Wednesday, July 7, 2010

All's well that ends well

I'm finishing up the final tweaks on INK FLAMINGOS. This book is the fourth in my tattoo shop mysteries, and most likely the last one. Who decides that? The publisher looks at the sales numbers and decides whether it's profitable to continue. Sadly, while I haven't gotten the "official" word on that, it's not looking good for my series.

That said, I'm really proud of these books. I wasn't sure that I even wanted to write them at first. My then-editor had told me that the publisher didn't want any more Annie Seymour books (see reason above) and suggested that I write another series. After coming up with some lame possibilities, she said she was looking for a tattoo shop mystery series. I pointed out that I had no tattoos, that I was not privy to that world. But she said she was confident I could do it, so after some soul searching, I decided to give it a try.

Research for this series has been fun: talking to tattooists, tattooed people, reading about the history of tattoos, watching YouTube videos and, of course, those two trips to Vegas. I have grown to really love my characters: Brett has grown, albeit slowly, but you'll see some real changes in her at the end of DRIVEN TO INK and especially in INK FLAMINGOS. Bitsy, Joel, and Ace are fun supporting characters, and I have had a real hoot writing Sylvia Coleman. Jeff Coleman was the biggest surprise. He wasn't even included in the first proposal and has grown to be a character I would love to keep learning about.

So finishing up INK FLAMINGOS is rather bittersweet. More so than just finishing another book. It's finishing a series, saying goodbye to a world I've created and enjoyed immersing myself in.

I get a lot of emails asking if Annie is coming back, but like Brett, I've said goodbye to her, too. It took a while to get over that; Annie's world was much closer to my heart, although Brett's showed me that I am not just a one dimensional writer, that I can write about something other than my own hometown and my own profession. I've learned a lot writing these two series, but as with Annie, in this last tattoo shop mystery, I have left Brett in a good place.

Do you read series? How do you feel when you know a book will be the last?

14 comments:

Dru said...

I'm sad to hear this news. I love this series. Would increase sales keep the Tattoo series continuing?

I hate to see a series ending, but I do like for it to have a conclusion if the author knows beforehand that the book will be the last in the series.

Any plans for another series?

AnswerGirl said...

I will be sad to say goodbye to Brett and Co., but would rather be left wanting more than exhausted by a series that has overstayed its welcome. Series have lifespans. It's hard to keep a formula going past the sixth book or so, unless you start experimenting (as Laura Lippman and Faye Kellerman have, for example) with giving us stories from other characters' points of view.

Whatever you write next, I look forward to reading!

Karen Olson said...

Dru, increased sales would definitely help. But at this point, unless there's a huge run on the third book, it's pretty much over. I'm so thrilled that you love the series.

No plans for another mystery series now. I'm actually working on a YA book that could be a series, and it's fun to write something that's completely different.

Clair, you're right about series overstaying their welcome.

Marjorie said...

Karen, I'll do my personal best to get as many of the books sold as I can in September! But perhaps four in each series is how it's meant to be. As long as I don't have to wait very long for the next series from you.

I love series (even more than standalones) as long as the characters develop (and yours do). In fact, what I can't wait to find out in the last two books is if Brett and Coleman do ge....oh, nevermind. I'll have to wait and see. That's part of the fun. Thank you for what you do.

--Marjorie

Karen Olson said...

Marjorie, you are exactly the kind of reader I love! And perhaps a series really should only be four books. While I haven't had to write more than four in a series, I can see how after five or six it would be tough to keep it going, unless you really change things up, as Clair points out.

Clea Simon said...

I agree with the comment above about how series can overstay their welcomes, but neither of yours did and I am sad. AH well, onto bigger and better things!

Kay said...

Oh Karen! :-( This makes me so sad! I absolutely *love* this series & just this weekend turned both a friend & her sister on to it. I'm always sad to see a series end, but in this case I'm rather heartbroken.

I'm with Marjorie above, I'm anxious to see what happens with Brett & Coleman (love the last name bit.)

Barb Goffman said...

I also hate it when a beloved series ends. If I know a series I adore is over, and I have one unread book of it left, I'll likely leave that book unread on my shelf for ... could be years. I would much rather know that there's still another book in the series waiting for me (even though I never actually read it), than to know the series is over. Of course I guess I eventually will have to read the last book, or else it might as well not have been written. But when I'll get to that point, I'm not sure.

Natasha Fondren said...

This spring, I finished two series I concurrently wrote for three years or more. It was sad, but I learned a lot about writing series, so I'm really excited to apply that knowledge to my next series. It's the first series I've started where I know how the series will end, so that's interesting to me. The ending is possibly five or nine books away, but I'm looking forward to it.

Still... I miss my old world. I sorta wish I could do it again but better.

David Terrenoire said...

You know how much I admire your professionalism in this business. You're a trouper and you've turned out some books you can be proud of.

That said, a series should be finite, I think.

Poodle Springs was a book too far, even for my favorite character. Although you can't blame Chandler for that. I thought the Easy Rawlins series was just right. Even Westlake's Dortmunder novels seemed to grow tired after a few, not that I've read them all.

I have ambitions for this new WIP to be a wartime series, but three I think is still the max. Because three is the magic number, right? The Three Blind Mice, The Three Stooges, Manny Moe and Jack, Three Strikes and the Holy Trinity seem to bear that out.

Regardless, I know you have many more books in you.

Me? I think Panamanian Moon was the result of a hormonal imbalance. We'll see.

becky hutchison said...

Karen, I'm so sorry I won't be able to read Brett's stories after Ink Flamingos. I have really enjoyed the new series.

I do agree, though, about a series that goes past it's expiration date. I started reading Patricia Cornwell's Scarpetta mysteries, but after the fifth one, it didn't seem fresh any more. The same with Elizabeth George's Inspector Lyndley series (although I thought the PBS/BBC shows were wonderful and was sad they cut it off at Season Six).

However, I know you'll land on your author feet like a cat with many lives and go on to bigger and better things. I'll look forward to hearing about and reading your new endeavors. (You will keep the blog going, right? And share your ups and downs with the new YA book?)

Karen Olson said...

David, I like trilogies. A story arc that spans three books, no more. Less of a commitment.

I'm planning a trilogy for my YA (of course hoping that the first one sells!).

Becky, I will keep blogging and writing and hoping for another contract. It's a crazy business, but I can't imagine not writing.

I agree about Cornwell's series. I got tired of it after about four or five books; when she brought Wesley back from the dead, I'd had it. It jumped the shark.

Bonita Ramsey said...

Yesterday I read Sacred Cows and today I read Secondhand Smoke -- I so enjoyed your writing that I came to your website to see what else I could read...dismayed..I have two more books to read about Annie and *poof* shes gone..I'll be reading the tatoo series next...but I want Annie & Vinny BACK!!!! (at least that is who I hope she ends up with) Keep writing and I'll keep reading

Anonymous said...

Hi Karen,

Well, this news sucks, but I won't feel too bad about it because I know you and am confident that you'll come back with something brilliant.

I know this because you managed to turn me on to, and make me an advocate of, a series set in Vegas featuring a tattoo artist--two things that I would normally have no interest in, but that I came to love. And you managed to do it at a time when I was completely immersed in the world of Annie, and thought there could be nowhere worth going from there.

I was wrong.

So I have no doubt that whatever you do next will be brilliant because you have the talent and the ambition and you are one hell of a character yourself...

John