As you may have guessed from the name of the series, these books are set in a wedding shop by the sea in Cornwall. Every book is bursting with wedding dresses and cakes and flowers…and, of course, weddings.
Back in 2015, when my lovely editor Charlotte Ledger suggested combining all my wedding book ideas into a series, I was very excited. But at the same time it was daunting, because I’d never considered doing a series before. A lot of series at the moment are short sections of a novel which are released at intervals, and eventually make up a whole book. Other series can be continuity ones, where the books have to be read in strict order, for them to make sense. But I decided that I wanted my series to be made up of full length books. And for me it was important that each book in the series could be read on it’s own, but with extra payback for the readers who read all the books. The challenge was to develop scenario that made this possible.
After a lot of deliberation I chose to set the series in a wedding shop, called Brides by the Sea. Yes, I have to admit, I fell in love with the idea of a location where you were able to hear the sound of the waves on the beach from the shop. And a shop filled with amazing dresses, and shoes, not to mention delicious cakes, was a dream come true for me to write. Each book takes one of the women from the shop as the central character. So there’s Poppy, a cake baker, Sera, – short for Seraphina – a dress designer, Lily, a florist, and Holly a photographer. With this ready made cast, all with very different, yet interesting careers and backgrounds, my series was set to go.
Obviously, the lovely wedding shop features in all the books. And the central characters and secondary characters reappear, popping up from book to book. But each book also visits different places and has different themes relating to the central character and their wider group of friends and family. And all the stories build, as the series grows.
So what are the challenges of writing a series?
Keeping track of all the characters is hard. It helps to have a good memory. As someone who’s been known to forget what my hero’s name is while writing a novella, writing multiple books with the same characters keeps me on my toes.
It’s important to make sure every book is different, and not repetitive. It helps that the seasons in the books vary. In the summer books I love writing about warm beaches and long balmy days by the sea, and flower filled meadows in the Cornish countryside. But it’s great in the Christmas books, because I get to describe how wild the sea is in winter, and of course, Christmas wouldn’t be Christmas without a large helping of snow.
For me it also helps that Poppy, Sera, Lily and Holly are very different people, and life takes them to very varied places. Poppy ends up being a wedding coordinator at a farm, to save her best friend’s rural wedding. Whereas Sera is head bridesmaid, trying to keep her sister’s posh, hideously expensive Christmas country house wedding on track. She turns to her friends from Brides by the Sea to save the day when that wedding goes all kinds of wrong. Lily is a florist, who reluctantly comes back to work on the styling side at the shop, and ends up working for a rival wedding venue. She spends the summer growing flowers for her mum’s bouquet, and kicking against a wedding she’d rather wasn’t happening. And Holly comes to the tiny attic flat above Brides by the Sea to hide away from Christmas and weddings. And ends up up to her ears in both. So although the settings are familiar, each of the four heroines stars in a book that is completely unique to her.
It can also be hard to keep details consistent in a series, especially when the stories overlap or take place at the same time. I decided that time-wise my stories would follow on from each other. My brain might have exploded otherwise!
As a series writer you have to set the scene, and introduce characters to new readers without too much repetition for readers who are already up to speed. This is hard to do well, but it’s easier when the story includes different settings which are new to everyone.
So what about the plus side of writing series?
For me, I love that writing a series lets me get to know my characters really well, because that definitely makes for better story telling, and better reading. It’s a fabulous feeling to carry on writing the next book with characters I already know and love. Characters really do become like old friends, the more time I spend with them. The other thing is, the more I get to now my characters, the more they tell me what they’re going to do. By the end of the series, I’m hoping they’ll make all their own decisions. And all I’ll have to do is to write them down.
For me, the hardest part of writing every book is leaving my characters behind when the story ends. With a series, I can hang out with my characters every day, for at least four books before we have to say that “goodbye”. For me this is blissful.
The other good thing about writing a series is that readers can come back and spend time with characters they know and love too. I really hope you fall in love with Poppy and Sera and Lily and Holly, and want to come and spend time at The Little Wedding Shop by the Sea – again and again.
This is the full list of the series books, in the order they take place:
BOOK 4 COMING LATER THIS YEAR
by author Jane Linfoot