Why I Love Series
by Lindsey Kelk
When I was a little girl, the village library was my second home. By the time I got to secondary school at 11, I’d read everything in the children’s section of the library and the reluctant librarian had no choice but to direct me to the teen readers. It must have been tricky, she was so keen to encourage my passion for books but not so keen on pushing me into the romance section before my time. But there was no stopping me. I immediately hit the nearest spinner, drawn to a pastel pink paperback with a picture of two blonde girls smiling at me. This was the beginning of the end. Sweet Valley High, Double Love. I quickly became obsessed with the books and hopelessly jealous of the Wakefield twins’ perfect Californian lives, Sweet Valley was a long way from the mining village in South Yorkshire where I grew up. But the best part was, unlike the Sweet Dreams, the Judy Blumes and Paula Danziger books I was ploughing through, when I finished reading about Elizabeth’s latest achievement or Jessica’s crazy scheme, it was only weeks until my next fix. I was addicted to the series.
Ever since I was tiny, I’ve been someone who falls in love with books. From Frog and Toad Together to my most recent obsession, Emma Donoghue’s Room, It’s not enough for me to like a novel, I either love it or hate it. I can accept that it’s a well-written book, I can recognise fine literature but if I don’t love the book, I’m just not engaged. But when I do fall for a title, I don’t want it to end. I want to be part of the characters’ lives, I want to know what they’re doing once I’ve got to the last page. From Sweet Valley High, through the Virgina Andrews sagas, via a couple of Barbara Taylor Bradfords, series became my passion. I even squealed with delight when I was able to connect the characters in Brett Easton Ellis’ books. Sean Bateman? Brother of Patrick? Hurrah! Not the appropriate reaction to have to a possible serial killer/certain maniac, I’m sure.
And so when it came to writing my own books, as soon as I had finished I Heart New York, I knew there had to be more. The second the last word was written, I wanted to know what was next. Angela’s life was so much fun, I wanted to go shopping with her, I wanted to live vicariously through the thrill of New York adventure, hang out with Jenny and see what would happen with her and Alex. Of course, when you’re writing a series yourself, things get a bit tricky. It can’t all be Marc Jacobs handbags and hot band boys. You’ve got to create obstacles, problems for your characters to overcome and the more attached you get, the more you really, really don’t want to do that. I’ve spent three books and a short story with Angela, Alex and Jenny at this point and it’s horrible putting them in difficult situations. But who wants to read 100,000 words of ‘and everything was fine’? Boring.
Writing my first ever non-series book, The Single Girl’s To-Do List, was a difficult experience. All the way through I knew I was going to be saying goodbye at the end of the book and that was tough. Once I’ve fallen for characters, it’s all the more heartbreaking to know you’re not going to see them again once the book is done. But it’s also kind of freeing to know that these characters have a chance at a solid happily ever after. Just a chance mind, my stories are never quite that black and white.
I often get emails from people begging me not to break Angela and Alex up but it’s hard to commit to anything. Although the I Heart books are well within the realms of fantasy but I try really hard to have the characters encounter problems that might pop up – ex-girlfriends, commitment-phobia, double dating – and the course of true love never did run smooth. I make no promises, Alex has a sketchy past after all and Angela’s US visa has expired…
Happyily, what I can guarantee, is that Angela and Alex will never face either a) a European prince, b) a werewolf or c) a murderous identical twin unlike the Wakefield twins. I may love writing a series but I promise to put Angie and Alex to bed before they outstay their welcome.
And the less said about Sweet Valley Confidential the better.
Eleven year-old Lindsey’s heart is broken.
Lindsey Kelk is the author of the I Heart series which so far includes I Heart New York (2009), I Heart Hollywood and I Heart Paris (2010). She works as a children’s book editor in London. Her latest novel, The Single Girl’s To-Do List is out next month.