of thing readily. Dear Author had some interesting posts about the editor-instigated series of Harlequin/Mills & Boon, relating how the different authors are supplied with information and so on. Maybe the authors of the series mentioned in these posts should read those posts?

  12. louiseaar says:

    Jane A, I totally agree with you, Nix is a different case. You hit the nail on the head. We aren’t being tantalized with her HEA. Even with Regin, we knew she had a HEA, but Declan wasn’t on our radar and so it wasn’t rubbing salt in a wound of waiting! :)

    Some good news for you. Cole is starting TWO new series (in addition to IAD). One is the series with Lothaire’s family and that is 100% adult (Realm of Blood and Mist – they have to shorten that series name…). Then, she has a second new series that is YA. That is a futuristic-post apocalyptic-teens- struggling-against-the-world-with-their-super-powers series. So, you don’t have to worry about not getting into at least one of her new series’

  13. genevieve says:

    i think that a lot of the stringing along a paarticular character’s relationship has to do with what the author wants/ what the character wants. take the blay/quinn relationship, i personally don’t think that it will happen, not because of the market, but because of other reasons. maybe quinn will end up with layla, maybe quinn’s moment with blay will happen too late for them to be anything other than a what if. in my opinion, what ever happens for the character will be for the best for that particular character. if a fan favourite couple does come together, it needs to happen because the character needs it to happen, not because the fans want it to happen. that is why there is fan-fiction.

  14. Carrie says:

    I might have adult-onset ADD but I can’t seem to stay with a series for the long haul. I think trilogies are a much better idea for so many reasons. I have only followed a few series for more than 4 or 5 books. Even when I like the series, I tend to let them drop by then because they can’t help ending up sounding/feeling the same. I went back after reading this post and realized that in the series I tend to stick with the author doesn’t string along secondary character relationships. I sometimes don’t mind suspense plots taking several books to finish, but I do prefer series were the story arcs finish in the one book, and the subsequent books are not strongly tied to previous ones.

  15. Victoria S says:

    Louise, I don’t think authors “string us along” per se. I think, that as you said, “authors write and we read”; I truly think they don’t see the story the same way we do. And you gotta admit, that what we SAY we want in a story (and sometimes get) we later hate. I think more we are anxious for our favorite character to have their own stories, and the pairing does not matter to us, as long as the story is good.

    When C.S. Harris put Sebastian St. Cry together, instead of Kat Boleyn..brilliant and totally unexpected and I am looking forward to that story evolving more that I can tell you.

    When Nora Roberts insists Eve and Roarke stay childless, brilliant again!

    Sometimes what is obvious is not the right road to travel, and I think authors have to work things out first and foremost for themselves, and if the characters take a road we didn’t expect, as long as a story is well written, I’m willing to go along for the ride.

    Remember Moonlighting? When Bruce Willis got married to Cybil Shepherd, I stopped watching , ’cause then the story line changed from witty banter to insipid, badly done romance. More recently, The Good wife. When Alicia started sleeping with Will…once again, I stopped watching cause hey, where’s the “good wife” story line in both married parties indulging in adultery? Look at the Mary Tyler Moore show spin off Rhoda..stinkeroo. As long as she was on MTM bemoaning her single status the writers were brilliant. As soon as she got married, she got cancelled!

  16. Victoria S says:

    …when C.S Harris put Sebastian St. Cyr and Hero Jarvis together, instead of Kat Boleyn…oops

  17. Staci H says:

    What about Janet Evanovich’s By the Numbers? Is anyone else ready for this series to be done?! I don’t know of any man (let alone 2) that would hang around waiting for a woman to make up her freaking mind as long as Morelli and Ranger have been circling Stephanie Plum. Let’s wrap it up Janet.

  18. DJ says:

    Yes, absolutely, I know what you mean. Suzanne Brockmann did this with a number of couples.

    One in particular took so long to get their own book that I found it hard to care much when that book arrived, and also felt that the couple in question clearly didn’t belong together, since it took so very long for the “romance” to come together.

  19. louiseaar says:

    DJ, that was kinda where I was going with this! That authors have to flirt with that line of suspense that we crave before we give up hope and just don’t care anymore. The series above that I mentioned still have me strong, but they are getting close…. :)

  20. amers says:

    Or what about the start of a series (ok, a trilogy, but I get the word out about this whenever I can) that never goes anywhere? You mention JR Ward, so I will gripe about her non-existent stories from The O’Banyon brothers series, written as Jessica Bird. Sounds like she’s moved on from romance because of the BDB. I congratulate her on her commercial success. But to me, an author should fulfill commitments to their fans unless illness or death prevents it. Some sense of integrity and loyalty to your fan base is essential in my book. Doesn’t mean they have to write how we “want”, but should please be professional and fulfill promises!
    For long-term series, I read until I’ve had my fill. Sometimes that means that I stop reading for a few years and then pick it up again (Jaqueline Winspear/Maisie Dobbs is an example). Other times it means I’m done for good.

  21. Gayathri says:

    As of now the only series I am still following is Eve and Roarke. Every book adds layers to their stories and they are really good. Other than that, I prefer trilogies as I know there is a quick end to that. I like Mary Balogh and Mary Jo Putney now as I do not know who the hero/heroine is going to end up with.

  22. Ell says:

    I know just what you mean, and it drives me crazy. There is definitely a point – I think maybe in different places depending on the author’s skill and the type of story it is – where dragging out the teasing stops being tantalizing, and just becomes obnoxious. It’s a breaking point for me.

    I quit reading Suzanne Brockman before her Max and Gina story finally, finally came out because of her political commercials. Went back for their story, found it SO much less than the long wait warranted, that I broke with the author for good.

    Katja mentions stories that were dropped by publishers – what were they? Susan Sizemore ended her last book of the Laws of the Blood series with a cliff hanger literally years ago. I really liked that series, and have always wondered what in the world happened here. Does anyone know? Is this series one of the ones dropped by the publisher?

  23. Elizabeth says:

    I don’t mind the long character arcs, but then I think it does create a very high bar for the author. To write a story worthy of the couple when we readers have been waiting (it seems) forever – it is too easy for the author to let us down. I don’t think most of us want “one more book in the series” at that point. We want something that deserves fireworks and fanfares.

    So I thin kthat an author sometimes sets herself up for readers disappointment by waiting too long to do a favorite pair’s story.

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