Writing Serials (Part Two): An Interview with Susan Kay Quinn


Yesterday I compiled a post that covered the basics of writing serials (you can read it here). Today I’m sharing my interview with successful speculative fiction author, Susan Kay Quinn.

Last year, she wrote season 1 for her serial, The Debt Collector. How she came up with the idea is interesting, and she goes into detail of how she tapped in to her Muse on a long car ride on her blog. The gist of it is she was thinking about good people with bad power. She came up with a character, The Debt Collector, who waits for “when people’s debts exceed their future potential contributions to society, [then] he cashes them out.”

S.R.: How difficult is it to write endings of episodes?

S.K.Q.: No more or less difficult than writing endings to books or short stories—sometimes they’re cliffhangers, sometimes not.

S.R.: Do you find your readers are more engaged with your serial than your novels?

S.K.Q.: This is hard to tell—with a serial, I get feedback along the way. The equivalent would be if readers of my novels stopped every few chapters and said, “This is my favorite chapter so far!” I’ve actually had a few readers who will tweet their way through a book like that, but very few. So, yes, more feedback from the serial, just because of the nature of the thing. Now that the season is done, people don’t do that anymore.

S.R.: What do you like best about writing serial?

S.K.Q.: I enjoy the fast pace and energy of the writing. And that I’m freer to dive into side characters and storylines within an episode, not always on the relentless march forward that a novel can require.

S.R.: What are some of the disadvantages of writing serial?

S.K.Q.: They are more difficult to market than novels, mostly because readers are unfamiliar with the form.

S.R.: What are your thoughts on Kindle Serials? Do you think they’re just as effective as doing it on your own site?

S.K.Q.: Kindle Serials you have to apply to and you have to write the entire serial up front and you don’t control pricing—all of these are disadvantages. They’re more effective in that they have a bit more marketing power (being Kindle Serials) and they have the nice feature that readers can buy the entire season up front and get the episodes automatically delivered.

S.R.: What kind of research did you do for Debt Collector? Did you do any research beforehand on how to write serials? If so, what?

S.K.Q.: I read several serials. I looked at who was writing, who was successful, who was NOT successful, how they priced, etc. Based on all that, and what would work for my stories, I used the format/pricing that I have. Having done it once, I plan to do future seasons in a similar way.

S.R.: Is it difficult to update the episodes? (For example, if each episode is released as an ebook, how difficult is it to update each ebook with links to the new episodes?)

S.K.Q.: Ebooks are easy to update, but it can be time consuming to go back and update all the episodes with new links. I did do that toward the end of the season.

S.R.: Do you have any favorite episodes? If so, which one(s)?

S.K.Q.: I like them all for different reasons.

A big thank you to Susan for answering my questions! I know I’m inspired to try my hand at writing serial. How about you? Share in the comments!


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