I got a wonderful email the other day, from a reader who was requesting the free story I offer via this blog. It was the kind of email authors dream about because she said she had read The Sixth Discipline (which she got free in iBooks, but it's also free almost everywhere) and loved it enough to buy the sequel No Safe Haven, and loved it enough to buy all my other books in the iBooks store. On top of that, when I checked, she had left a review on iBooks! Talk about your ideal readers!
When I sent her the story, I suggested she read Tribes first, because it's most like the Haven books in overall tone, and I warned her that Shades of Empire is noticeably darker and more explicit than my other books. But when I was writing the email, it occurred to me that in some ways, the fact that she loved the Haven books so much could make it difficult for her to enjoy the other books.
Readers love books in a series. Once they find a character they like, they want to stick with him or her. When a local book club read my fantasy novella Where Magic Rules, one of the questions the readers asked me was did I have any books in a series.
Authors, on the other hand, often find it difficult keep finding new things to say about a character. The Haven “series” is only two books long, and I didn't know it would be two when I started it. As it turned out, I had too much story in my head for it to fit into one book. Fortunately, there was an eight-year gap in the story, which made a logical place to end the first book; I just had to be sure there was enough resolution of all but the one significant plot point that continues in the second book.
But in a sense, most of my books are in a series. All of my far future science fiction stories take place in a universe in which people from earth colonized other worlds in a way that left them cut off from our earth. The societies and cultures they created varied, depending on why they left their own world. I call them "sleeper worlds," partly because the colonists traveled in suspended animation. In the Haven books, there were three distinct groups on the colony world of Haven: one looking for new resources, one wanting isolation to experience harmony with nature, and one hoping for a total lack of government. In Tribes, the world was a prison colony, and its culture and government evolved from prison gangs. The colony world in The Nostalgia Gambit is an exception in that it's not a sleeper world.
I named my universe the ThreeCon universe, for the Third Confederation of Planets, the organization I created to oversee commerce and other interaction between the worlds. Although there are no characters shared between stories (except for the Haven books), the universe has a consistent, shared history. There are events mentioned in one that carry over into other stories, too.
My next book, most likely titled Saronna's Gift will be a romance, but it's also set in the ThreeCon universe, and the sleeper world the story takes place on was founded as religious colony by a charismatic but despotic leader who believed in an Old Testament-style patriarchy. After a few centuries of isolation, the world is a pretty awful place, in a lot of ways. The story starts when a young woman's father takes her to a city to sell her. I'm hoping the book will appeal to both romance readers and science fiction readers.
Really, my kind of series is the kind authors like: low overhead for the writer in creating the overall history, and a new set of characters each time. I don't know how much benefit that is to readers. If you have an opinion, let me know in the comments.