Greetings! Today I’m coming at you with another question from an author who wants to know what readers think: what is YOUR ideal series length for Christian contemporary romance books?
I love writing in series. I’m pretty sure it was Narelle Atkins who first encouraged me to write books in series, and now I’m wholly committed to the cause. Series are great for so many reasons. As an author, it’s fun to stay in a story world you’ve created. Once you’ve established your setting and some primary characters / families / situations, it makes it a lot easier to revisit and write another book (or dozen) set there, as you don’t have to reimagine such things (which means you can write faster too!). As a reader, there’s a degree of comfort in revisiting a beloved setting with characters you’re looking forward to hanging out with again. Once you’ve come to ‘trust’ the author and their characters, you can know the next story in the series will likely have a similar tone and feel, so you’re more likely to want to go read the next book. Plus there’s the fun of seeing ‘what happened next’ to characters you care about. There’s a lot to be said for having books in a series.
I’ve now had four series as a historical author, and have made a point of linking my two standalone novellas to previous books, as part of providing some ‘what happened next’ for invested readers. And I’m finding it’s a similar thing as I expand in my contemporary writing, with cross pollination between several series, such as the Independence Islands series, the Trinity Lakes series, and the Northwest Ice series, all of which share some characters and background information. So Dermott Reilly, who has his own story in my second Independence Island book, Regaining Mercy, is the brother of Jackson, Ellie and Cooper, who star in their own books which are part of the Trinity Lakes series: Love Somebody Like You, Tangled Up in Love (out March 26), and Only You Can Love Me (out February 2025 – I’m planning ahead!). Dermott’s other brother (last one, promise) will get his own story in one of my Christian hockey romance books as part of the Northwest Ice series, when I write it one day. It certainly helps to have a large family so you can dip in and out of the fun of sibling dynamics and shared story world!
I found a similar thing when I wrote the Original Six hockey romance series. The main characters who were part of an online Bible study for Christian hockey players (based on a REAL group) each got their own story, so there were snippets along the way giving some clues for what kind of story you might expect, or not – like the quietest guy who ends up with the globally famous girlfriend. I’m finding the same thing with my new hockey romance series, and had a LOT of fun a month or two ago writing an upcoming book in the Northwest Ice series that sees the most hard-core macho guy in the group go on a Dancing with the Stars-type show. It made for some hilarious moments, which readers who have enjoyed the other books will definitely appreciate.
I realized when writing Fire and Ice, the first book in the Northwest Ice series, that there was another series begging to be written, about a ranch outside Calgary with its own movie set, which is also based on a real place. The hero of that first book has three sisters (hello, big family!) who will each get their own books in the Three Creek Ranch series that starts with next year’s release of A Cameo for a Cowgirl. Yee ha!
The last book in the Original Six series, Muskoka Blue, also spawned its own series, which truly was ‘accidental’ in that I didn’t really plan it, except I knew I had this great setting (in the Muskoka Lakes area of Ontario, Canada) and felt one book wasn’t enough to do it justice. So I rewrote a couple of older stories, including a Hallmark-type Christmas book which became Muskoka Christmas, and based it around a group of young women and their trials and tribulations on the way to finding love. The Muskoka Romance series is like a mix of the small town vibes of Virgin River and Sweet Magnolias but with Christian themes, and now has five books in it, including Muskoka Shores, Muskoka Christmas, Muskoka Hearts, Muskoka Spotlight, Muskoka Holiday Morsels and next year’s Muskoka Promise makes for book number six. I have tentative plans for more, and now I have readers who have loved the short stories in Muskoka Holiday Morsels asking for some of those characters to have their own ‘proper’ books too.
Which leads me back to my original question: how many books do you like to have in a series? Three? 5? 7? Don’t care? As tempting as it is to continue the Muskoka books forever, I do need to make time for writing other books (and maybe clean my house occasionally).
So let’s chat: what’s your ideal length for books in a series? What’s the most amount of books you’ve read in a series? What is the ‘glue’ that a series you’ve enjoyed has had that keeps it together? What are some of your favorite series – and why?