In my twenty-six year career, I’ve made one literary blunder than stands above all the others: I unwittingly brought two dead characters back to life! The blunder occurred very early in my career – not because I was a newly published writer, but because I had written a book, Donovan’s Angel, that I had no intention of turning into a series.
Stand alone books don’t require keeping a story bible that includes lengthy charts on all the characters, their frequently used phrases, notes on the cars they drive, the houses they live in. Stand alone books also don’t require long-term plans which detail how the series will play out.
Several years after the book’s publication, I vaguely remembered that I had created several brothers for the hero, Paul Donovan. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to follow the Donovan brothers in a series?
Since there was no story bible, I scanned the book, and sure enough, there was Paul’s brother, Tanner, and the mention of other brothers whom I had not named. Perfect!
I immediately set about writing the second book in the series. It was such fun to give Paul and his parents a brief cameo. I thought how pleased the readers would be to know what had happened to these beloved characters in the intervening years.
Sure enough, on publication of the second book of the Donovan Series, I got a phone call from a long-time fan.
“I adore this series,” she said.
“Oh, I’m so glad,” I said. “Don’t you just love Mr. and Mrs. Donovan?”
“Yes. But in the first book they were dead.”
BIG PAUSE…then BIG IDEA….
“How wonderful that I have the power to resurrect them!”
I learned my lesson. In 2008 when I started writing the Southern Cousins Mystery Series, you can bet your britches I immediately purchased a little spiral bound black leather journal that became the story bible. It contains copious notes on Elvis (the basset hound who thinks he’s the King of Rock ‘n’ Roll reincarnated); Callie Valentine Jones, his human mom; Lovie Valentine, Callie’s cousin who has had more boyfriends than Elvis has fleas; Jack Jones, Callie’s almost-ex; Ruby Nell, Callie’s mom who has a penchant for gambling on Callie’s dollar. All the major players in the series.
As Fayrene developed over the first two books into a major player, she got her own page. The story bible is an ever-evolving journal. It contains plans for each book and each character.
Over the years, those plans have changed, so I’m constantly adding notes and ideas. The story bible is written with a pen. Each year my scribbles get more jumbled and harder to read. Please don’t be surprised if Lovie’s tattoo moves from one hip to the other and if Mama’s red Mustang convertible turns blue.
I can’t claim perfection, and I certainly can’t claim a perfect memory, even of characters I’ve created. The main thing is for my readers to have as much fun reading the Southern Cousins Mysteries as I have writing them.
Publisher’s Weekly and Romantic Times love Elvis and the Tropical Double Trouble, the fourth book in the series, available now for pre-order and in bookstores September 27th! If you’ve already started reading this series, I’d love to hear about your favorite character or scene, and what you’d like to see happen in future books. If you haven’t yet discovered Elvis and the Valentine gang, tell me about your most beloved series and why you enjoyed it.
Peggy Webb is hard at work on the fifth Southern Cousins Mystery and invites you to enter the fabulous contest on her website – www.peggywebb.com. Prizes in the contest include a signed copy of Elvis and the Tropical Double Trouble, signed copies of select romances from her backlist, and a signed copy of her debut novel as Anna Michaels - The Tender Mercy of Roses, hailed by Pat Conroy as “astonishing.”