Bryant & May: In For The Long Run Part 2
In any crime series consistency is as important as originality.
You’re not pulling off the trick once but again and again, without repeating yourself or deviating too far from the elements that attracted your readership in the first place. But it’s also a race to see whether you or your readers tire first. I don’t find consistency a problem because I know the characters inside out and have their backstories in my head, so writing their scenes comes easily. However, there’s not much room in my head for anything else, which is why I forgot bin bags again when I went shopping today.
As for originality, I ask myself what readers would least expect me to do, and what they would most like me to do. I read all online replies and take many comments to heart. Recently I sat in on a chatroom and listened to readers discussing where they thought I’d gone wrong in an earlier book – it’s an instructive if sobering experience. Although a couple of them were mad.
Inevitably, most of us receive fewer reviews as a crime series progresses. ‘Oh, another volume with the same characters,’ space-pressed reviewers think, with some justification. ‘They don’t need the air of publicity, they have a loyal readership.’ It’s hard finding younger readers. The compliment I dread most is; ‘My (insert aged relative) loves your books’, which means “I am naturally far too busy to read foolish fiction but my (aged relative) who is housebound and barely lucid enjoys them as an alternative to watching Cash in the Attic.’
Will readers lose interest before I do? How do you continue to keep things fresh? I add in new characters, try different styles, tell (hopefully) better jokes, tuck references into the stories that reward loyalty. Whenever a new book in the series comes out, sales of the first novel rise. The most common question at signings tables is ‘Which book of yours should I start with?’ I suggest they start in the middle of the run. They creep off and buy ‘Full Dark House’.
I’ve not run out of ideas yet but eventually one of three things will happen. One, my detectives will become outdated and forgotten as time moves on around them. Two, they’ll achieve a certain timelessness that allows them to stay in print (desired outcome). Three, some farsighted or possibly deranged person will work out how to make a TV series of them.
I have a feeling the first option will come to pass – but you know what? That’s fine too. I’m in my dream job and it’s a wonderful journey.