Sunday, 27 January 2013

How many pen names should you have?

Or should you have one at all? I know that many people write under their own name so why would you choose not to? Perhaps because you feel your real name is too long, too difficult to pronounce or doesn’t fit the genre you’ve chosen. Maybe you don’t want your employer knowing that you write erotic fiction in your lunch hour or maybe you simply fancy adopting a completely different persona. I decided not to write under my own name for some of those reasons and chose Isabelle Goddard for the six Regency romances I’ve published. I have a website under that name, a facebook page and a twitter account.

So why not continue with the same name when I jump genre? Giving myself a second writing name could be hard work and create problems. I might confuse, even annoy, readers who know me as a writer of historical romance and who might buy the new book under that impression. At the same time, I am only just getting known in the writing world so is it sensible to begin again with a new name? Wouldn’t it be better to build on the audience I’ve so far managed to create? The consensus seems to be that if your new genre is similar to what you’ve been doing, stick with the same writing name. If it’s radically different, choose a different one.
But how similar are we talking? I’m still writing historical but I’ve jumped a few hundred years to a very different period – the 1930s instead of early 19th century. There will a small amount of romance but it’s not central and what novel doesn’t have a little romance? The new book will set up a mystery, threaten my heroine’s safety, and hopefully make some thoughtful social comment in the process. That’s quite a long way from the feel-good escapism of Regency romance.
And if I do decide to go for a different writing name, the first problem I’m going to face is What? Isabelle was one of my mother’s names and Goddard my paternal grandmother’s maiden name. Because of the family connection, I felt comfortable with it and it sounded right for a romance author, though I could be wrong. The point is that it took me an age to decide on it. Finding another name that has meaning for me will be difficult enough, but finding one that sounds right for a mystery series could take longer than the books themselves!

Tuesday, 1 January 2013

Have You Ever Written a Trilogy?

I’m asking because that’s what I’m thinking of doing and already I’m realising some of the questions, problems even, that it raises. It’s obvious that a trilogy needs to be planned differently from a single title, but writing it will also differ from writing a series. In a series, the same central characters appear in each novel but are presented with a set of different circumstances. Characters may develop over the series, their back stories become more familiar, but essentially each story is complete in itself and as a reader you experience its full force within that one book. I imagine that’s why most series have their home in crime fiction, with each book offering a new crime for the central character to solve. 

To my mind, a trilogy is different. It has much more of a defined shape – an introduction, a middle, and a finale. Each novel tells a different story as in series writing, but there’s another story, too, which slowly unwinds itself from novel to novel, allowing the central character to develop, gradually raising and resolving whatever problems he or she may have, uncovering whatever mysteries lie behind their lives. In that way, the structure resembles a tryptich in painting, which tells its story in three distinct movements.

That being so, the plotting has to be on two levels: each novel must have its own resolution, complete for that particular book, but it will also have unanswered questions, loose ends as it were, from the wider ranging story – until, of course, the final pages of novel number three. The writer will need to know exactly where they’re going in order to raise the right issues, drop the right clues, in the right places as each book proceeds. They will also need to pace their main character’s development very carefully, so that the reader has more to learn of them with each book, but not everything until the final pages. And there will have to be a plan for secondary characters too: where they appear, where they disappear, how they link with each book. 

Did I just say I wanted to write a trilogy?!