After completing Murder on Murderer’s Row, the first novel in The Mike Fargo Mysteries series, like any author my first thought was what’s next? The logical answer was another novel. Then another idea struck me. What about a novella? Long a stepsister as a literary form, I had read a while back that some of the major publishers were asking their authors of series with continuing characters to write novellas in between novels so that the character remains fresh with the audience. In other words, instead of waiting perhaps a year or more to see a second novel, readers would get a shortened version in between and could continue following a character they liked.
Because I wanted new readers to know that Mike Fargo would be a continuing character I decided to go the novella route with Death of a Flapper. That way, I could publish it just a couple of months after my initial Fargo offering. Having never attempted the shortened novella form before I knew it would be on ongoing process and, with it, a bit of the unknown. Yet it actually went rather smoothly because I realized early on what I could and couldn’t do.
Mike Fargo operates in 1920’s New York City and part of creating a historical novel is to give the reader an accurate and almost visual feel for the period. You also have to weave real characters in an out of the story and have them interact with your fictional creations. In Murder on Murderer’s Row Babe Ruth was a major character, while other members of the 1927 Yankees had cameos. New York City’s colorful mayor, Jimmy Walker, also played a part in the story, as did Governor, Al Smith. Venues included the Cotton Club, the ticker tape parade for “Lucky” Lindy (who made it across the Atlantic that year), Yankee Stadium, Wall Street, Broadway and the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel. Even the legendary Mae West made a brief appearance. Hopefully, I’ve succeeded in bringing those people and places to life.
Early on in the process of creating Death of a Flapper I realized that much of the descriptiveness that I had taken pains to include in the novel had to give way to the plot, in this case the pursuit of a killer. With the novella it really had to be plot, plot, plot. I wrote to a length that was roughly a third as long as the novel and completed the story in ten short chapters. Character development had to be subtle, with more left to the imagination of the reader and, of course, there were fewer secondary characters.
I also made it something of a prequel since Murder on Murderer’s Row was set in 1927 and Death of a Flapper in 1922. My thinking now, as I prepare to write a second full Fargo novel, is to set the next one in 1928, thereby having the option of continuing with characters introduced in the first or, in essence, the year before. Hopefully, that will bring a sense of continuity to the series.
Will I write another novella? Though you never know what the future will bring, I can say I thoroughly enjoyed doing it and, if the The Mike Fargo Mysteries series is successful, I could obviously alternate novel and novella, thereby increasing the product line. It also doesn’t hurt that as a self-published e-book on Amazon, the novella price of 99 cents is also a bargain for the reader.
And, perhaps most important of all, writing it was fun.