Continuing our “Meet the Authors” series, let me introduce you to bestselling independent author Chautona Havig…
What’s with the Serial Novels?
Almost ten years ago, I started writing a story—never intended to be a book. I just had ideas and wanted to get them down “on paper.” I also shared with friends in an online forum I manage, and that’s where things got interesting. People loved it and wanted more.
When I hired my publicist, Ashley, one of the first things she said was, “Take Past Forward, edit it, flesh it out, and let’s release it as a serial novel. I blinked, choked, and blinked again. I mean, serial novels died with the master of them, Charles Dickens, right? Apparently not. The series was a hit, with several episodes (and a volume or two, I think) hitting Amazon’s Bestseller lists in the first weeks. I’m still flabbergasted.
What I love about the serial novel is something you can’t do in a regular novel. You can explore things in greater depth, have multiple storylines that further the series without exactly furthering the (basic) plot, and you can let it go as long as you (and your readers) like. That’s also a drawback. When you’re “done” with the story, your readers may not be. I’ve received more emails begging me for new “Willow episodes” than almost anything else. Only requests for the fourth “Aggie book” have beaten it. When I announced last week that the sister series to Past Forward, HearthLand, finally has an end in sight, the cries of disappointment filled my Facebook page.
But, this isn’t explaining quite why I do it. Like I said, it all began with Ashley. She suggested we give away an episode per week. I love to give gifts, so a weekly episode as my thank you to readers who share the word about my newest books, my giveaways, and such resonated with me. As I say on my website page about my serial novels, “Enjoy the serial journey with us. Just consider it a literary diet… portion control for those like me who tend to glut on books instead of read in moderation.”
My current serial novel, HearthLand, is a spin-off of Past Forward. I didn’t know how well it would be received. I mean, who wants to read about a retired guy trying to start an intentional community? Yeah. Considering several episodes have hit bestseller status, and I get almost daily, “What’s Ralph doing?” emails and Facebook posts, I guess people do! When I get behind, I get joking offers to do my laundry so I can write. When I get sick, readers assure me they’re praying for me… and that I can get to work, because they want to know what’s going on with Annie!
And that’s probably the most exciting part of all—seeing people rally around my characters and become invested in them. They interact on my Facebook page, talking about what they think is going to happen next. Between Past Forward and HearthLand, I did a single book serial novel, Confessions of a De-cluttering Junkie. I didn’t expect it to be as popular, but I had it written, and it did lend itself to the episodic layout. It became popular enough that it now has its own website with occasional short stories and giveaways in the organization/de-cluttering theme.
As I said, our current serial novel, HearthLand, is winding down. We’re down to our last volume and a half. Each volume of HearthLand is a full-length novel and contains six episodes (Past Forward was a little less predictable). After that my assistant, Christy, and I will be co-writing the next one—Innkeeper. I’m excited to move onto this one. We’ll take you on a strange journey into the hearts and minds of a woman abandoned after a troubled marriage and a man who desperately desires a deep connection with the woman he’s falling in love with.
That’s another thing I love about these serial novels—well, most of my books, really. I weave characters from other novels in and out of them. So while Past Forward is about a young woman who steps out of isolationism into community, it also brings in characters from my most popular series as well. And though HearthLand focuses on a different kind of community—one striving to be more like Willow from Past Forward—it features characters and plots from my suspense novels as well as characters from many of my other books intertwined in it.
After Innkeeper, we’re considering making my turn-of-the-20th Century series, Meddlin’ Madeline the next serial novel. The more I plot out Madeline’s story, the more I like her. She’s a bit of a young Miss Marple set in an earlier time when her “help” isn’t always appreciated. Madeline also has a secret that only one other person knows!
Of course, that is yet another genre. I’m known for dancing through multiple genres in my writing. Most of my books fall under the heading of “The Rockland Chronicles,” and so far all of my serial novels have been under that covering as well. But while Past Forward and HearthLand both have their feet firmly rooted in romance with a sprinkling of suspense now and then, De-cluttering Junkie is comedy. This is normal for my books. The Rockland Chronicles has a mystery and a suspense series, romance and comedy. Outside that heading, I also have a small Regency series, medieval fantasy, historical, and with Madeline, historical mystery. I tend to be unable to limit myself. If the story told needs a specific setting or genre, it gets it—even if I have to learn to write an entirely different genre to do it.
Join us this summer for a “rerun” of my two most popular serial novels, Past Forward and HearthLand. We’re giving away two episodes per week of each novel from June-August. I’m so excited about this. For news as each episode goes free, sign up for my newsletter.
Thanks, Michael, for the opportunity to share my work with your readers! I really appreciate it.