A friend of mine is working on a 'how to' book about writing and I've been pestering her to let me 'critique' the chapters. Not because I think I can help, but because I always learn something. I just finished reading her chapter on 'Setting' this weekend. As usual, it got me thinking.
Setting can be an integral part of a story. In my first book, Winning the Widow's Heart, the setting was isolated and the backdrop was winter. Those elements were woven so tightly into the story, if the editor had said -- "Change this to summer!" -- it would have been a time-consuming rewrite.
When you're writing a series of intertwined books, people become familiar with the setting. They walk the boardwalk of your town and sit beside you in church. As much as the buildings are a part of the story, the characters also become a part of the setting.
While each book in the series has its own unique Hero and Heroine, we look for those characters to drift in and out of subsequent books. Readers often request stories for their favorites.
If an author tires of the main setting--say a town, he/she can always pluck a character from their nice, safe existence and give them an adventure. Since readers are already familiar with the hero and/or heroine, they will follow them across the earth!
The trick is keeping the details straight. I have a single sheet of graph paper where I've set out the genealogy of my reoccurring characters: Names, dates of birth, who is deceased. Over the past year that paper has become quite saturated.
Think of the hugely-popular series, Downton Abbey. We have our favorite characters, and we eagerly park ourselves before the television each week and watch their stories unfold. The writers are savvy, and they add the occasional scene-stealer into the mix.
Personally, I adore a good series. I've read Sue Grafton from "A" to "V". I devoured all three books in the Love Inspired, Irish Bride Series. (The Wedding Journey, A Baby Between Them, and Mistaken Bride.) And I can name dozens more examples.
Readers love series! We love them because they're familiar, like coming home.
She's busily typing away on the second and third books in her Cimarron Springs series, and will release all the details as soon as they are available.