The Big Idea: Jennifer Estep
So you’ve created a world for a book series, and the series… ends. What becomes of the world and the characters in it? Can you go back? How do you go back? And why? Lots of questions, which author Jennifer Estep is tackling in this Big Idea for her new novel Capture the Crown.
Capture the Crown came out earlier this week and is the first book in my Gargoyle Queen epic fantasy series. It features Gemma Ripley, a pampered princess who secretly moonlights as a spy. Gemma is trying to unravel a plot against her kingdom when she comes across a prince from an enemy land who just happens to be her childhood nemesis. The book also features a fierce queen, lots of action/fight scenes, and gargoyles (obviously!).
Capture the Crown is the start of a spinoff series set in my Crown of Shards gladiator world. Basically, the worldbuilding, magic, creatures, etc. are the same as in Kill the Queen and the other books in my original Shards trilogy, but the heroine is different.
Ah, the spinoff series. It can be harder to pull off and more divisive with readers than you might think.
I really like spinoff series. As an author, writing a spinoff series lets me expand my worldbuilding and have my new characters go to places, kingdoms, etc. that maybe my original characters wouldn’t travel to. It also lets me write about someone with a different kind of magic, skill set, and mentality and is a great way to introduce new conflicts and villains.
At the same time, it can also be tricky to balance all the backstory from the previous books and come up with characters that are just as interesting as the ones in the original books. Plus, some readers will probably wish that I had kept writing about the same characters, instead of introducing new ones.
I also enjoy spinoff series as a reader/watcher. If I like a certain book/movie/world, then I want to read/watch more stories in that setting. For example, I recently finished season 7 of Bosch on Amazon Prime (which is excellent), and I’m looking forward to the spinoff series. I also love to read comics. Sometimes, I feel like all the superhero comics are just various spinoffs of each other, along with all the accompanying movies and TV shows.
For me, writing a spinoff series was largely a creative decision. After I wrapped up my Crown of Shards trilogy, I sent my editor/agent several different ideas for a new trilogy set in the same Shards world, but Gemma Ripley’s story was the clearest one in my mind. In the original Shards trilogy, Gemma is twelve years old and is one of the few survivors of (spoiler alert!) the royal massacre in Kill the Queen. In Capture the Crown, Gemma is now twenty-nine and is still traumatized by the massacre, as well as the events that happened afterward.
I thought it would be interesting to show how a secondary character views the events/book in which someone else was the heroine and how that heroine’s actions/decisions still impact that secondary character. A large part of Gemma’s story/journey is trying to come to terms with what happened to her as a child and live up to the heroics of Everleigh Blair, the heroine from the original Shards trilogy.
But writing a spinoff series was also a bit of a publishing/business decision on my part. Most of the time, publishers will want an author to keep writing new books in a series as long as the backlist (older) books keep selling. But at the same time, publishers also like to promote new series.
This is where the spinoff series often comes in. A spinoff series can be a way for readers to try a new author/world without feeling like they have to read 3, 5, 7, or more (!) books in the original series in order to understand what’s going on – as in my Elemental Assassin urban fantasy series, which currently stands at 19 books. For example, some folks will read Capture the Crown without reading the original Crown of Shards trilogy, whereas other folks will read the Shards books first and then read Capture the Crown.
So for me, it was about balancing my creative muse and “big idea” with the realities of traditional publishing, as is usually the case.
Whether you start with Capture the Crown or the original Crown of Shards trilogy, I hope that everyone enjoys getting to know Gemma Ripley and my other characters. Happy reading!
Do you like spinoff series? What are some of your favorite spinoff series? Or would you rather keep reading about the original characters?