WRITING A SPIN-OFF SERIES – PROS, CONS, AND HOW-TO’S by Joanne Pence

4830SMALLMore years ago than I like to count (okay, about 22), the first book in my “Angie Amalfi culinary mystery series” was published. At the time, it wasn’t supposed to be a series at all, but a single-title “romantic suspense.” Thank goodness, I didn’t end the book with my heroine, a gourmet cook who couldn’t find a good job, and the hero, a San Francisco homicide detective, going off into the sunset for their “happily-ever-after” life. That I gave them a bit of happiness, and no sunset, meant that when my editor asked for a second book with the same main characters, I was able to deliver. That was sixteen books, two novellas, and umpteen short stories ago.

 

As the years went by, I joined the ever-growing ranks of the “indie published,” writing romance, romantic fantasy, and even a couple of supernatural suspense thrillers. I also wrote a few more Angie Amalfi stories, but I found that the person I was twenty-two years ago when I conceived those stories—young, with a growing family, etc.—isn’t the person I am today.

 

While I love the characters—and after all these years, Angie Amalfi is so real to me that if she came knocking at my door, I’d simply invite her in for a cup of coffee and some Italian cookies—it was time for a change. I wanted a way to keep Angie “alive” to both my readers and I, but also to be able to write stories that felt more connected to who I am now.

 

So, I debated with myself: did I want to write a spin-off series from my Angie books? What are the pros and cons of doing so?

 

The first “pro” is pretty obvious: the books have a built-in audience. Those who have read one series, are very likely to at least try the books in a spin-off series.

 

Another pro is that the cast of characters has been worked out already. You know many of the characters who will populate your books, their personalities, how they’ll act, etc. Same for the setting. Both of these are huge time-savings for any author.

 

The cons are the risks involved. The main one is that the new series simply isn’t as well liked as the original. This could be damaging to both series, and cause readers to wonder if a beloved author has “lost it,” “burned out,” etc.

 

Another is that the well-known characters may seem changed in the readers’ eyes and come across differently than in the original series. This can be not only disconcerting to a reader, but can cause them to really dislike the changes.

 

Or, the problem can be the opposite—the “same old, same old” syndrome. If not enough has changed from the original series, a reader may wonder why the author bothered to change the lead series character at all.

 

In my case, I decided to write the “Inspector Rebecca Mayfield” mysteries because of the “pros” I listed above, and also because she is able to satisfy a OneO'Clock_400wside of me that Angie no longer could. Rebecca is a career woman—she fought her way up the ranks of the San Francisco Police Department to the position of homicide detective. To do so, she gave up a lot in her personal life, even losing a fiancé because he couldn’t bear to live with the danger she put herself in. She’s got a good heart, but she’s also tough. She wants love, but she’s a loner and if that’s her lot in life, she accepts it. She’s dedicated to her work and believes she’s making the world just a little bit better by doing it. Bottom line, she’s a darker, older, more serious character than Angie. Many people have made the transition and, thankfully, are enjoying Rebecca’s travails.

 

There are several “How-to’s” that have helped this transition to work. The genre has changed only slightly (the Rebecca books aren’t culinary cozies, but the characters do talk about food, and Richie is a good cook—which is a surprise to Rebecca, believe me). They have a similar “feel” to them as far as level of violence and language, although again, the Rebecca stories are a tad harsher in both. The biggest “how-to,”, I believe, is that despite Rebecca being a much more serious and emotionally darker character than Angie, the books continue to have similar kinds of humor and emotion, which were hallmarks of the Angie Amalfi mysteries. Providing much of the humor in the new series is Rebecca’s relationship with Richie. Nothing would make the two happier than to walk away from the other and never look back, but something keeps making them not only look back, but go back to the other. This also causes a lot of the emotion in the books as both wrestle with their growing feelings about the other.

ebook_cover_fouroclocksizzl

Last but not least, since I was often asked in what order the Angie stories should be read, I decided to make it easy for Rebecca Mayfield readers. The first book (free on most retail sites) is entitled ONE O’CLOCK HUSTLE, and the just-released book, number four in the series, is entitled (you guessed it), FOUR O’CLOCK SIZZLE.

 

 

BIO:

Joanne Pence was born and raised in northern California. She has been an award-winning, USA Today best-selling author of mysteries for many years, and has also written historical fiction, contemporary romance, romantic suspense, a fantasy, and supernatural suspense. Joanne hopes you’ll enjoy her books, which present a variety of times, places, and reading experiences, from mysterious to thrilling, emotional to lightly humorous, as well as powerful tales of times long past.

Visit her at http://www.joannepence.com, http://www.facebook.com/joanne.pence, or on Twitter at @JoannePence. To hear about new books, please sign up for Joanne’s New Release Mailing List

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8 thoughts on “WRITING A SPIN-OFF SERIES – PROS, CONS, AND HOW-TO’S by Joanne Pence

  1. sunnyfrazier says:

    I’m considering a spin-off using a Hispanic woman from the next book in my Christy Bristol series. No astrology (although they both work in the Sheriff’s dept and periodically cross paths). My concern is selling myself to Hispanic readers despite the fact I’m not Hispanic.

    • Kevin Killiany says:

      Sunny, my two most popular series characters (in two unrelated series) are black women. Both series are in the military, which puts them in a set cultural environment with specific expectations. One of the narrators in my Dirt and Stars series is a black female teenager in a civilian, urban setting. I’m not black and I’ve never been female, but no one has challenged me on writing black women. If you care about your character, show them authentically, and engage them honestly, that commitment and sincerity will be what readers see.

  2. lindamthorne says:

    I think you have more pros than cons with what you’re trying to do in this spin-off. I think it will be easier to produce a good book if you are more comfortable with the new character. As for Sunny’s comment, I think you could pull off having a Hispanic lead character easily. I don’t think anyone would mine that you are not Hispanic.

  3. Joanne Pence says:

    Sunny–I suggest you give the spin-off a try. I imagine your new character will be quite interesting. As long as the Hispanic woman comes across to readers as credible and realistic (some beta readers with insight on what you’re trying to convey could be helpful here), I’m sure your readers won’t care what your ethnicity is.

  4. Marja McGraw says:

    In one of my Sandi Webster books, I included a Humphrey Bogart lookalike who wanted to be a detective. He was so well liked that I ended up giving him his own series. It worked well for me, and the two series are completely different. I took a chance, and it worked. Sometimes you’ve just got to do what feels right, as you have.

  5. Joanne Pence says:

    Marja: I’d read about a Bogart lookalike detective in a heartbeat . I’ll look for the series. You’re right, that sometimes characters pop up out of the blue and worm their way into your heart saying “Write about me! Write about me!”

    Linda: Yes, I think there are more pros than cons to writing a spin-off series as long as you really like the characters. If so, it’ll come across to the readers.

  6. ritterames says:

    I considered a spin-off to my Organized Mysteries, but decided I was making too many changes and wrote the first draft for a new series instead. The spin-off idea would have probably worked fine, but I feel like I have more freedom with all new. I also didn’t want to risk feeling like I was just writing similar stories in the two series, when it might be a better move to just write more books in the existing series. Though I did like the idea of having so many of the parameters already set before I started Chapter One. Still, in going in a new direction I ended up feeling happy with the results. I also noticed it was a little easier to find humorous ways to make the new series standout because it was in a different place with all different characters, so I guess the decision was the right one for me. But that first draft is still in the revision stage at the moment, so it may be awhile before I see if anyone else agrees with me

  7. Joanne Pence says:

    Hey, Ritter! Nice to see you here. I’ve heard many nice words about your books. Decision-making — isn’t that the difficult, but also fun, part of being a writer? So many choices, so many ways to go. The good thing is you can always do both … if you have the time. I know I wish I could write about twice as fast, I’ve got so many stories to tell!

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