Writing a Trilogy by Susanne Matthews
Hello! Thank you for inviting me to visit Writing in the Modern Age again. It’s always a pleasure to be here. Today I’m going to explain the way I chose to write my trilogy, The Harvester Saga, a suspense romance thriller. As an added bonus, if you comment on this post, you may win a digital copy of In Plain Sight. Please remember to leave your email address and preferred format.
As an author, one of the hardest things to do is creating a new plot—one that will enthrall readers and leave them wanting more. Two years ago, I had an idea for what I believed could be an incredible book, but the minute I started typing, I knew it would be far too long for one book. The main characters, Rob and Faye, needed more than one mystery to solve and time to deal with the slights of the past that had ruined their relationship. They had preconceived notions to deal with, and while their ardor had cooled, the love they’d shared had never died.
With that in mind, I envisioned a trilogy, where the plot would grow more complex with each book in the series. As always, a catchy title was needed. Originally, I’d named the book, Lie Down With Dogs, since getting involved with the wrong people created the problems, but my publisher wasn’t keen on that. Since a carnation played a significant role in the first book, it seemed logical to give the books flower names. Once we had the titles, the covers were created, each with a single white flower, dripping blood, on them.
The first book, The White Carnation, had to hook the reader, but while I knew it would only tease at the main plot, I gave Rob and Faye, second chance at love couple, a happily for now, since there was still a killer out there to stop. The book has lots of twists and turns, and will get your heart rate up. Here’s the cover blurb:
The last person disgraced reporter Faye Lewis wants back in her life is Detective Rob Halliday, the man she blames for ruining her career and breaking her heart. But when she finds an old friend murdered, he's the one she calls.
For the past year, Rob and his team have been hunting the Harvester, a serial killer who ritualistically murders new mothers and vanishes with their infants. What Rob doesn't need is another case, especially one involving his ex-fiancée.
Then Faye is assaulted, and Rob realizes the cases are connected. She may hold the answers he needs to find the elusive killer. But the more they investigate, the more complex the situation becomes. Can they set the past aside and work together, or will the Harvester and his followers reap another prize?
Here is an excerpt from The White Carnation.
Twenty minutes later, the unmarked police sedan pulled up behind the black and white outside the brownstone. The paramedics were parked farther along the street, just ahead of the police car, reducing traffic to a single lane. The coroner’s van pulled up behind them. Rob got out and approached the coroner.
“Amos, I didn’t expect to see you here so soon. I called for a bus, not the meat wagon.”
“Paramedics were nearby so Logan got here quickly. He radioed in—exsanguination due to a lacerated throat. He’s still up there. Nothing he can do for the victim, but your fiancée is taking it hard.”
“The victim was like a second mother to her.”
Your fiancée—Amos’s words were true once, but never again. There was no way Rob would hitch his wagon to a woman who could believe he’d betray her like that, a woman who’d put her job so far ahead of him, he’d barely been on her radar at times. The sex had been great, but love was supposed to be more than that. Still, she’d reached out to him. He took the stairs to the brownstone two at a time, his lean, muscular body having no problem with the climb. He flashed his badge at the officer who stood guarding the door. “Anyone showing any interest?”
“No, Detective. According to the concierge, the people in number five are in Europe, and I don’t think the rest of the residents are home from work yet. Looks like a robbery—the place has been tossed pretty good—and there’s no damage to the door, so she must have let them in. Logan says her throat’s been slit from behind.”
“Where’s Ms. Lewis?”
“In the living room with Logan. He wanted to take her to the ER—claims she’s in shock. I told him she had to stay put until you arrived. He’s pissed at me. Says I’m interfering with his job. He seems pretty friendly with her. I heard she’s some big shot investigative reporter.” He chuckled. “Some crime reporter—she’s puked a couple of times already.” He continued to laugh. Rob’s face must have reflected the anger moving to the surface because the guard choked it off.
“Rick Logan is one of the best paramedics we have. For the record, McMillan,” Rob read the nameplate on the policeman’s uniform, “the next time he says someone has to go the ER, you’d better damn well listen to him. And as for Ms. Lewis, the victim was a personal friend. It’s different when the victim’s someone you know.” His voice was clipped, his displeasure obvious.
Rob turned and entered the apartment. He’d learned the need to remain objective in order to do the job properly, but as he’d told the young officer, it was different when it was personal. Not only had the victim been an acquaintance, Faye was in there. He swallowed and tried to find the emotional distance he needed.
The place was a mess, just as the officer had said. He looked around quickly, his trained eye taking in everything in an instant—the wallet on the table, money on the floor mixed with the victim’s blood, the take-out bag, Faye’s purse and its scattered contents. Whatever this had been, it hadn’t been a routine robbery. Someone had been looking for something other than the usual snatch and grab items, so what were they after? What could Mrs. Green have that was worth dying for?__
The White Carnation resolves some issues in the story, but leaves the reader looking for answers. The biggest ones of course are who really is the Harvester? and will he strike again?
That set the tone for the next book in the series. While not all readers and editors like prologues, sometimes they are necessary. The White Lily begins with a prologue, one essential to the plot and the reader’s understanding of the heroine. As the story unfolds, the plot thickens, and the Harvester, now known as the Prophet, the leader of a strange and dangerous cult, takes on more of a persona, the actions of his followers extreme and frightening. Since the story is an on-going one, the main characters from The White Carnation join the secondary ones in the hunt for the sociopathic leader of the cult. The main characters, Lilith and Jacob, have been to hell and back. Both carry physical and emotional scars that impact their ability to love. As they discover more and more about their nemesis, they also learn to love and trust one another, proving that love can conquer all and beauty is definitely in the eye of the beholder.
Here is the blurb for Book Two.
The Harvester is out there...watching, waiting, biding his time.
FBI cult specialist Lilith Munroe lives in dread that one day the man who tortured her when a case went bad will find her again. So leaving her sanctuary in Quantico to join the Harvester Task Force in Boston is her version of hell. But the Harvester is kidnapping babies, and Lilith's profiling skills may mean the difference between life and death for the most innocent in society.
Australian millionaire and former member of the New Horizon commune Jacob Andrews returns to the United States searching for his sister. Instead of the happy reunion he expects, he discovers she is dead and his twin brother may be responsible. He agrees to lend his law enforcement skills to help find his former cult leader before the man can implement his plan to kill millions.
Now uneasy partners, Jacob and Lilith must learn to trust each other even as they fight their growing attraction. But when Lilith's greatest fears materialize, will Jacob be able to set aside his anger and save the woman he loves?
Here is an excerpt from The White Lily.
“For God’s sake, Halliday, slow down. My legs aren’t as long as yours. Where’s the fire?” Lilith said as she headed down the stairs. “And why the hell couldn’t we take the elevator?” Since Rob was a good foot taller than she was, she was running to keep up, and with the four-inch heels she’d chosen to wear this morning, she was apt to fall and kill herself.
So this is why they call it breakneck speed.
“And please don’t call me Lily. I prefer Lilith or Munroe.”
He slowed slightly. “Sorry, Lilith. I’ll try to remember that. As for the elevator, it would be awkward considering my behavior toward Mr. Andrews this morning,” he said, and she could see the embarrassed flush on his face.
“It’s okay. He isn’t going to press charges. He’s actually been quite nice about the whole thing. So, where are we off to in such a rush?”
“We’ve got a multiple homicide on Lawrence. Tom left early—it’s his wife’s birthday. His daughter has been planning this surprise party for weeks. The murder falls under Boston PD jurisdiction, but since the rule of two applies, Trevor said I could take you with me—as an observer, so keep your hands to yourself. That being said, if you have any profiling thoughts while you’re there, feel free to share.”
Standard operational procedure dictated that two people handle any calls that came in. This was for their protection as well as for that of the victims. Her father, a career cop, had drilled that concept into her. His partner had chosen not to wait for him and had walked in alone on a domestic. The man had gone out in a body bag.
“Besides, I figured you’d want to come along. You’re still trying to make sense of the Richardson case. The 9-1-1 caller was almost incoherent, but she did mention that there’s a child or children missing. I want you to focus on similarities between those crime scene photos you memorized and this one.”
“Will do, but you do realize I’ve never actually been to an active crime scene, don’t you?” she asked, hoping her nervousness didn’t show.
“I figured as much, but you’ve got to lose your cherry sometime. You’re a field agent now, and that means you visit the crime scenes yourself. Just remember, if you’re going to vomit, try not to contaminate anything.”
Great. Just great.
As with The White Carnation, The White Lily wraps up some of the mysteries in the story, but not all. The reader learns more about the Harvester and his cult, and the ultimate threat, the Great Burning, a planned event of Biblical proportions.
Book Three, The White Iris, was the hardest book to write for two reasons. The first, I had to find a new couple, but one I kept thousands of miles apart for most of the book. The second, I had to resolve all of the remaining plot issues, tie up all the loose ends, and bring the plot to a satisfactory conclusion. So, I had to unmask the Harvester, explain his sociopathic tendencies, and prevent the Great Burning. As with the first book, I chose the trope of a second chance at love romance, but instead of bringing in two new characters to be the hero and heroine, I used a secondary character who’d been at the heart of each book and his ex-girlfriend. Meet Trevor and Julie. With the unique skills she could bring to the story, the reader learns that the Great Burning will involve a biological threat.
And so the quest for Eden, the mysterious home of the cult begins. While most romance novels have the couple together for most of the story, Julie and Trevor regain their love and trust at opposite ends of the country. Much of their time together is done through phone conversations, something couples who have to be apart for long periods of time will understand. Long distance relationships are part and parcel of our society today. Here is the blurb for The White Iris.
Time's running out for Special Agent Trevor Clark and his FBI task force. They're no closer to uncovering the identity of the Prophet, a dangerous serial killer who has been murdering new mothers and vanishing with their infants. If Trevor can't unlock the clues, the killer's threats to unleash what the FBI suspects is biological warfare could mean death for all of them. His only recourse is to swallow his pride and reach out to his former fiancée, the CDC's renowned virologist, Dr. Julie Swift.
Two years ago, Julie ended their engagement after Trevor abandoned her when she needed him most. Now, faced with the possibility of the greatest epidemic since the Spanish flu, she has to put her faith and her safety, as well as that of countless others, into the hands of a man she doesn't trust. Can they set aside their differences to stop the Prophet, and in doing so, will they find the love they lost?
From the streets of Boston to the wilds of Alaska, this thrilling conclusion to the Harvester Series takes several turns you won't see coming!
Here is an excerpt from The White Iris.
Shutting down the computer, she got up, twisted her hair back into a chignon, and fastened it with her clip. Pulling open her bottom drawer, she removed the makeup bag there and took out the compact and lip gloss. As soon as she’d done what she could to make herself look fresher, she grabbed her lab coat and put it on to hide the overly casual outfit. Satisfied this was as good as she’d get, she headed up the two flights of stairs to the director’s office. She might not be ready for the cover of Vogue, but she could probably manage Science World.
Knocking on the door, she opened it. “Sorry I’m late…”
Her throat closed, preventing her from saying anything else, her pride coming to the rescue and keeping her from falling flat on her face. No. This wasn’t happening, not to her, not today. The man standing next to Brad was Trevor Clark. This was a storm all right, one worse than any Colorado blizzard might be.
I’m going to kill Ellie.
“Julie,” Brad said, coming forward, buying her a few precious moments to get herself under control.
“Thanks for helping out like this. Dr. E.J. Swift, meet Special Agent Trevor Clark.”
“We’ve met,” Trevor said, his voice husky, but he didn’t look surprised. His shadowed, deep blue eyes bored into hers as if he was searching for something.
She gritted her teeth, wishing the floor would open up and swallow her. Her thumb rubbed the base of her ring finger as if the band she hadn’t worn in two years was there again, only this time it pained her. Whatever Trevor was looking for, she’d be damned if he’d find it. She pulled herself together, refusing to allow even a muscle twitch to show seeing him again upset her.
The man responsible for so many tears and sleepless nights stood there, stone-like, his face not betraying a thing. He’d always been good at hiding his feelings, and now it seemed he’d perfected the ability. The only sign that he might not be as relaxed as he pretended to be was his clenched jaw.
He’s uncomfortable—the son of a bitch should be in abject pain and agony.
As always, Trevor was impeccably dressed in a pale gray suit with a coordinating shirt and a blue, gray, and silver silk tie. His light brown hair, as thick as ever, was cut short, and he wasn’t wearing his glasses. He looked tired, but when he was working a case he rarely got more than a few hours’ sleep each night. He was clean-shaven, and the faint scent of the woodsy aftershave he always wore tickled her nose.__
People have asked me what the hardest part of writing a trilogy like this was. The answer is simple. Keeping track of all the story threads and making sure that all of them were neatly tied together by the end of Book Three. Many of those who’ve read the Harvester Saga ask me when I’m going to write the next white flower book. Some even provide titles, such as The White Rose, The White Poinsettia, or The White Lilac. It’s tempting to reunite the team and solve more crimes. I do have an idea in mind, but time will tell.
This month, my publisher is offering all three books in one convenient package, and the bonus is that you can save ten dollars in the process. The Harvester Saga contains the three complete novels: The White Carnation, The White Lily, and The White Iris, all for less than one U.S. dollar, so why not:
Join Boston's crack detective team as its members track down the most heinous serial killer to ever strike the city, the Harvester. Clues and cults, dead ends and danger await these expert crime solvers as they team up with the flames they left behind and race against time to save everything they love.
The Harvester Saga is available from most e-book retailers including:
Universal Amazon link: http://bookgoodies.com/a/B01KGO49XI
Thank you so much for having me here. Don’t forget to comment, with your email address and preference for a mobi (Kindle-compatible) or epub copy for your chance to win In Plain Sight.
Here is the blurb.
In life, you pay a price for everything you do. Widowed, her dream of starring on Broadway in ashes at her feet, Misty Starr yearns for a happy, healthy, normal life for herself and her four-year-old daughter, Debbie. Settled in Pine Falls, New York, a sleepy little town filled with friendly people, she believes she’s found it and feels safe enough to sing in an amateur theater revival of Jesus Christ Superstar. She’ll do anything to keep this life even if it is built on lies, because revealing her secret is impossible. When Nick Anthony joins the cast as music director, Misty is attracted to the man who stirs up feelings she thought long dead, but can love grow on a bed of deceit?
A former concert pianist and secret CIA courier, Nick lives in darkness ever since the accident that killed his wife. The doctors say there’s nothing wrong with his vision, so why can’t he see? Hiding from his former life, he reluctantly agrees to help with the musical and is drawn to the young singer with the voice of an angel. When a mysterious fire destroys her home, Nick vows to keep her and her daughter safe. After one suspicious event leads to another, Nick is determined to protect them from an unknown assassin, but in order to do that, he needs to know her secrets. With his money and connections, he’ll do whatever it takes to save the woman he loves, but does she love him enough to reveal the truth?
Wow, thank you for giving us all the details that went into writing your trilogy, Susanne! Fascinating! It sounds like a riveting series! And thanks for stopping by! :)