Many books for middle-grade readers are part of a series. Often one author writes all the books in series. Other times, several authors share a series.
Some of these series name the actual author on the cover. For example, the American Girls historical series has various authors, but each one wrote a different character. Connie Porter wrote the Addy books, and Valerie Tripp wrote the Josefina stories.
Other books series are written under one pen name. The series might have many different authors, but only one name appears on each cover. The Nancy Drew books are part of a well-known series written by multiple writers. Yet all the books have only one name on the cover—Carolyn Keene.
Another series like this is Warrior Cats. The name on the cover of each book is Erin Hunter. But that is only a pen name for several different authors, such as Vicky Holmes, Kate Cary, and Cherith Baldry.
If you’re wondering why a publisher would choose to put all the books under one pen name, it’s because they can keep a series going or put out more books by adding new authors. Even if one or more of the authors leaves, the series can continue. In addition, one name is easier for readers to remember when they buy or borrow a book. Also, when the books are shelved by authors’ last names in bookstores or libraries, it means all the books in the series will stay together.
I also worked on a series like this, called Second Chance Ranch, which is written under the pen name, Kelsey Abrams. I got to see how it worked when an author needs to come up with a storyline and characters that connect to a story by other authors. It can be a challenge sharing a series.
It helps if you get along well with your co-author. For me, it was a nice surprise to learn the name of the author who would be sharing the series with me, Whitney Sanderson. I already knew her, so I could tell we’d work well together.
The publisher had some ideas about what they’d like to see in the series. They chose the series name and the pen name. Then they told us the books would be about a family in Dewberry, Texas, who rescued animals. The Ramirez family had a mom, dad, and two daughters, Abby (10) and Natalie (12). They also had two adopted twin daughters, Grace and Emily (9).
Whitney chose to write about the two oldest girls, and I took the twins. Once we had that information, we had to create personalities for the girls we were writing about and come up with interesting story ideas that involved rescuing animals. We also had to develop the world they lived in – their schools, house, barn, community, and pets.
Because all four sisters appear in every book, their personalities and likes/dislikes and hobbies needed to stay the same in all the books. We also needed to keep track of what animals were on the ranch. We created a shared document, called a “bible,” where we wrote down all the information about our characters and added new animals the family adopted.
If Whitney wrote that they decorated their house in Southwestern style, I needed to be sure I didn’t change the furniture style in my book. If I wrote Emily liked to paint and Grace played soccer, Whitney made sure to use those details in her books. Because Emily and Abby dislike spicy food, but Natalie adores fiery hot dishes, we kept that consistent in all the books.
Our bible grew as we added information about the parents, the girls’ friends and classmates, their neighbors, and community events. By the time our first four books came out in January 2018, we felt like we knew each other’s characters. Now we’re busy writing four more books (two each, one about each sister) that will come out in Fall 2018. With every book we write, we note new facts, and our bible grows and grows. We learn so many new facts about our characters as we put them in new and difficult situations.
Is your favorite series written by one author or several? Here’s one way you can tell. Look on the copyright page. Often the authors real name can be found there. Sometimes it says, “Special thanks to…” That is the name of the actual author. Once in a while, you’ll find the real author’s name on the title page under the pen name. It might say, “Text by…” That’s another indication of the real writer’s name. Search for clues in your favorite series. What did you find?