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Saturday, June 1, 2013


The thing with stand-alone novels
by Niina C

      You might recall my recent review of A Highland Werewolf Wedding that had me fuming in general about Stand-Alone books that feature a lieu of previous cast members. First let me clarify what a stand-alone is - a book that is part of a series but can be considered a complite story on it's own - let me give you an example. You can have a series, let's title it Bad Boys of Houston ( yeah boys you know I'm referring to you ),  and in this series you focus on the six men who work at the famous and infamous strip club catering to the richest women of Texas. First book Wildride will features Will ( now don't laugh but it's short for his stage name Magnificent... okay, ahem, moving on. ) and his unlikely story of finding the love of his life in the waitress Stacy. Okay, simple right, you're following me still... Now the second book is called Two-Step featuring Stephen and his journey to love of his life. Will, Stacy and the other guys of the club make re-appearance, and so on it goes for the six books in the series - but the supporting cast don't have clear continuum of story they don't develop until their own book, they don't get more than cool quips, some promo, make few appearances as supporting cast or have great few-liners.

      My beef with this set up is the miss use of the word Stand-Alone with series and novels that are not stand-alones! I have in my near three years of ( one month to go! ) running my book blog For The Love of Reading ran into blatant misuse of this word, I sign up for a tour or believe the author when they say their novel is a stand-alone - and as I have not read the previous book I believe in giving this a shot - and boy have I been wrong many enough times!

      The most annoying labeled stand-alones that are not SA are the ones where the previous cast members  keep popping up at random places ( oh look where are in Budapest for a love-vacation and it's my coworker Robby, who stops by and says something funny and leaves. WTF!? ), or revealing something mysterious about the main characters or only to smile knowingly ( I hate the smiling knowingly, because how the fuck should I know what he's smiling about, he looks like dumb ass for it! ), or the previous cast that just hangs around and things are revealed about them, or the even shittier hinted about them, that I couldn't give jack about as I don't know them!

      There should be set rules for SA! And every author wanting to label their novels SA should check it first to not piss off, confuse or annoy their readers, and more importantly their reviewers. Nothing gets Stars Dropping from my reviews as fast as a SA that' is not a Stand-Alone.

      If it were up to me there rules would be as follows:

      1. The supporting cast can only be 'supporting' they cannot have a story line before their book, meaning:

  • 1.1 No love interests, break-ups or new lovers
  • 1.2 No character development, such as growth or specific problems
  • 1.3 No specific character traits, like always playing practical jokes that are referred to in all the novels

      2. The supporting cast can only have great few-liners, witty quips or offer emotional support

  • 2.1 No specific information given on them, that will later be used to stupefy readers
  • 2.2 No long speeches, that will be referred to in coming books
  • 2.3 No heroics or anti-heroics, leave that to the main characters

      3. The supporting cast should be milder versions of their future novel

  • 3.1 No knowing smiles ( goddamn that bothers me to no end! )
  • 3.2 No mysterious hinting of hero's past through the mouth of a supporting cast ( tick )
  • 3.3 No popping up randomly! ( if they work together they meet at work! See the 3.4 )
  • 3.4 No extracurricular activities, those can come up in their own book
A supporting cast member shouldn't do anything that the reader should know about before picking up their own Stand-Alone novel!

Most authors are really smart about this, and know what they are doing with their SA! And one of my favorite series is well constructed for this, the Studs in Spurs series by Cat Johnson and Dark Ones series by Katie MacAlister, each couple gets the perfect spotlight and the supporting cast is perfectly behaved. To compare think of The Blackdagger Brotherhood by J.R. Ward the cast is intermingled and attached to the hip. I love BDB and am royally a fan because these aren't being sold as SA but as proper series.

I wonder if my rules make sense to anyone but myself, but I felt the need to get this out, and as I have done so, I think I'll get some ice-cream watch To Rome With Love and relax. ;)

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