I’ve already attested to the brilliance of Susanne Gervay’s Always Jack, so I thought, to spare you another post of flowing praise, I’d invite Susanne around to talk about her ten-year journey to complete the trilogy of Jack books. The first book in the series, I Am Jack, spawned a successful stage adaptation by MonkeyBaa, which toured NSW regional, rural and Sydney centres in 2008, and expanded to conquer Australia in 2009. In September, 2011, the play will feature as part of the Ipswich Children’s Literature Festival and then complete a season at the Seymour Centre, Sydney. Now, Always Jack has launched out of the gates, garnering a wealth of critical praise.
Why do young people wait in long queues for each new book in series such as Lemony Snicket books… Harry Potter books… Twilight?
Trademark fantasy book series by writers like Isabelle Carmody, Garth Nix, Kate Forsyth, Tolkien; crime series with authors such as James Patterson, Harlen Coben, Ian Rankin, Phillip Pulman, Alexander McCall Smith; science, romance, historical series and especially children’s series can have huge readerships.
Series are sometimes commercially manufactured of course. Stephanie Meyer’s Twilight series has led to an array of copycat Vampire and paranormal series.
I remember the madness and millions of dollars for the R.L.Stine Goosebumps series for kids, spawning many other horror kids’ series. It always felt like I was reading the same story.
So have I written a series? A trilogy? I actually nearly fell off my chair (apologies for the cliché) when my Jack books were called a series/trilogy – I Am Jack, Super Jack and Always Jack. Maybe I have.
It’s been a 10 year journey writing my Jack books for young people. I’ve written a series when not writing a series. I wrote I Am Jack for my son after he was bullied at school, published in 2000 by HarperCollins when bullying wasn’t seriously acknowledged. I wrote it for my son and kids, the bully, bullied, onlookers, parents, teachers community because bullying ruins your life. I Am Jack is funny, got plenty of jokes, has a wobbly Nanna and even a girl interest.
It was written as a stand alone title. Four years later, due to the success of I Am Jack, I wrote a companion book, Super Jack. Like the first book, it is funny, warm, real, giving a voice to kids and families. This time it’s about blending families as well as lots of other things from bush fires to mateship.
Always Jack carries the Cancer Council’s precious yellow daffodil and like all my Jacks it’s funny, real and jumps into everything from cancer to the Vietnam War to Jack’s first love.
All the Jack books link, but are also stand alone. They have been defined as a series because Jack and his family, their loves and lives are central to each book. However this has to be the longest ‘series’ ever – ten years in the making.
Now that I’ve finished this ‘series’, I think I get it. Readers care about the characters in the first book. They want to know what happens to them. They become fans, even when there is ten years between the first and third book.
What do you think about series? Do you find some of them compulsory reading? Is it the characters? The plots? What is the X-factor of a series you love?
What series do you want to read? Have you a single title that you are desperate to have another book or two follow?