It's always a pleasure to welcome my friend and fellow author H K Carlton back to my blog. As she approaches the end of her exciting series, Always Cambridge, H K and I spend a little time talking how the series started and what's coming up next.
NK: Thanks so much for joining me. I'm so excited to talk to you about Always Holly, the final book of your Always Cambridge series. Before we talk about Always Holly, I'd like to ask about the beginning of the series. I'll confess I'm asking for selfish reasons because writing a series is one of my writing career goals. Did you know from the very beginning this was going to be a series or did it start as a standalone novel?
HK: Thanks for having me Noelle. Perhaps I’m not the best person to give advice on series writing, unless we can all learn from my mistakes. LOL
NK: Oh stop! Always Cambridge is a great series and it’s part of the reason why I’m interested in writing one of my own. But go on...
HK: Thank you so much! (blushing)
I fell into this one. It was one of those plots or story lines that chose me.
Keep in mind, when I began writing Always Cambridge, I was still only writing for myself. So in the very beginning stages, I never intended for anyone else to see it let alone read it. I have always written—jotted things down for my own pleasure. But it got to the point where I had to write things down to get them out of my head. But once I did, it left room for other stories. I didn’t have any set rules. I hadn’t been introduced to editors or guidelines or formatting yet. I didn’t know what I was doing. I just wrote; whatever came to my mind, it went down. In long hand on paper. I didn’t even have a laptop at that point and trying to fight three school age children for a turn on the desktop PC was near impossible. I hadn’t been published or even accepted for any of my other works, when the saga began. If memory serves me correctly, I had subbed Swap (an erotic romance) and You Found Me (historical romance), but had not yet heard back. And to that point had only experienced rejection letters. I had no idea if I even had the chops to sub let alone ever be published. But happily, by the time I finished the AC series, I had.
I never intended to write a series. Always Cambridge in its first incarnation was a standalone. But once I got to what I thought was THE END, I found out quickly, that it wasn’t. I had more questions that needed to be answered, and I originally went back to satisfy my own curiosity. But when I returned to tie up the loose ends, every time I wound one up, there was just more and more. The story just kept evolving and growing and I went with it.
NK: I never would have guessed that you hadn’t intended Always Cambridge to be a series, but I can see what you mean about unanswered questions and loose ends. Was there any one question or plot point that made you think, “Oh, I think there’s another book here?”
HK: The main one was I wanted to know precisely what Holly had been up to the six years that she and Randy were separated. The way it was the first time around, I just sort of glossed over the specifics of how Holly had come to the FBI, after she’d deserted the family. And once I began to develop that line, Alex made his way into the story in a big way and became the voice of the second book, Running. But throughout the series, Alex is Holly’s rock. He’s her sounding board, her consciousness, her voice of reason. Every time her world comes crashing down around her, when the dust clears, there is strong, capable, SSA Alex Orton, to save her from herself.
Also, the way I’d left off in the first version of Always Cambridge, Holly and Randy escape into Witness Protection and that was the end. I thought the reader could make up their own minds and imaginations whether Holly and Randy made it without their enemies coming for them. But that wasn’t good enough for me. I had to know what happened to them. And in developing that part of the story (and in conjunction with the Alex story line) the irresistible Victor Mayhue, reared his oh-so-lovely head, and Holly wasn’t the only one that fell for him. The charming bad boy just kept coming at me and every time I tried to give Holly and Randy the HEA that had always been the entire premise for this story, Victor was there, telling me, it wasn’t over. And he was right. It really showed me that the characters are really the ones who are in charge of things. The author is just the conduit and along for the ride.
And once the characters had all presented themselves and where they wanted to go, well, justice just had to prevail. Right?
NK: One of things I like best about the Always Cambridge series is how each book is its own self contained story but you still maintain the continuity from the prior stories. How difficult was it keep the balance between old plots and new ones? I know that's the challenge of writing a series and I know it's what kind of scares me as I think about attempting it.
HK: This series is a proper saga, in which each new instalment begins precisely where the last ended. They might be self contained stories, but the books truly must be read in sequence. Once I realized it was going to be several books and that I was going to try and get it published, I tried to write the remainder as if it were a stand alone—a giant one with over 300,000 words. What I found difficult was trying not to be too repetitive. Because it was a continuing saga, I didn’t want to keep rehashing the same things, but I wanted to gently remind the reader where Holly was coming from and maybe why she was making the decisions she was. That it was all a product of her upbringing that drove her combined with her need to see justice done. In writing it like it was just one big book, I think kept the continuity needed to avoid too much repetition.
NK: What was it specifically about Always Cambridge that intrigued you enough to create a world for these characters?
HK: I think what intrigued me enough to pursue this story was that in one way, I could relate to Holly on so many levels because in fact there is a lot of me in Holly, to a point. But on the other hand, there are other aspects of the story that I know absolutely nothing about and cannot even relate to. Especially the violence and brutality. I could draw a true parallel between truth and fiction. They say write what you know, which in a way, I did, but on the flip side, what do I know about mob-life or the FBI. What I know about the mob can be summed up between Goodfellas and the Godfather (which I have not even watched in its entirety) And as for the FBI, I’m a diehard Criminal Minds fan. But I did do a tiny bit of research on the Bureau when I realized this series was going to be published.
With this story, I could go anywhere I wished. There were no rules. And so different from anything I had created before. I wrote smut and historical. This was new and different and exciting.
NK: Since you’re just wrapping up one series, I know this is the last question you want to hear, but I’ll ask it anyway because I’m annoying like that. J Do you think you’ll write another series?
HK: I already have, ’cause I’m annoying like that, too. :p
Another one that was unintentional though. Last January, my beloved editor from MuseItUp, Susan, sent me a submission call for a new collection that MIU was exploring. Wild Darkness Calls—an assortment of short paranormal erotic romance stories. Susan was my editor on The Devil Take You (historical romance) and I jumped at the chance to work with her again. TDTY was an enormous project and I was so new to this stuff when she was given that mess. I can just imagine her head hitting the desk repeatedly when the poor woman was given the unenviable task of making that raw massive wordy manuscript flow. I knew the story was good, but man, it was chaotic. But she helped me make it something I’m extremely proud of. Anyhoo, paranormal is not really my thing, although, I love time-travel novels (and penned one of those too) J (Shameless plug, Lost Time)
So, for this Dark short (oh and the word dark had to be incorporated into the title as part of the guideline requirements) I wrote about a couple who take part in one of those ghost-adventure, paranormal investigation type deals and end up being possessed by some randy spirits. And at the end of that story, (same type situation as the runaway train that was Always Cambridge) I found there was more to the story. I don’t write small. Short stories don’t work for me. I am way too wordy (as you can tell by this rambling piece). Needless to say this one op story turned into seven. And the first story in the Lustful Possession Series - Meet Me in the Dark, comes out later this year or early in the new year (not sure yet) but I don’t have to tell you, Noelle, about uncertain release dates. (wink) But I threw all my favs into this one. It bends genres (which I love to do) and there’s a little historical time-travel (book 3) along with the ghosties and we take a UK trip, mid-series. Not Scotland this time though, which is my usual destination of choice. J The stories were intended to be m/f, but there is also an m/m relationship that develops between some secondary characters which take over in the later books, then back to m/f to close it out. (for readers like me who don’t mind reading any combination of coupling). But unlike the AC Series, which follows the same characters throughout, this story explores several completely different storylines and characters and does not conclude with the original couple.
NK: Thanks so much for stopping by and sharing your thoughts on writing Always Cambridge. It’s a great series and I hope everyone reads the thrilling conclusion!
HK: Thank you so much, Noelle. I can’t wait to find out where your muse takes you and your series. And you’ll have to promise me now, I get the exclusive at Pick a Genre! J
Follow the saga from the beginning… Always Cambridge
H K Carlton is a multi-published Canadian author of romance and its varied sub-genres including contemporary, paranormal, historical, time-travel and erotic.
H K’s Blog Pick a Genre Already