We all make second choices in life: main course for dinner, careers, the next spouse, and what series of books we write. Actually, third, fourth and even fifth choices happen for many of us, but that’s another topic. I’ll keep with two here and stick to books.
My initial series choice was not medieval. I wrote the first volume, in a projected six book series, set in a fictional small town just north of San Francisco. Favas Can Be Fatal was contemporary, cozy, featured an amateur sleuth, and required minimal research. It was also easy to write because it was in first person. Major snap! All I had to do was burrow into the head of one character and write the dialogue as the action rolled through my brain like a movie. Looking back at the book, I see elements that slid into the medievals as well: food (I like it), weather (I hate it), cats (they wouldn’t let me write otherwise), and quirky details (I’m eccentric). For the book after Favas, I had a title, the first chapter, and an ending scene.
It never got written. What happened?
Nothing really bad. The book did get published, although it never caught on and all copies probably hit the shredder ages ago. What happened is that I got hooked on my second choice.
Doing a first person book was more natural, but I found the POV had major limitations. If I wanted to develop a series beyond six books, I needed more plot complexity, variety in character perspective, and many interesting character voices to keep the series fresh. Third person is a struggle, but it gave me a richer canvass and lots of latitude. It also let me explore an era I have always found fascinating. Now I could finally link history and literature.
So what would I have written if Prioress Eleanor and Brother Thomas had been my first choice and then gone the way of Alice in Favas? I could list some ideas, but second choices often sneak up on us and shout “surprise”. I wouldn’t have written police procedurals for numerous reasons, but who knows what character would have given me such a headache that I would have been forced to let him or her out into the printed world?