Whoops? I started an epidemic and I didn’t even know until Carl, my Write Group buddy, sent the news: Thanks to me, he’s just finished the 12th book — drum roll! — in Jacqueline Winspear’s Maisie Dobbs detective series. I had no idea Jacqueline had been so busy. Still, I was heartened to know I’d introduced the happy couple to each other.
Maisie is a World War I era detective. I learned about her debut on the crime scene years ago when a friend told me that a freelance marketer who once worked for her had just written a novel. The freelancer turned out to be Jacqueline Winspear, whose grandfather’s experience in World War I had sparked a keen interest in that period and eventually led her to create Maisie. Compassionate, clever, and cerebral, Maisie quickly gained a devoted readership and Jacqueline had a blossoming new career. What a great story!
As a reader, there’s something so engaging about following a character like Maisie through adventure and adversity. You come to know and admire her strengths, but also see her faults. You enter a world that’s unfamiliar to you and begin to see it through her eyes. You watch her change and grow.
As a writer, from a craft perspective, there are also many benefits to immersing yourself in a writer’s canon. You can watch how he or she handles world building and character development over time. You can begin to analyze writing style as it evolves and matures. You can see how a skilled novelist with a devoted audience uses description to deftly evoke a sense of place and seamlessly sprinkles small details through each story to give it dimension. And you can begin to see the big picture — the overall arc —
of a series, as key themes emerge again and again.
So often, we flit from one book to another, like bees searching for nectar. I know I do. And yet, it seems that there can be real value to staying with an author for a while and reading their work in sequence. I think I’m going to give this a go and see if it nets in some valuable ideas I can use to improve my own craft. Bravo, Carl — read — and write on!