I came across two unconnected conversations today that meet at one point: the difficulty of sustaining a series.
First I saw this review at Paperback Reader.
"Single title romances that bloom into multi-book connected series carry a terrible burden. They must simultaneously stand alone, so that new-to-the-series readers can start at any point without feeling uninvited to the party, and they must effectively bridge the older books with the new, all the while setting up the books to come. Failing at the first leaves readers in the dark at best, or wondering if the plot and conflict were setup and resolved in another book—or books—at worst. Failing at the second makes writing a series pointless"
Then I saw Lee Goldberg's post about his brother's screed on mysteries. Lee comments:
"Stephanie Plum, Nero Wolfe, Phillip Marlowe, Shell Scott, Spenser, Elvis Cole, Kinsey Millhone, Jack Reacher, John Rain, Inspector Rebus... none of these characters have really changed in the course of their respective series. That's one of the pleasures and comforts of the books...you know exactly what you're going to get when you open one up."
True. But that's why I stopped reading them.
A successful series writer (in any genre - romance, SF/F, mystery) re-uses the same characters and situations that led to success in a first outing and DOES change the characters. Any worthwhile book involves character growth. When authors run out of ways to make their characters grow, they start writing bad books. Or they start focusing on other characters who were at first more peripheral, and move those who were once holding center stage off to the left a bit.
I've noticed Lois McMaster Bujold and Elizabeth George both doing the second. Diplomatic Immunity, latest in the Vorkosigan series, focused on a much wider range of characters than previous books just about Miles. Of George's three latest, one, A Traitor to Memory was written almost entirely from the point of view of a new character, and another, A Place of Hiding, heavily involved previously minor characters.*
Conversely, Elizabeth Moon, otherwise an excellent writer, seems to have lost control of her very popular Serrano series. Moon successfully transitioned from three books centered around Heris Serrano to a new arc centered on Esmay Suiza; her latest two entires suffered from fragmented action and multiple POV issues.
What are some series where the author has been successful in maintaining quality? Suggestions are very, very welcome.
*The other one I haven't read yet.