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Monday, August 03, 2015

Planning Ahead: The Art of Creating a Series That Works

SANDRA D. BRICKER was an entertainment publicist in Los Angeles for 15+ years where she attended school to learn screenwriting and eventually taught the craft for several semesters. When she put Hollywood in the rearview mirror and headed across the country to take care of her mom until she passed away, she traded her scripts for books, and a best-selling, award-winning author of LIVE-OUT-LOUD fiction for the inspirational market was born. As an ovarian cancer survivor, she gears time and effort toward raising awareness and funds for research, diagnostics and a cure. Sandie is best known for her Another Emma Rae Creation series for Abingdon Press, and has recently followed it up with the Jessie Stanton series.

Q: SANDIE, AUTHORS DON’T ALWAYS WRITE THEIR BOOKS WITH SERIES IN MIND. WHAT’S MADE YOU TAKE IT ON FOR A SECOND TIME?

 A: The Emma Rae books started out with Always the Baker Never the Bride as a stand-alone. Within a few weeks of its release, my editor at Abingdon came back to me and said she felt like we may have struck upon lightning in a bottle. We brainstormed for a bit, and came up with a few more Always… possibilities, and shortly after that she issued contracts for more Emma books. The beauty of that happy accident was that I was given this unique and wonderful opportunity to spend three years of my life with a community of fictional characters that I fell in love with right along with my readers. So when we started negotiating for a book called On a Ring & a Prayer, that same publisher came back with the idea that it might be a great chance to do it again in a completely different setting and with this wonderful lead character.


Q: TELL READERS ABOUT THIS LEAD CHARACTER.

A: Jessie is a girl I really understand. She ran away from her southern roots in Slidell, Louisiana (where I actually spent part of my childhood), and hit the mean streets of Los Angeles (which I also did) with the dream of a more exciting life. She met and married someone who looked like Prince Charming, but who turned out to be someone very, very different. By the time the polish wore off his tin crown and Jessie discovered who he really was, he was gone … and he took her entire life along with him. The first novel opens with a clueless Jessie out to lunch in Malibu with her best friend when she spots her precious BMW bouncing down the street at the end of a tow truck hook. This event is the inciting incident of a spiral for Jessie where she has everything she thought she knew stripped away and is left with nothing other than the pricey Neil Lane ring on her finger, the designer labels in her massive closet, and the pressing need to rebuild her life. It’s an age-old story that’s been done a million different ways, but there’s really nothing more appealing or fun for me as a writer than taking an underdog on a journey of redemption and (hopefully) eventual triumph.

Q: WE ASSUME THIS IS A ROMANCE, LIKE ALL OF YOUR BOOKS? WHAT CAN YOU TELL READERS ABOUT THE ROMANTIC SIDE OF JESSIE’S STORY?

A: Of course it’s a romance … with an eventual happy ending. But poor Jessie really goes through some deep doo-doo while trying to get there. Fortunately for her—and my readers—there’s this scruffy surfer guy, a private detective out in Santa Monica, who helps uncover the facts about the many layers of her creepy husband, Jack Stanton. Over the course of all three books, Danny and Jessie become more deeply entwined in each other’s lives until … Well, readers will just have to see for themselves what happens along the way!

Q: WHAT’S THE TIMELINE OF THE RELEASE OF THE THREE BOOKS IN THIS SERIES?

A: On a Ring & a Prayer came out in March, and Book 2—Be My Valentino—will be released this month. Then Book 3—From Bags to Riches—is slated for March of 2016.

Q: WHAT CAN YOU TELL US ABOUT BOOK 2, SINCE IT’S THE NEW RELEASE?

A: In the first book, Jessie opened a little store where the local wannabes could rent out her designer duds at a cost. In the second, she’s in the process of trying to build that business. Adornments is in the process of becoming the place to be for D-List stylists and wannabe celebs who can’t afford their own designer labels. But it isn’t until she dresses a VERY reluctant Danny in Valentino for undercover work at a formal affair that Hollywood takes notice of him instead of Jessie. Danny is plucked out of the crowd, snapped by photogs, and lands as the unlikely cover model on the front of a Hollywood tabloid magazine. So much for the inconspicuous life of a PI, right?


Q: IT SOUNDS LIKE FUN. HOW DID YOU STRUCTURE THE STORY IN A WAY THAT IT WOULD UNFOLD OVER THREE BOOKS?

A: Well, that’s the question of a writer’s career, isn’t it? The advantage I had with the Jessie books that I didn’t have with Emma was knowing right up front that I’d have to plan ahead that way. The challenge of a series is always blending the telling of an arcing story with the need for each book in the series to stand on its own for readers. I think because I started out as a screenwriter and not a novelist, I rely heavily on storyboarding. I create a sort of casting board with each of the key players on it, along with their details: A picture of who I’d cast to play their part; a list of coloring, height and weight; specific quirks or issues they have. Then I use my screenwriting software to make notes and create scene cards for each book. After that’s complete, I put them all together so I can see how the three books work for my readers.

Q: IS THERE ANYTHING ELSE YOU’D LIKE READERS TO KNOW ABOUT YOUR UPCOMING RELEASE?

A: I’d love to invite them to get to know Jessie and her friends better through the launch of Be My Valentino by visiting my Facebook page between August 12th and the 16th. During that time, the characters will be taking over the page, and there will games and contests and giveaways every single day. For anyone already invested in the series, or even just thinking of reading it, the festivities will be a blast.

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Ronie Kendig is an award-winning, bestselling author who grew up an Army brat. After twenty-plus years of marriage, she and her hunky hero husband have a full life with their children, a Maltese Menace, and a retired military working dog in Northern Virginia. She can be found at www.roniekendig.com, on Facebook (www.facebook.com/rapidfirefiction), Twitter (@roniekendig), Goodreads (www.goodreads.com/RonieK), Instagram (@kendigronie), and Pinterest (http://www.pinterest.com/roniek/)!

Ronie's newest release, Falcon, received 4.5 stars from RT Book Reviews: Kendig blows away fans...Falcon is a must-read!

2 comments:

Trish Perry said...

Thanks for the interview, Ronie and Sandie! I love Sandie's writing--always clever and fun.

Mrs. Lopez said...

Always fun to read an interview with Sandra, thanks for featuring her!!