Creating a New Series

Part 1

I thought I would give you some insight into what it takes to create a new series. (At least for me) This blog will be about the third series that I am currently writing.  It is about a small town on the edge of the Cherokee National Forest in North Carolina.

Everything starts with an idea.  Not all ideas are easy to think of.  In fact for this one I required several brainstorming sessions with my biggest fans, my family.  They have always been my go to group.  For this new series the rounds of discussions lasted about three weeks, I was still writing for the Paranormal Wars series at the time so there was no interruption in writing.

Over that time we discussed paranormal vs. non-paranormal, Earth vs outer space, creating a new Earth or keeping things as they are. Different types of careers were looked at that would lend to a book such as bodyguards, firemen, police (I won't mention them all as they may be used in future series).  In the end it was a trip up to my family's cabin in North Carolina that settled it for me.

The small town vibe was perfect and had me falling in love with its quaint charm.  There was even a recently married gay couple who owned a store in town.  The fact that they were able to be who they were with little problems from the locals sealed the deal for me.  How great is it that a small southern town is so accepting?  It gave me a new sense of hope about the way we treat each other and I wanted to capture it.

The series will start with three books about three friends who move to this small town.  Over the coming weeks I will talk about what it took to set up the town, name the characters and decide on names of the various businesses.  Keep checking back for an in depth look into what it took to create this new series.

Part 2

Once I identified the type of series I wanted to do (small town) I had to come up with what would drive the series.  Again discussions were had about what the series would be about.  In the end I went with what I feel is the largest factor of many small towns, Main Street.  Success of a town is often seen with the shops that line the one main road in and out of downtown and I wanted to capture that by doing the series about those that owned those stores.

The original town that guided me to write this series continued to inspire me with how its Main Street shops struggled to survive. The stores on the main highway that edge the town are frequented more than those on road that crosses through the very heart of the town.  Both in the daytime and at night it is clear that the businesses on Main Street are doing their best to draw visitors in, yet too many of the storefronts are empty, making it feel desolate.

So the question is asked - What would it take to save Main Street?

Part 3

As the ideas about the town and its people fire my imagination eventually the main characters of the book need to be settled on.  As I walk down Main Street the various types of shops are noted, some jump out at me creating their own stories before I've even had a chance to think about whether to include the location in the series.

While those places yammer at me to not just include them, but to give them their own books, an idea forms as to some of the other characters and locations to include and how they all tie together.  The one place that started it all for this series, was the town bakery.  But the location didn't feel right so it was moved to a building I fell in love with as soon as I saw it among the row of shops downtown.

Instead of blending in, this building stood out amongst the row of brick buildings, and their cookie cutter shops.  It's log cabin charm called to me to put the bakery, with its cozy warmth and yummy goodness, inside.

That bakery was all it took for the others shops to start clamoring to join in.  The first three books will be centered around the bakery, an Irish pub and a flower shop.  But there are so many more waiting for the day when their stories will be told.

Part 4

Now that the theme has been decided, along with location, it's time to understand the town regarding the types of shops, offices and of course, its citizens.  To get a better understanding of the town, I first had to create a map that would designate not only the basic layout, but also the actual size and various shops it will encompass.  Nothing is ever set in stone (well, until its published in one of the books) so I'll be able to change certain things.

My first step was to use a whiteboard to draw out the basic layout of the town.  To keep it small, I only put in two streets that go through the downtown area with the majority of the businesses on Main with only a few on the secondary street.  Using the town that has been the inspiration for this series, I have laid out the buildings in a similar fashion.

Lastly, I listed the types of stores and offices that would work to enhance the small town feel I'm going for.  While writing each story, certain stores have needed to be changed, sometimes in location, sometimes the type of of store.  All of that is easily accomplished with an eraser and a dry erase marker.  

With each book I hope to show the true heart of the series - the residents of the town.  I hope you enjoy reading them as much as I have enjoyed writing them.

Part 5

Now that I have decided on the type of series, the location and the various shops that will be included, I am ready to develop the characters.  For me it revolved around the bakery and the casino. As I thought about who I wanted to own the bakery and who would represent the casino, their personalities and backgrounds started to develop.

For the man representing the casino, it was a fairly simple decision to have him be new to the town. But for the bakery owner nothing was simple.  The more I thought about the character I didn't want it to seem like he was stuck in the small town.  The character needed to have experienced life in a large city.  As a baker I decided to have him attend one of the best culinary schools in the country.  The fact that it was located in Orlando made things a little easier.

But it didn't make a lot of sense for a young gay twenty-something-year-old to move to a small town without a compelling reason.  So I had him grow up in Cedar Falls.  But he continued to nag at me that his story wasn't that simple.  He'd been living in Orlando for seven years.  He would have made friends during that time.  What happened to them when he moved back home?

The more he spoke to me, the more I got to know his friends and had to make them a part of the series too.  As to who those friends are and what their names are, well you'll have to keep coming back to find out.


The last step before I start writing the actual series was to come up with the names of the characters. As this series is around an entire town, I had to come up with the names and types of characters for the various business the town will have.

First a list of all the business were created along with the type of person that would own it and work in it.  Once that list is finished a rough estimate of how many characters would need names is compiled. Obviously it won't be a complete list as more businesses would be added over time, but it was a good start.

Now comes the fun part, naming the characters.  To do this I go to both the Internet and a baby names book I have.  As this is a regional series I did searches on some more traditional southern names like Betty Sue, or Bobby Joe.  But at the same time I also choose names that I think fit the characters the best.

Choosing a name is a very subjective thing.  For the first book I used Zane and Aidan as I have a fondness for the names.  But there are certain characters that I choose a name for the personality it represents to me.  An example is Jesse, one of Zane's best friends.  The name, for me anyway, represents someone who is a lot of fun, which Jesse is in spades.

As I fill each character's name on the list, the characters start to talk to me, insisting I tell their story. Now that I know their names, I'm able to do just that.

I hope you enjoy this series.

Shea Balik

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