In March, my first Patricia Stanley novel came out. I’m thinking now about what might happen in the next book in that series. I’m also planning the next in my Joel Williams series. I’m not sure when those next books will come out (right now I’m working on another project – a standalone novella), but I do know there will be at least one more story for each of those series. How long will the series last? I don’t know, and that question has got me thinking about series finales. How do authors know when it’s time to end a series?
Sometimes, of course, authors don’t make that decision. A publisher might end a series, or it might end abruptly with the author’s passing. But there are cases when the author decides that it’s time.
That’s what happened with Colin Dexter and his iconic creation, Inspector Morse. In an interview with The Strand, Dexter said he had no idea that the Morse series would be as successful as it was. But it was. There are thirteen books in the series, and plenty of fans would have wanted more. The television series based on the novels was also very successful. So, why did Dexter stop writing the series? Here’s what he said:
‘I didn’t get fed up with Morse, but I felt that everything was getting a little bit clichéd, that things lacked freshness…Certainly I was feeling a little tired and had a fairly busy life, but probably above all I felt I was running out of potential ideas.’
And Dexter was wise enough to end the series before he got too tired of writing Morse stories.
At the moment, Anthony Bidulka’s Russell Quant series is on hiatus. In part that’s because Bidulka’s moved on to other things. Is the series over permanently? Here’s what he had to say about the matter a few years ago:
‘I can tell you this: I never say never. So if you were to ask if the Russell Quant series is over, that would be my response. Should there never be another Russell Quant book, I feel I left him in a very good place at the end of the 8th book, Dos Equis. But that book could also be a great starting point for an interesting turn in his life both professionally and personally.’
There’s something to be said when a series ends (or pauses for a long time) on a high note. Readers feel a sense that all’s well (or will be well), and that can offer some closure, if that’s the word. It also gives the author the chance to write another story about the character if that’s what happens. And it doesn’t require bringing a character back from the dead…
Helene Tursten’s Göteborg-based Inspector Irene Huss has ‘starred’ in ten novels. The last, Protected by the Shadows, was published in 2012. It’s been a well-regarded, popular series that led to a television adaptation. In an interview with Publisher’s Weekly, Tursten explained why she ended the series:
‘After 10 books about Irene, I strongly felt that I had to recharge my batteries.’
She did this by creating a new series with a very different sort of protagonist. And it shows that sometimes, authors need to step back from a series. After all, writing a series can be draining.
On 10 September, Cat Connor will release Vapourbyte, the 12th and final entry into her Ellie (Conway) Iverson series. Iverson is an FBI Special Agent in Charge (SAC), which means she supervises several investigation teams. In the novel, what starts out as a botched kidnapping ends up in intrigue, frightening scientific possibilities, and murder. And that’s to say nothing of the global politics involved. These thrillers have followed Iverson’s professional career from her days as a Special Agent, and her personal life as well. Here’s what Connor had to say about ending this series:
Why did I decide to end the series now? I wanted to end it a couple of books back but the stars wouldn’t align. (Or Ellie wouldn’t be quiet, one or the other.)
We’re ending on the 12th book and not the 10th because now there will be four 3-book digital boxed sets (that last boxed set is on the cards for mid-2021).
But the real reason, that not so tidy and understandable reason … I saw the end of the series, maybe five books back. I saw how it ends, I just didn’t know then how that end would come to pass.
And then after Cryptobyte I knew the ending came next. I felt it in my bones.
And I prepared to say goodbye … although I could’ve prepared better. It’s not been easy saying goodbye to Ellie and Delta A.
So, with that knowledge I followed the story and as the end approached I realised I’d seen two endings. What I thought was the “END” was just part of one ending.
Hence, Vaporbyte is two books. Red and Purple. The endings are quite different. But the series does end.
It’s time for me to let Ellie go and to start playing with new characters.
So, the answer really is – it’s time.
What do you think? As a reader, do you get a sense that it’s time for a series to end? How do you know? If you’re a writer, how do you make that decision?
*NOTE: The title of this post is the title of a song by Harriet Wheeler and David Gavurin.