The Joy (And Challenges) Of Writing A Series — Welcome Guest Olivia Blacke

I’m so happy to introduce Olivia Blacke to The Wickeds! I met Olivia when she asked me to be on a mystery panel with three additional authors. We had so much fun. She has a new series coming out and it sounds fun!

One of the things that drew me to cozy mysteries in the first place is that they’re expected to be part of a series. As a reader (and as a writer!) I love that I can get deeply invested in the characters and setting in a series, so when the next book comes out, it’s like seeing old friends. Although ironically, this also causes the “Cabot Cove effect” in cozies where our intrepid sleuth is constantly stumbling across dead bodies in their (formerly) quiet town.

Vinyl Resting Place, the first cozy in the Record Shop Mysteries, introduces three sisters. Juni Jessup, the baby, is free spirited. Maggie, the middle sister, has a head for numbers. Tansy, the eldest, is charismatic and (over)protective. With the popularity of vinyl records on the rise, the sisters reboot the family business by opening Sip & Spin Records in a small town near Austin, where they’ll offer hot tasty coffees and a cool selection of music. They’re on track to becoming Texas’s newest music destination until a body deader than disco falls out of the supply closet. Family is everything to the Jessup sisters, so when their favorite uncle is the prime suspect, they’ll do anything to bail him out of hot water, even if it means putting their shop on the line.

One challenge with writing a series like the Record Shop Mysteries is creating characters that are consistent, but still have room to evolve. Will Juni ever conquer her fear of public speaking? Will Maggie learn to accept that life is messy sometime? When you pick up the newest book in a series you’ve been reading for a while, it feels like you’re hanging out with your besties. When you get to experience those familiar characters grow over time, it makes them even more relatable and lifelike.

In a series, character scan live forever. This can become a problem, because now the author needs to keep track of everyone or risk accidentally killing off a character in book two only to have them pop up again in book six. Cozies are especially susceptible to this because they can have a large cast of characters. Add in that many authors work on multiple series simultaneously, and chaos reigns. To keep everything straight, I keep extensive character notes in a spreadsheet, with main characters often having their own document complete with photos of their favorite meals or latest hairstyle.

Which leads us to a final challenge – how does a writer keep books from getting repetitive? One of my favorite series is Janet Evanovich’s Stephanie Plum books. Sure, Stephanie’s pet hamster is 28 years old now (a miracle!) but I still rush out to buy the latest book as soon as it’s out, because I know it’s always entertaining and fresh. Something I use when writing a series to keep the ideas coming is to keep a running list of situations when I’m writing that might not fit in the current plot, but could be essential in a later book. For instance, in Vinyl Resting Place, Juni suggests they host a karaoke night in the record store, but that scene doesn’t show up until book three at a pivotal moment.

Of course, when there are so many books to choose from, readers sometimes pick up a book in the middle and then they choose to skip around, or read the series in order from start to finish.

Readers: When you’re reading a series, do you start with the newest one or do you always start at the beginning?


OLIVIA BLACKE (she/her), author of Vinyl Resting Place, finally found a way to put her Criminology degree to good use by writing quirky, unconventional, character-driven cozy mysteries. Olivia, who wants to be a unicorn when she grows up, is a little nerdy, a lot awkward, and just the right amount of weird. Connect with Olivia on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or check out her website


Vinyl Resting Place blends murder, music, and macchiatos in a delightful cozy mystery.

When Juni Jessup returns to her small Texas hometown, she and her sisters put all their beans in one basket to open Sip & Spin Records, the ideal place to enjoy musically-themed coffees like Espresso Yourself while listening to great music and town gossip, until – record scratch! – a body deader than disco falls out of the supply closet during the grand opening.

Family is everything to the Jessup sisters, so when their off-beat uncle is arrested, they’ll do anything to help, including putting Sip & Spin Records up for collateral. Unable to face the music, Uncle Calvin takes off, leaving the future of the shop in peril. Can Juni and her sisters catch the real killer before the trail – and the coffee – goes cold?

17 Thoughts

  1. Welcome Olivia and congrats on your new series. If the series is a new one, I start at the beginning. If it’s one that is on book 2 to 5, I will start from the beginning. If series already has five books in, that will be the first book in the series for me, unless book 5-6 is the last one.

  2. I usually start at the beginning. But if I get, say, book 10 in my book bag at Malice, I’ll read that one and then go back to the beginning of the series if I like the book.

  3. Very much enjoy reading a series in order. However, sometimes that it’s possible or on Book 3 it might be a new to me author or maybe it’s book 2 before the opportunity to read it arises. I’ll not pass up the opportunity to read a good book just because it’s not the first in a series.
    2clowns at arkansas dot net

  4. Welcome to the Wickeds, Olivia! Your new mystery series sounds intriguing and I will definitely add it to my TBR list. Since I review cozy mysteries, I often read books that are in the middle of a series. I would prefer to read a series starting with book #1, but most authors these days do not include spoilers about previous murders. I appreciate this, because if I find the current book enticing, I will buy the rest of the series and start at the beginning. Thanks for sharing with us today. May you have a Prolific and Prosperous New Year! Luis at ole dot travel

  5. I usually try to start at the first book in a series but since I get most of my books from the library sometimes I see a book further on in the series first. After I read that one I go back and start with book one so I can catch up. This series especially interests me because I collect vinyl and I live in a small town just outside of Austin. Welcome to the blog! I look forward to reading your books!

  6. I was lucky enough to get an advance copy of this from the publisher. I really enjoyed it. It brought back memories of going to the record store when I was growing up.

  7. Congratulations on your newest series! Sounds like a great read.

    Series books? If a story intrigues me it doesn’t matter where the first book I pick up falls in the book order. I’ll read it and then go back to book one and start from scratch. I love getting in on the ground floor of a new series. Makes me feel like one of the cool kids, so thank you, Olivia.

  8. Generally, I prefer to begin with the first book of a series because I love to watch the character development. Still, I have no problem beginning with the newest book if I receive it as a gift. After reviewing it, I then go back and read the first book and all of the other books. I have never had it happen that I was too disappointed by the gift book to go back and read the rest of the series.

  9. LIke many others here, I prefer starting with book 1, but often discover an author’s third or fifth book. If I like the book enough, I will go back and start from the beginning. The only problem I have found is, if I’ve read book 3 and then book 1, I know who is NOT the murderer in book 1 if that character shows up in a later book. Hardly a big problem.

    I’ve read a couple of reviews of this book, and look forward to reading it.

  10. If I come across a book that looks interesting & like it, I’ll go back to the first in the series & read from there. When starting a new series I like to start with the first.

    I started reading Louise Penny’s Three Pines series from the first book & really enjoyed watching the characters change and develop. At some point I read a review of the (then) latest that said it worked as a standalone or as part of a series, when I heard her speak a bit later I asked her about that. She replied that she writes every book to work as a standalone in hopes that new readers will then go back to read the earlier books. Since then I have been more open to reading a book in the middle of a series to see if I’m interested, but still prefer to start from the beginning.

  11. Olivia, congratulations on the new series! And guess what? I just bought the book at the store a couple of hours ago. I know the official release isn’t until tomorrow but the shop had it available so I used part of my gift card to pick it up.

    I’ll be tweeting out a pic of me and the book at my friend’s record shop, Purchase Street Records, in the next few minutes or so as well.

    As for starting a new-to-me series, I definitely prefer to start at the beginning if at all possible. Sometimes it isn’t though. I’ve received copies of books that are a few into the series and it just isn’t possible to go buy (or take out of the library) all the books that came before.

    Being a huge music fan who writes reviews for a couple of different sites, I can’t wait to read this book!

  12. Congratulations on the new series! I always start at the beginning of a series and don’t read out of order. I love music and can’t wait to start this series. I live in the Dallas/Fort Worth area so I love books set in Texas. Austin is one of my favorite places to visit.

  13. I try to read a series in order. Very rarely do I not do that.

    There are times in a long running series where I know the character’s ages are all out of whack. My favorite example is Donna Andrews’s Meg Langslow series. The twins have aged faster than everyone else, and Spike, the dog, should be dead a couple times over by now. Not to mention how old Grandfather would have to be. But I don’t want anything to happen to those characters, so I just accept it and look forward to catching up with all my friends every time I pick up the series.

    I’ve got this book pre-ordered. Looking forward to it.

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