Guest Post by Leigh Russell: The Challenges of Writing A Spin-off Series

Wednesday 22 October 2014
Second in the new series featuring DI Ian Peterson

'Moments before, he had been enjoying a day out at the races. Now he could be dying…. As he fell a loud wind roared past his ears, indistinguishable from the roar of the crowd. The race was over'.

A man plummets to his death during the York Races. Suicide or murder? Newly-promoted DI Ian Peterson is plunged into a complex and high-profile case, and as the body count increases, the pressure mounts for his team to solve the crimes quickly.

But the killer is following the investigation far more keenly than Ian realises and time is running out as the case suddenly gets a lot closer to home...

How my spin off series came about.

When I wrote the first draft of my debut, Cut Short, I had no idea anyone else would ever read my manuscript, let alone publish it. Certainly the prospect of this story becoming the first in a long running bestselling series never crossed my mind. That's probably just as well. Had I known what I was letting myself in for, I might have been too intimidated to submit my first manuscript to a publisher.

I confess that the spin off series for Geraldine's sergeant, Ian Peterson, was equally unplanned. In fact, Ian Peterson nearly disappeared very early in his career as a character. At one of my first talks to readers who had read Cut Short, I happened to mention that Ian Peterson wasn't going to feature in the next book in the series. I was writing Road Closed, and had given Geraldine a new sergeant. Thankfully, my audience protested that they liked Ian Peterson. So I wrote him back into the series for Road Closed and Dead End.

Death Bed, the fourth Geraldine Steel novel, sees Geraldine relocating to London, leaving Ian Peterson behind in Kent. But somehow, he still refused to disappear because at around that time my publisher approached me about writing an additional series. A spin off series for Ian Peterson was the obvious choice. It couldn't have worked out better if I had planned it.

Writing even one series is a minefield, demanding feats of memory that frequently threaten to fox me. Fortunately I have a brilliant editor who remembers details which now have to be consistent not only from book to book within the Geraldine Steel series, but also across in the spin off series as well. With many readers now following both series, which run in parallel, it can be quite complicated.

But one advantage outweighs everything else, for me. Every time a new book hits the shelves with my name on it, I can't suffer too much stress about critics, and readers' reviews. I'm by no means impervious to criticism, and I'm certainly keen to please my readers. But there's simply no time to panic over how a new book will be received, because I'm already engrossed in writing the next book. With two series on the go, a deadline is never far away.

Leigh Russell's latest book Race to Death is out now published by No Exit Press. Read my review here.

Leigh Russell studied at the University of Kent, gaining a Masters degree in English. For many years a secondary school English teacher, she is a creative writing tutor for adults. She is married, has two daughters, and lives in North West London.

Her first novel, Cut Short, was shortlisted for the CWA John Creasey New Blood Dagger Award in 2010. This was followed by Road Closed, Dead End, Death Bed, Stop Dead and Fatal Act, in the Detective Inspector Geraldine Steel series. 

Cold Sacrifice is the first title in a spin off series featuring Geraldine Steel's sergeant, Ian Peterson, followed by Race to Death.

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