Keeping a series of crime novels fresh - Crime Author Pauline Rowson discusses her DI Horton novels

With the publication this year of Footsteps on the Shore, the sixth in the DI Horton series, and with number seven, A Killing Coast, due to be published by Severn House in January, I was asked by someone on LinkedIn for my advice on how to keep the central character fresh and interesting with each new release.

Readers buy series novels because they enjoy the style, the setting and reading about the characters but the challenge for an author is how to keep faithful to your readers but at the same time make each novel fresh.

For me creating a central character with a back story, which can be progressed with each new novel, is one way of introducing a fresh element.  With DI Horton he has the continuing mission, along with all the accompanying internal strife, of trying to discover why his mother (Jennifer) abandoned him at the age of ten, where she went and what subsequently happened to her. It is suspected that she was involved with a master criminal code named Zeus, who the Intelligence Directorate, Europol and Interpol are keen to get their hands on and eager to enlist Horton’s help in finding.

Then there is the question of Horton’s father. Who is he? Where is he?  Is he still alive? And what of Jennifer Horton’s background? Along with that there is Horton’s continuing struggle to gain regular access to his daughter, Emma, from an antagonistic wife. While these elements must not be allowed to dominate the novel (and not all of them are in every novel ) they keep the reader wondering what might happen and allow the development of subplots and different sides of Horton’s character to be revealed.

In addition, DI Horton is based in CID with an abrasive female boss, but it is the Major Crime Unit that deal with the homicide cases so there has to be a new way of getting Horton drawn in to the investigations, which makes it challenging.  I also introduce officers seconded from other units, which in turn alters the chemistry between the characters and the ensuing dialogue.    

Setting is also another key element and by setting the novels in the Solent area where there is plenty of contrast and action both on and off the water helps to add variety, conflict and keep the stories fresh.  Added to this is the fact that Horton lives on board his yacht, so he can always up sticks and travel – on holiday, or for a day out sailing… and who knows what might happen?

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