I’m working on reviewing my copy edits for The House Guests–formerly titled Lies and Other Mercies. In addition I’m writing a novella for a collection I hope to publish in early 2021. So let me quickly share a conversation we’re having at Read Along With Emilie Richards.
We’ve been talking about books that end with cliffhangers. I know you’ve read a few. There you are, reading away, and suddenly the book is finished, but you STILL don’t know how it ended. The book is over but the story is not. The characters are figuratively hanging from a cliff, and the author is hoping that you will buy the next book to see if they drop or manage to crawl back up to safer ledge.
Runaway, which I reissued on September 1st, has a cliffhanger. Since the book is romantic suspense, there are two major elements to the story. The first and most important in a romance is the relationship itself. Will it end happily? Will the couple work through whatever has separated them and move forward together? The second is the suspense element. Have one or both of the characters in love solved a mystery, unearthed a bad guy, moved forward from darkness to light?
Runaway was written to showcase the problems of runaway teenagers on our streets. The ending wasn’t meant to promote the sale of a second book or a long series of books to finally get an answer to the story of one teenager who is central to the novel. But when I finished it I knew I had to resolve the cliffhanger. My readers wanted to know: What happens next?
I felt comfortable leaving that question unanswered because the other important question, would the characters find love and long term happiness together, was resolved. But I didn’t leave it unanswered for long. The suspense is resolved in the second book, The Way Back Home, which comes out in two weeks.
We’ve had really interesting responses to the question “How do you feel about cliffhangers?” Some people hate them. Others like them if there’s not a lot of time between books. Waiting a year to find what will happen is unacceptable to them–me, too. Continuing characters are fine with some readers, but not unresolved story lines. Some readers will buy all the books and only read them once they have each one.
Series came up, too. I’ve heard a rumor that publishers are more enthusiastic about publishing single title novels these days than series. I’ve told you before that both the Shenandoah Album series and the Goddess Anonymous series were ended by my publisher before I provided what I considered a satisfactory conclusion to both. I was asked to write single titles from that point on, but I know from your email, that many of you wish both series had continued.
So what are your thoughts? Do you like series or single titles? Are you upset with cliffhangers, but not upset if the next book is available to find out what happens?
We’d love to hear from you. Meantime I watched an episode of Season Two of Endeavour last night. If you love Inspector Morse on PBS, Endeavour is the young Morse, just beginning his career. They story is set in Oxford, one of our favorite places in the world. Last night’s episode almost defined cliffhangers, ending with a very major one. And it was absolutely perfect. I wouldn’t change a moment.
However, I know I can watch the follow-up because I can find it on Netflix. That helped.
We’re open to opinions here. Tell us what you think.