One Way to Grow a Series of Novels

Writing a series can be challenging because of pesky issues like enough—but not too much—backstory, keeping characters’ names, physical attributes and personalities consistent, and keeping the stories fresh. Today Alice Orr talks about how she planted this garden and keeps it thriving in her Riverton Road series. Her latest in the series is A Villain for Vanessa. Welcome, Alice!

A Villain for Vanessa 200 Image  - Prefer for Guest Blogs & Online PromoA fiction series is a living thing. To keep it alive the author must keep it growing. She must never allow it to stagnate.

An important component of a growing series is its location. In my Riverton Road Romantic Suspense series, the setting is a place I know well, the North Country where I grew up. Not the actual North Country, but an idealized version. A town and region airbrushed into a fantasy hometown for me and my readers.

We want to return there again and again because we can’t get enough of Ginny’s Coffee Corner or Jeremy’s Lounge. Or in Book 4 of the series, A Villain for Vanessa, we can’t get enough of the beautiful, though sometimes perilous St. Lawrence River. Plus there are more irresistible Riverton venues to come, and sinister ones too, because my North Country is alive and growing.

Each book revolves around a suspense story. Usually that story is a murder situation, but this won’t always be the case. Gripping suspense arises from threat and terror, and many circumstances can spawn this chilling duo. Keep reading to find out what, why and who future villains may be. I switch up subject matter to keep my series alive and growing.

Most of all Riverton Romantic Suspense focuses on family. The Kalli family of Riverton Road appears in three books so far. Book 1 – A Wrong Way Home; Book 2 – A Year of Summer Shadows; Book 4 – A Villain for Vanessa. So what about Book 3 – A Vacancy at the Inn? Let me share my thinking with you.

Wrong-Way-HomeI love the Kalli family – Angela, Gus, their four gorgeous sons and, in A Villain for Vanessa, their de facto adopted son Bobby. My readers tell me they also love the Kalli family. I worry all the same about stretching their scenario too thin. So in Book 3 – A Vacancy at the Inn, I introduce the Miller family of Miller’s Inn on Riverton Road Hill.

The matriarchs – Angela Kalli and Millicent Miller – are good friends. Riverton is a small town after all. We expect everybody to know everybody else, and everything about everybody else. What’s unexpected is that A Vacancy at the Inn has no murder in it, because that wouldn’t be suitable for a Christmas story in my opinion.

Will this softer plot turn continue as the Miller daughters and their friends reveal their tales? I can tell you now that Book 5 is about Amanda Miller, and some scary stuff may happen to her. I can also tell you there will eventually be a third Riverton household quite different from the Kalli family and the Millers. A household of single mothers sharing a home to make financial ends meet and for mutual emotional support as well.

Why am I bothering with these changes and machinations, besides to make sure my series stays vibrant and filled with surprises? I do it because I want to remain in Riverton, New York for a long time to come. Nothing beats a lively trip back home.

A Villain for Vanessa

A story of tangled roots and tormented love.                                 

Two families are shaken to their roots. Vanessa Westerlo must find her roots. Bobby Rizzo is torn between Vanessa and his true roots. They are all tormented by love – past and too present. Meanwhile a man has been murdered. And that is the most tormented tangle of all.

About the Author:

Alice-Orr“Alice Orr is a brilliant writer who has a number one best seller in her pocket,” says one Amazon reviewer. Alice loves to write. Especially romantic suspense novels and blog posts. She’s been a workshop leader, book editor and literary agent. Now she lives her dream of writing full-time. So far she’s published fifteen novels, three novellas and a memoir – either traditionally or independently. Alice wrote her nonfiction book, No More Rejections: 50 Secrets to Writing a Manuscript that Sells, as a gift to the writers’ community. A revised edition is now in progress. Amazon says, “This book has it all.” And calls her novels, “Delicious well written suspense spiced with a love story.” Most of all, Alice is thrilled to hear from readers. Visit her at her website Alice has two grown children and two perfect grandchildren and lives with her husband Jonathan in New York City.



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A Villain for Vanessa and Alice’s other books are available at and other online retailers.


6 thoughts on “One Way to Grow a Series of Novels

  1. Great post. I love series–reading and writing them. When I started my 1st book, I hadn’t intended it to be a series, so I didn’t keep track of the details. Learned my lesson! Now I do with all my books. Best wishes.

    • Hi Diane. I made the same mistake. No series bible. Now I’m playing catch-up with that. I’m creating it in my word files. I lift passages from the manuscripts – character descriptions, setting details, whatever seems relevant – and copy them into my bible file under the appropriate headings. I confess I haven’t done nearly enough of this. My excuse being the same as all of ours – we have no time. You’re jogging me to DO IT ANYWAY!. I told other writers that in my writing/publishing workshops for many years. Now I need to practice what I preach. Thank you for the reminder. Blessings. Alice

  2. I enjoyed hearing Alice’s take on writing the series. I always have trouble deciding how much backstory to put into a new book in my series. Personally, I don’t like it when a writer spends pages telling me all about the characters and what happened before this story. I want to get on with the new story. On the other hand, I know some backstory is necessary. The balance is difficult for me

    • Hi Maris. How lovely it is to find you on here. That how-much-backstory question is a real poser. I had a wake-up call on specifically that in this book A Villain for Vanessa. The father of the Kalli family – Gus – is a lovely guy and a good man, all well established in previous books of the series. In this story he has a deep-down, justifiable reason to be off-the-charts angry and he is. Unfortunately, one reviewer disliked him so much she refused to review the book. I reread and think he still comes off as he should in this situation BUT I agree I should have given more real Gus context too. In my opinion, this the backstory we need to concern ourselves with in series writing – character backstory, which is really more character personality and traits and behavior. That can be done in a concise sentence every now and then. We need to avoid great gouts of background info like the plague. Slows the pace and bores the reader. All of this is tough to do. I can attest to that myself. But of course we have to DO IT ANYWAY! Good luck with that. Blessings. Alice

  3. I’ve started the second book in what I hope to be a trilogy, and I hope I can avoid any pitfalls of too much/too little backstory. I have the first book in your series on my Kindle and look forward to reading it soon. Sounds riveting!

    • Hi Lucy. Keep an open mind about the trilogy concept. I started out thinking my Riverton Road Romantic Suspense series would be four books only. A safer prospect at that point on my terror spectrum about writing series in the first place. But, as I got into the writing, I found myself falling in love with the setting in particular, which is a quite idealized version of the North Country where I grew up. Specifically, I fell in love with remaking the place the way I wanted it to be, tailor-made for me. Then i found myself wanting to go to Riverton, again and again. Couldn’t get enough of the place. I live in New York City now, but I could go back to Alice from East Avenue anytime just by diving into my stories. The point is Engagement. The longer I spent in my story world, the deeper I submerged into it. The experience is nothing short of lovely for me now. So, I repeat, keep an open mind about the trilogy concept. As I say in this post on Elizabeth Meyette’s beautiful blog, “I want to remain in Riverton, New York for a long time to come. Nothing beats a lively trip back home.” And our series worlds are in fact imaginary Home for each of us. Besides, SERIES SELL! Blessings. Alice

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