We’re on to the next stage: I’ve just sent a draft of “Heir Apparent” to my beta reader Roy. This means that the whole thing has now been close-read three times: twice by me and once by my husband, whose slow reading skills come into their own as he picks up double words, missed endings, wrong tenses – and Wilson getting two midday meals on the same day in the same chapter. When he finished he said that it was the best yet (my husband, not Wilson) – but then he says that every time. Let’s hope he’s right, as this book was the most difficult to write: I think it has the most twizzly plot, and as I took eighteen months over it instead of my usual year, it was harder to keep it all in my head.
As “Heir Apparent” is on its way out of the door, my thoughts are turning to the next writing projects. I’m doing a work-related, non-fiction thing in December, but when it comes to my next fiction outing, I’m in a dither and would value your comments. As you may know, the Sam Plank series is going to be seven books long; “Heir Apparent” is number six, and number seven is already plotted in outline – and then the series will come to a natural conclusion with the disappearance of Sam’s job (all explained in “Heir Apparent”). I have already decided that I am then going to embark on a new series, set in the same era but this time located in Cambridge (my home town) and featuring not a magistrates’ constable but a university constable – and I think he’s going to be called Gregory. And I have two options, both of which have advantages and disadvantages:
- Write “Sam 7” and then write “Greg 1”
- this is logical
- it means that Sam fans won’t have to wait too long for the final instalment
- but I’ll have to say goodbye to Sam quite soon, which will probably break my heart
- Write “Greg 1” and then write “Sam 7”
- this may attract publishers who are interested in a Cambridge-set series (a local bookseller has been putting out feelers and says there is interest…), and if the Cambridge series gains a wider audience, it will drive readers back to the Sam series
- it delays the dreadful day when I have to bid farewell to Sam and Martha
- but Sam fans will have to wait longer – although I promise it will happen (I’m not going to abandon Sam)
What do you think? From a timing point of view, whether it’s “Sam 7” or “Greg 1” we’re looking at March 2021 – I won’t be able to get either done in under eighteen months. I’ll tell you what, let’s do an entirely unrepresentative and unscientific poll – those of us living in the UK are very familiar with these… So please cast your vote and end my dithering!
Gregory, then Sam, is my vote. As a writer off a series and other novels too, I know you will miss Sam, Martha and the gang – the process is akin to abandoning very good old friends for new. If you do a Gregory first, you will feel a bit better about the whole process knowing you haven’t completely abandoned Sam, and have another to write. It will also give you a break from Sam, and bring you back with fresh perspective for the grand finale, though expect Sam to be rather sulky and jealous when you first return to work with him again. Mind you, never say ‘last’ one’s characters have a way of coming back, perhaps he can cameo in you new series. Huge congratulations and very well done on all your incredible hard work so far, and I look forward to the new series. If anyone deserves to be snapped up by a traditional publisher, it is you… And I have always said a Sam TV series has to happen one day. xx
Thank you for your very considered and reasoned response – and I LOVE the idea of a Sam cameo in the Gregory series… I wonder what Martha would think of the rackety goings-on in Cambridge? As for a traditional publisher, I’ve come to the conclusion that I couldn’t bear to hand over Sam – not least because a publisher would want to change the covers – but I could contemplate it for Gregory if it happened from the outset. But I’m just thankful that I am writing at a time when indie publishing is on the rise and it’s a credible alternative. Love from Susan x
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