Saturday, June 25, 2011

PR Special Edition (45): Erin O'Rourke Guest Post

Poisoned Rationality Special  Edition

Welcome to another Poisoned Rationality Special Edition!   Today we have Erica O'Rourke discussing stand alone books and books in a series!

Synopsis: Everyone has secrets. Even best friends.

Mo Fitzgerald knows about secrets. But when she witnesses her best friend’s murder, she discovers Verity was hiding things she never could have guessed. To find the answers she needs and the vengeance she craves, Mo  – quiet, ordinary, unmagical Mo – will have to enter a world of raw magic and shifting alliances. And she’ll have to choose between two very different, equally dangerous guys – protective, duty-bound Colin and brash, mysterious Luc.

Two guys. Two destinies. One wants to save her, one wants to claim her. Which would you choose?

 Sometimes, You Need A Bigger Boat

Trilogies are a very different beast than stand-alone titles. That sentence is likely to win an award for Most Obvious Statement Ever, but it’s still true. They’re longer, both in page count and time invested. By the end of this series, I will have written approximately a thousand pages set in Mo’s world, when you include bonus content and the many, many deleted scenes.  That’s…a lot of pages. And I’ll have been working on Mo’s story, in one form or another, for five years.

But it’s not ONLY page count and writing time that makes a series – witness Susanna Clarke’s . It took her ten years and eight hundred pages, and it is a brilliant novel. A brilliant, brilliant stand-alone novel. What separates trilogies (and other series with –ogy in the name) from single-title novels is that they are telling two stories at the same time. One is completed at the end of the book. The other is completed over the course of the series.

Eons ago, I road-tripped to Maine with my now-husband. Along the way, we stopped in Ohio to visit a friend; we stopped in Boston because it is awesome, we stopped in Vermont because if you can visit the Ben and Jerry’s factory, you should. We almost stopped in New York because we didn’t buy gas soon enough. That was one trip. Lots of events on the trip, but one trip. One story.
Alternate Cover design

My sister has decided to visit all fifty state in (approximately) alphabetical order. Each trip is a story. One of them is “that time I went to Alabama and ate oysters until I exploded” and another one will be “that time I agreed to go to Disneyworld with my sister and her three crazy children and her long-suffering husband,” and another one is “that time I went to the San Diego Zoo and almost bought a way-too-anatomically correct stuffed bull.” Each one is distinct, but together they tell another, larger story, of her desire for travel and her propensity for making obsessive lists, and why the funny stuff always happens to her instead of me.

One trip = stand alone. Fifty unconnected trips = fifty stand-alones. Fifty trips on a giant list?  Series.

In the case of Torn, the realization that Mo’s story was more trilogy than stand-alone was a gradual one. I knew I wanted to delve more deeply into the world of the Arcs, Luc and Colin’s murky pasts, and the troubles with Mo’s family. If I’d tried to do all of that in one book, not only would ever publisher on the planet have scoffed at me, but the story would have felt forced and drawn-out. The solution was a deliberate decision to write Torn as a stand-alone, with Mo’s character arc complete and the various plot threads resolved.
Erica O'Rourke

At the same time, I was careful to create a heroine that was a complicated, flawed individual – someone with plenty of room to grow. I made sure her world had layers and facets and ample conflict. And once I finished the book, I went back and and planted seeds for the rest of the series. Sometimes it was a single line of dialogue; sometimes it was how a scene unfolded or a bit of worldbuilding I thought might come in handy later. It was important to me that, if Torn was published as a trilogy, it felt like three connected books from the outset; not as if books two and three were tacked on.

There’s a line in Torn where someone tells Mo, “The rest of your life can’t be about grieving for your friend.” And that statement really encompasses her journey: how do you build a life when the one you’d planned on is knocked out from under you? How do you cope with the consequences of your actions? How do you balance your obligations and your dreams?

I figured those were big enough questions that I’d have plenty to write about, if I was lucky enough to find a publisher who wanted the series. And it turned out, I was exactly that lucky, and now I get to play with those questions and spend more time exploring characters I love. It is pretty much a dream come true.


Want to know more?  Check out Erica's website for more information!  And make sure to check out her Teen Book Scene Tour Stops by clicking the banner below!

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