It all makes such perfect sense to us that sometimes we forget that others can't read our minds. At least, until we have interested readers asking questions, and we realize that maybe we haven't explained everything.
Here's the gist:
The Newport Ladies Book Club isn't a series in the typical sense of the word. The books are actually parallel novels. In other words, instead of taking place one at a time, with book 1, 2, 3, and then 4 chronologically, they all take place over the same period, and to the same characters.
But they're entirely different stories.
The title character in each book has her own story, with her personal set of problems and challenges. The other three women show up in each book, crossing paths and impacting one another's lives in various ways as their friendships grow.
You can read the books in any order, and one book doesn't ruin the end of another.
So you can read Olivia's story and meet Paige. You'll get to know Paige's character and what she's dealing with (at least, a little), but to see all of Paige's story (including how Olivia impacts her), you have to read Paige's book. And so on with Daisy and Athena.
To have a satisfying read, you do not need to read all four books. Each one stands alone as a complete story. Rather, each book supplements the others and enriches their stories.
On the other hand, if you do read all four, you'll see connections and stories that other readers will miss out on.
We didn't co-write the individual books, although we had to collaborate on characters, plots, time lines, geography, and a lot more so the four books would be seamless.
So each book will bear the name of one writer (this may be the release order of the books; we aren't sure yet):
- Olivia by Julie Wright
- Daisy by Josi Kilpack
- Paige by Annette Lyon
- Athena by Heather Moore
Between their lives and book club meetings, our characters interact enough that we've spent a lot of time getting to know one another's stories and the details behind them. We've collaborated on conflicts and back story and so much more as we figure out what works in one book and how that influences one story and then the other three.
We've spent weekends at hotels together hammering it all out (and having loads of fun, of course).
We have scenes where all four are present, and we have to be sure the dialogue and other details work. (Did Athena arrive at the October book club meeting before or after Daisy? How did Livvy phrase her commentary on Poisonwood? Wait, did Paige already eat her eclair?)
If you're a science fiction fan, you may be familiar with another parallel set of books: Orson Scott Card's Ender's Game and Ender's Shadow. They're parallel novels in the same way: same characters, same time period, totally different stories.
Only, of course, this is women's fiction, not science fiction, and we have four writers instead of one.
Right now, the series has four books accepted for publication in 2012 (all in the same year, so no long waits for readers!). The first, Olivia, comes out in January. (Dates for the other three aren't finalized quite yet.)
We hope that if the series does well, we'll be able to do a second set of books with some of the other book club members already in the club. (We're already formulating back stories and plot lines for them--so fun!)
This kind of project would never work if we a) hadn't already worked together in many professional situations and b) if we weren't already fantastic friends. There's a level of trust and understanding among the four of us that is something special.
Wherever the series leads us, I can say it's been not only an honor to be part of, but an absolute and utter blast.