Thursday, January 13, 2011

The end of a beautiful friendship

The Richard and Rose series is in many ways my flagship series. The first book in the series was the first one I had published, and with rewrites, it’s a bestseller at Samhain today.
it’s the only series I have written that is far better read in order. It’s the only one with the same couple at the centre of each story. It’s the only series I’ve ever written in the first person.
And yet, readers love it. It was different, and in many ways, it still is. I had planned this series for years, knew the first three books in detail before I’d put fingers to keyboard. While I steered my children through the first five years of their lives, I kept myself sane by planning scenes in detail, which were finally realized when I wrote the series. Things just slotted in. I’ve never written so fast, or so slowly. It took years to put those scenes into place, and then they just flew.
I’m just starting to write the last book in the series. It’s the eighth book, and it will be called “Lisbon.” The seventh, “Maiden Lane,” has gone through edits and it’ll be out in March, with a lovely cover. Well I love it, anyway.
Saying goodbye to Richard and Rose is proving more traumatic than I’d ever imagined. I’ve made the plan, and usually I’ll write the book start to finish. When I’ve done it rarely needs much editing, as I edit as I go—something writers are told not to do, but it works for me.
I know where they’ll end up, in fact I’ve been planning this book since I started with “Yorkshire.” I worked out the dates to fit, and while I didn’t know the details until I started to plan it, I did know what I wanted to happen.
Do writers of long-running series featuring the same characters all feel like this? I don’t think so. When Conan Doyle killed off Sherlock Holmes, it was with a sense of relief, only to have to bring him back to life by public demand. Christie kept Poirot alive almost as long as she lived.
I just feel sad. Enough to remind myself that this is the end of the first cycle. It brings to a close a number of plot threads that have woven themselves throughout the first series, despite my best efforts to deal with them earlier.
I started this series, thinking that Richard would be a mild-mannered minor aristocrat, someone who ‘belonged’ just enough for aristocrats to trust him with their deep and dirty secrets. In the mid eighteenth century, the police force didn’t exist, and while crimes were usually prosecuted, it was far more haphazard than today, and crimes against property often had to be privately prosecuted. The aristocracy ruled, and they tended to keep their affairs to themselves, unless it was something as shocking as the Ferrars case, when Lord Ferrars cut his valet’s throat. But Ferrars was an odd fish, and had his enemies. Suicides could be hushed up as “accidents,” and murders might be dealt with in house, so to speak. I saw my hero as someone who would be like a consulting detective of the eighteenth century. I still have to write that hero.
Instead, I got Richard Kerre, Viscount Strang, heir to one of the richest earldoms in the country. When I wrote that scene in “Yorkshire,” when the two protagonists encounter each other in a derelict courtyard, I’d seen it. I sometimes “get” scenes like this, and if I don’t write them down, I lose them. But this one was too good to let go. I based the house in the story on Calke Abbey, a derelict stately home that the National Trust decided to preserve in the state they’d found it. It’s a fascinating place, very eerie, where anything could happen. So I made it happen. It formed the backdrop to Richard and Rose’s first explosive meeting.
It seems like no time at all, but now I’m writing the last one. And I’m sad. Although I could always come back and write another cycle in the future.
I do plan some spinoffs. My editor is very interested in seeing a story about Richard’s cousin Freddie. He arrived as a walk-on character, and just ended up staying. Now he’s getting his own story. I’ve just “got” his heroine, so I can start on his story to compensate for saying goodbye to Richard and Rose!

Richard and Rose
Yorkshire – meeting and falling in love.
Devonshire – smugglers and courtship
Venice – honeymoon and card sharps
Harley Street – secrets and married life
Eyton – great country house secrets and childbirth
Hareton Hall – the smugglers return, with a secret from Richard’s past
Maiden Lane – back in London, and some things are resolved.

All the books are available at Samhain Publishing. There are excerpts and links on my website.

Lynne Connolly,

No comments: