Once again, I have a Crime Cafe guest blog with a giveaway. I will be interviewing Frank Zafiro later this week and posting it here on the Crime Cafe page. Frank is giving away either a Kindle copy of the winner’s choice of any of his books or a hard copy of THE TRADE OFF. Winner gets to pick his or her prize. To enter the giveaway, just email Frank at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Now, without further ado, here’s Frank Zafiro on why he writes series books.
Serious About Series
It wasn’t intentional. Honest. But it seems like all I can write are series…
My first novel, Under a Raging Moon, was released in 2006. The book is a police procedural that features an ensemble cast of police officers and detectives. For those of you old enough, think Hill Street Blues. For those of you not, think Southland. That book was intended as the first in an ongoing series, set in River City. I have indeed followed up and written three more books in the River City series that are direct sequels.
In 2011, I branched off and added another series with the first of my Stefan Kopriva mysteries, Waist Deep, which is a spin-off of the River City series.
About a year later, I wrote a standalone crime novel with Colin Conway called Some Degree of Murder. But SDoM is also set in River City and it features some RC characters, so to be fair, I don’t know how much it counts as being completely standalone. All along the way, I wrote at least a couple dozen short stories set in River City and starring some of the characters, both prominent and minor ones.
So it’s probably obvious to you that, for a long while, I was deep into River City storylines and characters. I still am, to a degree, because I love these characters. They are very real to me. I enjoy exploring how they grow and change, even if those changes are painful at times. River City feels like home, and there are plenty of strings to pull on the story tapestry.
But as artists, sometimes we crave a little bit of change. I satisfied this need by working on some collaborations with other talented authors (okay, technically my first collaboration was Some Degree of Murder, but that was River City…see?), including Jim Wilsky. I thought what Jim and I were doing when we wrote Blood on Blood was writing a standalone novel. But then we had so much fun working together, we went on to write two more books in what became the Ania trilogy.
Eventually, I did write some standalone novels. The first was The Last Horseman, which I set in Spokane. After spending so much time in River City, there was a certain freedom in working with a brand new character and a white canvas with regard to story. For some readers, this is their favorite book of mine. But…well, to be honest, I envision two more Sandy Banks novels. At least one. So much so that I know the title already, and the broad strokes of the story. I just haven’t gotten to it yet in my WIP queue.
In late 2012, I published At This Point in My Life. I think this will be a one-off, but Jack “Mac” McCrae is an interesting character, so I don’t know for sure.
Could be another series.
I teamed up with Eric Beetner to write a mob book called The Backlist (published September 2015 by Down & Out Books). We’d barely finished the book before we came up with the idea for the sequel, The Short List, which we just finished writing in July. By the time we’d sent it to Down & Out Books and they said yes to a September 2016 release, Eric and I had a loose idea for a third one starring the same characters.
It’s not that I don’t like to write standalones. In fact, that is exactly what I intended to do when I wrote 2014’s At Their Own Game, introducing a new character named Jake Stankovic. He’s even very different than most of my protagonists. And his journey is quite defined. You’d think that would mean there won’t be any sequels.
But….yeah, I see at least one more Stankovic novel. I even know the title and the storyline (though mercifully, I have no idea how it will end).
At the end of it all, it’ll be another series.
To be fair, I wrote The Trade Off with Bonnie Paulson, and that is likely to remain a standalone. And I’m working on a hard boiled procedural with Lawrence Kelter that figures to be a one off. But the vast majority of my books either started out intended as part of a series or became a series.
It is actually pretty simple, I think. I suffer from a particular malady, one that you may also fall prey to at times. I get to know characters, maybe even come to love them, and when the book is finished, I inevitably ask the question, “What happens next?” Once I ask that question, potential answers start firing off pretty quickly after that, and let’s face it: once a writer starts down that path, you know a story is coming.
The bigger question isn’t why do I write almost everything as a series, though. The bigger question is, what do readers like? What do they want?
I’m convinced that most readers are drawn to the series structure. If they care about the characters in the first book, they want to know what happens to those characters next. My River City books are my best sellers and after “where do you get your ideas?”, the biggest question I get is “when is the next book coming out?”
Why is this? I think that for readers, following the adventures and travails of known characters has a certain appeal to it, almost like an old friend. Look at some of the long-standing crime fiction series out there – Block’s Scudder, Connelly’s Bosch, etc.
I also think this will continue. I’m working on book 3 of the Kopriva mystery series right now (it will likely be finished by the time you read this). My plan after that is for a standalone that has been calling to me for a little while, but who knows? Maybe it’ll end up being just the first in a new series. Either way, I’ve got River City #5 slated after that, hopefully released by next February.
Will readers get sick of reading about the same characters over and over again? I don’t think so. Maybe I’m wrong, but I’m thinking that once they’re invested in the series, they’ll keep on as long as the characters are interesting and the writing is good.
Besides, if a reader wants variety, s/he can always jump over to another series for a while.
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Frank served in the U.S. Army from 1986-91 in Military Intelligence as a Czechoslovak linguist. In 1993, he became a police officer. During his career, he worked as a patrol officer, corporal, and detective. In 2002, he became a sergeant and entered into leadership roles. He was fortunate enough to command patrol officers, investigators, K-9 officers (and their dogs!), and the SWAT team. Frank retired from law enforcement in 2013 as a captain. Since then, he has taught law enforcement subject matter at community college, university, and as an independent consultant teaching leadership to police agencies. He also teaches a series of writing workshops.
Frank began writing seriously at about thirteen. In 1995, he started the first draft of “Under A Raging Moon,” which would become the first book in the River City series of crime fiction.
Since then, Frank has completed a number of novels set in River City, a fictional version of Spokane, Washington. The River City series is published in paperback by Gray Dog Press and currently sits at four volumes. Other Frank Zafiro books are also set in River City, including mysteries such as “Waist Deep” and “Lovely, Dark, and Deep”, starring Stefan Kopriva, and “Some Degree of Murder”, written with Colin Conway. Other novels are set in Spokane proper, such as “The Last Horseman” and “At Their Own Game”, or elsewhere, such as the Chicago setting for “Blood on Blood”, written with Jim Wilsky.
Frank has been rated the #1 author for police procedurals on Amazon, and remains one of the top ranked authors in that Amazon category. Frank’s books are available in all formats — paperback, ebook, and audio book.
In addition to novels, dozens of Franks’ short stories have been published in magazines (print or online) and numerous anthologies.
Frank also write mainstream fiction under his real name, Frank Scalise, including his hockey novel “All That Counts” (Gray Dog Press,February 2010) and a children’s series about Sam the Hockey Player, which began with the middle grade title “The Hardest Hit.”
Frank resides near Spokane, Washington, with his wife and son. He is an avid hockey fan, reader, movie lover, and a tortured guitarist.
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You can also buy the Crime Cafe Mystery Story Package here! Only 99 cents for a whole pack of novels and short stories from all the authors appearing on the Crime Cafe!