Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Sequels, Series, & Stand Alones—What's a Girl to Do?

Before I get into my main subject here, I thought I'd share a picture of some snowflakes we experienced this morning.  The photo doesn't do the flakes justice; those puppies were HUGE.  When I dropped my kids off at school, I thought a staff member was wearing a bow in her hair, but I realized it was a giant clump of snow that had landed on her head.  The flakes made loud smacking sounds as they hit my jacket.  It seriously felt like I was getting pelted on the losing end of a snowball fight with the heavens.

Anyway. . . the main thing I wanted to discuss this morning was the issue of sequels, series, and stand-alone novels.  What do you as a reader prefer?

Personally, I'm a fan of stand-alone books.  I think the creation and completion of a plot between the covers of one novel is an art form, and I love the thrill of working my way to a satisfying ending that blows me away.  However, I completely get the joy of a series.  Being able to continue a journey with beloved characters is also extremely gratifying, and I understand why both readers and publishers eat up sagas that stretch throughout several books.

I've been reading several young adult series lately, and I do have to say that I'm not a reader who can always handle the cliffhanger endings that won't get continued until a year later.  In the earlier days of fiction, when the works of authors like Dickens appeared serially, readers only had to wait a week or a month to receive the next installment of the series.  Today's readers typically have to wait three to twelve months.

On the one hand, waiting an entire year for a story isn't a bad skill to learn in our modern world of on-demand entertainment.  My eleven-year-old daughter isn't always the most patient person in the world, but even she can handle the suspense of a year's wait for a book.  However, if I'm personally not bowled over by the first installment of a series, I often won't seek out the second book—and I'm left with no ending.  I suppose that's the gamble involved in a series: you keep devoted readers, but you risk others falling by the wayside (others who might grumble about a lack of an ending).

As far as writing books go, I've been told that you don't want to necessarily sit down and write a series.  Write the first book with a potentially open ending, see if editors like it, and, at most, have an outline of ideas for further installments.   

My book that's currently out with publishers is a stand-alone novel.  It contains a definite ending.  Here's the problem, though: my main character won't get out of my head.  I think she wants me to tell more of her story.  She and I are a little at odds with another right now.  I've told her my opinions about the stand-alone novel as an art form, but she's a stubborn character and doesn't necessarily want to listen to my lofty views of literature.

We'll see what happens.  Perhaps her story will continue.  Maybe I'll play around with an outline and see if the ideas are worth pursuing.  For now, I'm reading both stand-alone novels and multi-book series and hoping the endings either leave me breathless for more or end with an unforgettable bang. 

Monday, February 14, 2011

The Infamous Tale of My Favorite Romantic Movie

I wrote the following post for another blog last year, but it's a favorite memory of mine—and it involves one of my absolute favorite films—so I thought I'd share the story with people who haven't yet read about my first encounter with A Room with a View.  A bonus for those of you who read the post last year: I'm attaching a short movie clip this time around.

Now that Valentine's Day is here, I thought I'd share a quick mention of a story surrounding my favorite romantic movie, A Room with a View, the Helena Bonham Carter period piece based on a novel by E.M. Forster.

When I was a high schooler, my sister started making fun of me for my enjoyment of what she called "tea-drinking films."  In other words, costume dramas, usually set in England, that involved pretty clothing and people turning to tea whenever they needed a pick-me-up. 

I already knew about A Room with a View from the Academy Awards and all the shots of that to-die-for kiss between Bonham Carter and Julian Sands in the amber fields of Italy. But the first time I actually saw any sizable scenes from the film was in our local grocery store.  My mom and I were in the checkout line, and we looked up at a TV screen in the video section (this was before DVDs, downloads, and anything else that didn't require rewinding). 

Immediately, we were greeted with the sight of three grown, naked men chasing each other around a pond.  And I don't mean the American movie version of naked men.  We saw it allin motionwhile they were running.  We cracked up.  Clearly, the manager of Vons saw the movie's case, thought, "Hm, a tea-drinking film," and had no idea he or she would be showcasing the male anatomy.  In motion.  While running.

In any case, it's a fantastic love story, naked men and all, and that scene in the amber Italian fields is one of the most passionate kisses on film. 

I'm including a clip of the kissing scene below.  The clip does NOT contain the scene with the naked men. Enjoy—and happy Valentine's Day.

Thursday, February 3, 2011


My agent sent me on a hunt for author cover blurbs this week, and two generous authors responded immediately, saying they were interested. I'm finding the young adult writing community to be extremely kind and supportive, and I'm so thankful for everyone's help.

Saundra Mitchell, who was nominated for an Edgar Award for her YA ghost story, Shadowed Summer, already sent me the following advance praise for In the Shadow of Blackbirds:
"Cat Winters deftly captures the darkness and the light of human nature with In the Shadow of Blackbirds. I swear, I can smell the smoke from the flash lamps and taste the electricity in the air—and the heroine, Mary Shelley Black's, dark and startling story lingers long after the final page."
     —Saundra Mitchell

Thank you, thank you, Saundra!!! I'm a fan of Shadowed Summer, so hearing such words from a talent I admire means a great deal. Saundra's next novel is The Vespertine, an otherworldly YA historical that debuts in March.