Writing Series with Anne Barwell

July 6, 2015



Thanks for hosting me.

I’m Anne Barwell and Family and Reflection is my 9th release with Dreamspinner Press. I live in New Zealand, and in my other job I work in a library. Family and Reflection is also book 3 of The Sleepless City, an urban fantasy series which is a joint project with Elizabeth Noble.

When we started discussing ideas for The Sleepless City we soon realised that it would need more than one book to tell the story. As our writing schedules and styles are quite different, we decided to alternate writing the books. I’ve written book 1, Shades of Sepia, and book 3, Family and Reflection. Elizabeth has written book 2, Electric Candle, and book 4, Shifting Chaos.

One of the reasons I love writing series is that it gives the opportunity to explore characters and their world in much more depth. With each book I learn something new about these characters, and given that several of them are vampires, there’s a lot of history to catch up on. It reminds me in a way of peeling an onion, in which each new layer reveals itself when something triggers a memory or relates the past to the present. Also, with the focus of each book on different characters, although keeping the ensemble feel of the series, it meant that all the characters had the chance to grow as the overall story progressed. Several minor characters also demanded more air time, and turned up with hints of interesting back stories. It’s a good thing we’re both writing spin off series after The Sleepless City arc is finished.

The other reason is that a series lends itself to a much more complicated plot. While each book has closure in regard to the immediate crisis/mystery, strands from earlier books come together with each subsequent part of the story to give a more complete picture. Continuity is really important when the series is an arc rather than stand alone stories set in the same universe, so many of the story elements were plotted out before book 1 was even written. Then, as things happened when we wrote our parts of The Sleepless City, we added to our already extensive series and character notes.

Most of my other books are part of series too… Who am I kidding? They all want sequels or have sneaked into a series by becoming a prequel to something I haven’t written yet. I can’t write a standalone story to save myself, although I like to leave my characters in a good place at the end of each book and tie up the immediate storyline. I also like to include enough information so new readers can read out of order and still follow the plot, although there are references to things that have happened in previous books too.

My current WIP, One Word, is a good example of this. This story is a side novel to my first book Cat’s Quill—it’s Donovan and Ethan’s story as to what happened while Tomas and Cathal were… oops sorry, spoiler for those who haven’t read the series. Anyway, it’s a fun juggling act, so that readers who haven’t read my Hidden Places series can follow this story, but not info dumping to the point that others have to re-read what they already know. One of my beta readers has read all my books, while another is new to this series and deliberately hasn’t read the others so between them they can make sure I’m getting that balance right.



Do you like stories which are told over several books, or do you prefer everything to be tied up in a neat bow at the end of one book? I’d love to know which, and why, and am offering a free ebook from my backlist to someone who comments on this post. DSP will draw the winner after 48 hours.



Family and Reflection
Book 3 of The Sleepless City, Sequel to Electric Candle
For as long as Lucas Coate can remember, werewolves have been taught to mistrust vampires. Lucas is an exception—he has close friends who are vampires. The werewolf pack in Flint—and their leader, Jacob Coate—have made it clear that Lucas’s association with vampires is barely tolerated, and another transgression will be his last. When Lucas finds out about the plague of werewolf deaths in the area, he wants to help even though his own life may already be in danger.

Declan has been away from Flint for ten years, but he isn’t surprised to learn that the internal politics of the Supernatural Council haven’t changed for the better. When a series of burglaries hit close to home soon after he arrives, Declan—a vampire and professional thief—is their prime suspect, although for once, he isn’t responsible. With the council keeping secrets, no one is safe. Time is running out, and for Lucas and Declan, everything is about to change.


Buy Links:
eBook: http://www.dreamspinnerpress.com/store/product_info.php?products_id=6464
Paperback: http://www.dreamspinnerpress.com/store/product_info.php?products_id=6465



“Someone has stolen from the council, Mr. Declan,” Hillary said. “Are you denying you’re responsible?”

“That depends. Are you accusing me?” Declan replied, giving her the incredulous look her comment deserved before continuing. “I’m sorry, Mrs. Lassiter, but if I was a thief, I wouldn’t be stupid enough to steal from the council. My friends work for you, as do I on occasion. We have no argument with you.”

At least they hadn’t lately, Declan added silently. Anyway, just because he could break into the council vault, it didn’t mean he had.

“The items stolen did not belong to the council itself. This is personal.” Hillary stood. She sounded angry. “Someone broke into my home last night and stole something from my bedroom while I slept!”

“Well, it wasn’t me,” Declan said. No wonder the council was upset. Whoever was doing this either had a death wish or was trying to make a point. He shrugged. “You need to read up on vampires. You’re human. I can’t enter your home unless you invite me in.”

“Some of your kind don’t need to follow that rule,” she said.

Jacob cleared his throat. “Declan isn’t old enough, Hillary.” Only a very old vampire could enter a private home uninvited. “There are ways around that rule, however, and we are not sure this burglar is working alone.”

“What if he had already been invited in?” she said, ready to argue the point. “My husband’s family has owned the house for over twenty years. It was robbed fifteen years ago, the day after we’d had a tradesman there to fix the phone. People invite tradesmen in all the time. I checked the council records. Declan was in Flint then too.”

“That still doesn’t mean it was me,” Declan pointed out. He thought back. Lassiter. Lassiter. Oh, right. No wonder her name seemed familiar. That robbery fifteen years ago probably had been him. He’d burgled a few homes in Flint around that time by posing as a tradesman a few days beforehand. Once he’d been invited in, it was forever, or at least while that particular human was still living there.

“It doesn’t mean it wasn’t, either,” Jacob said. He steepled his fingers, his brows creasing in thought.

“Mrs. Lassiter implied this meeting was because I needed your help,” Declan reminded him.
“I don’t. Don’t accuse me of something unless you have proof.”

“Do you have an alibi for last night?” Jacob asked.

“Yes,” Declan said. He took a deep breath and blew it out. Jacob was going to love this one. “Lucas. Your son.”

Jacob didn’t seem surprised at the revelation. Was he keeping an eye on Lucas despite telling his son he wanted nothing more to do with him? Perhaps he still cared. For all their differences, Lucas was family, and that was important to the pack.

“All night?” Jacob asked after everyone else in the room had turned their heads to stare at Declan.

“No,” Declan had to admit. He wasn’t sleeping with Lucas and wasn’t about to imply he was. Lucas had enough family issues without them thinking he was involved with a vampire. Which he wasn’t. “We got home about three this morning.”


Blog: http://anne-barwell.livejournal.com/
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40 Responses to “Writing Series with Anne Barwell”

  1. Angela says:

    Hi Anne,
    Congrats on the release of Family and Reflection.

    i love both, i love standalones because you can read the book and it is nice when all is resolved in one book.

    But i also like series because sometimes the characters and the story just need more then one book so that they can develop fully. However the serie shouldn’t have to many books because often it starts to repeat itself (if you know what i mean).

  2. Andrea M says:

    I prefer stand alones in a series, each story completely told, with the next book picking up the secondary characters but keeping us in touch with the past primary characters. Two reasons for this – some authors have for some reason, decided not to abandon a series and the other, quite frankly, is my age and health. Reading is about the only true pleasure I have left and when I start a new series, I always wonder if I’ll be around to find out how it ends. So – much rather have a series with stand alone books.

  3. Trix says:

    I tend to prefer standalones in a series, with each installment concentrating on a different character. (I always get interested in a side character in the first story, and want to see resolution for him!)

  4. Su says:

    I enjoy reading nice long books that form part of a series, with prequels, sequels, stand alone titles, spin offs, and interconnected books (new series) that may show characters stories in the future or the past or new characters with a mention or cameo appearance of familiar ones. I think its because I grew up reading the books of authors like Mercedes Lackey (Valdemar), Ursula Le Guin, Tanya Huff, Fiona Patton, Marion Zimmer Bradley and all the interchanging stories, characters over many generations, plus the worlds they created. Many of these books also introduced me to LGBT characters.

    Congratulations on your latest publication and thank you for the chance to win one of your titles :D

  5. Anne Barwell says:

    Angela – good points. Some stories do need to be just one story or a series reaches its natural end. I’ve read some series which really needed to have ended books ago. End on a high note and all that.

  6. Victoria Typpi says:

    I love it when stories are drawn out into several books rather than just one. That way I get to see more of the characters I love rather then just reading one book with them in it and then be left wanting for more!

  7. H.B. says:

    Congrats on your new book release! I guess it depends on how well o like the character and the story line. Sometimes I fall so in like with the character that I just want to read more of them at other times I just want a book to end because I got to see the characters happy ending or HFN.

  8. Jen CW says:

    It really depends on the characters and the type of story. If the story revolves pretty much around only the MCs and there’s no suspense or mystery or action storyline then I tend to like it wrapped up. That being said, there are a lot of series that I have read where I have loved the characters enough that another book or two is great. Life changes and not all stories can be straightforward and simple. If the characters are especially complex is another time I can see more than one book on them.

  9. Anne Barwell says:

    Andrea M – that’s a good point. There was one series I read and got quite involved in that never got finished because of health problems. There’s a couple of TV shows like that too.

    Although most of the series I’m writing now continue a story, I do try and tie up loose ends so there’s closure for that part of the story and the characters are left in a good place. I’m not a fast writer and at least that way readers aren’t left on a cliffhanger.

  10. Anne Barwell says:

    Trix – I always find myself getting interested in the side characters too. I think it’s good to explore different characters in a series, instead of sticking to the same ones.

  11. Anne Barwell says:

    Su – Thanks, and I’m a big Tanya Huff fan too. I loved her Blood books – Henry is one of my favourite book vampires. Those are the kinds of books I grew up reading too, with worlds and interconnected characters revisited over generations. I like to write that way too as it’s what I like to read.

  12. Anne Barwell says:

    Victoria – Characters are one of the big reasons I love series. Reading a new book is like spending time with old friends. I get attached to character when I read – and when I write too.

  13. Anne Barwell says:

    HB – Thanks, and yeah that’s exactly it. Some characters I fall in love with and want more, and others I just want them to get their happy ending but that doesn’t mean I want to revisit them by reading another book.

  14. Anne Barwell says:

    Jen CW – That’s a good point about the story. There needs to be both that and characters to sustain a series. Some stories are straightforward and tied up easier. Although I write series, I have one story which I felt the guys’ story was done and revisiting wasn’t the right thing to do. They will be turning up in a future series, but only as cameos/side characters – it’s not going to be about them.

  15. Sara says:

    It depends a little. Most of the time I prefer single titles with a pretty tied up end – though I don’t mind open ends occasionally. If I’m reading a book in an ongoing series I often forget parts of story line or lose interest due to other books coming in-between during the waiting time for the next book. If I find a good, intriguing series which is already finished/complete I am a very happy reader and I will read them all during a short period of time, one after the other; I’m the same with TV-series nowadays (guess we can blame modern technology and the internet, 21st century people have no or little patience). But stand alone books in the same universe are a different matter, more than once I’ve started with the latest book in such series and then moved on to the others, completely out of order but based on my interest from the blurb.

  16. Anne Barwell says:

    Sara – I know what you mean about forgetting parts of the storyline if it’s a while between books in a series. It’s one of the reasons I try to recap a bit or put the important info in there somewhere in the new book so someone who hasn’t read any of the series before – or in a while – can pick it up and follow along no problem.

    I often read books in a series out of order too.

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