The biggest on-going challenge for me as the writer of a series featuring an amateur sleuth is to find plausible ( the operative word) reasons why my protagonist, police psychologist Dr. Dot Meyerhoff, gets drawn into crime solving when her real job is counseling cops. Much as I like the British TV series Rosemary and Thyme, I get a little bored knowing that each new gardening job will be in a gorgeous setting where they will, without fail, discover a body in the bushes. Finding new and different ways to involve Dot in a criminal investigation, especially when she's been forbidden to do so by the chief of police, requires some inventive chops. It's the first thing I have to consider after figuring out who did what, to whom and why?
My second biggest challenge is aging my characters. Dot is nearing fifty in the first book. I like writing a mature protagonist because life gets increasingly interesting with age. She's broken-hearted after her first husband leaves her for a younger woman. Dragging her into a new relationship took some effort on my behalf. But now she's committed to Frank. Or is she? Camille's tip #10, postpone the wedding (10/24/16), has me worried. Frank and Dot frequently fight about how much time she spends at work. But that sort of one note bickering can get old for the reader. I'm going to have to find something else for them to fight about. There are a number of crime writers who successfully use the richness of married life in their books. Think about Louise Penny, Deborah Crombie, even Richard Price in The Whites.
Most days, the pleasures of writing a series exceed the challenges. I love learning about my characters. You can tell by the way I talk about them as though they are real people. The time you get when writing a series allows the author to create her characters' pasts and imagine their futures. Like Dot, I am a working psychologist. Character development is similar to doing long term therapy. In short term therapy, the best you can do is problem solve. Whereas long term therapy allows you time enough to build a safe, solid relationship with the client so that you can delve into unexplored territory. And unexplored territory is where the mystery lives.