‘What If’ Launches a New Series
By Joanna Campbell Slan
My first “love” will always be Kiki Lowenstein, the spunky single mom who inhabits my mystery series set in St. Louis. In fact, I’m busy writing Book #6 in that series. However, I wanted to write a second series, and I wanted to challenge myself. But where to look for a good idea?
I stumbled on a worthwhile premise after answering a question for a Malice Domestic panel: “What’s your favorite classic mystery?” I knew most readers might mention a work by Agatha Christie or Dorothy L. Sayer or Rex Stout, but my choice was Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre. To me, it had all the hallmarks of a great puzzle. Who was bumping around in the attic, and why did Mr. Rochester pretend it was that silly drunkard Grace Poole?
In fact, the more I thought about it, the more loose ends I noticed. Where had Adéle’s mother gone? Adéle seems to think her mother died, but Edward Rochester tells Jane that Adéle was abandoned. Which is it? What happened to Blanche Ingram after she discovered that Edward Rochester had tricked her? That he’d lied about his fortune being so small? What really happened to Jane Eyre’s uncle who died in Madiera? How did he perish? Was it true that her parents both died of natural causes or was that a lie that her evil aunt told her? Where did Bertha Mason’s brother go after she stabbed him? He must have kept tabs on Edward Rochester, otherwise, how could he have sent his solicitor to interrupt Jane and Edward’s wedding? Could Bertha have survived the fire at Thornfield Hall? What was the strange force that drove St. John Rivers to be such a martyr?
Every creative endeavor starts with a powerful question, “What if…?” But if you want to write a series, you must venture beyond those two powerful words and ask, “What happens next?”
So I set out to discover what happened to Jane Eyre at the end of Brontë’s classic. In the last chapter, Jane writes that Adéle was sent to a girls’ school in London, but the environment proved incompatible, and the girl was brought back home. What really happened? What if Adéle was bullied? What if that bully turned murderous? What if Jane was forced to protect her old student? What if Jane plays the role of amateur sleuth, and does it so well, that snooping around becomes a passion for her?
All of a sudden, I couldn’t type fast enough!
And so, Dear Reader, the Jane Eyre’s saga continues with Death of a Schoolgirl (Berkley Trade/August 7), the first book in my new series, The Jane Eyre Chronicles.
I hope you’ll check it out!
Joanna Campbell Slan is the author of the Kiki Lowenstein Mystery Series. Her first book—Paper, Scissors, Death—was a finalist for the Agatha Award. Her newest series, The Jane Eyre Chronicles, starts August 7 with the release of Death of a Schoolgirl (Berkley Trade). Visit Joanna at her website.