Quite a few readers have written in the last couple of months, asking why Bill and I decided to discontinue the Robin Paige series. Here's an answer to that question--now, when people ask, I can just give them the permanent link to this post!
Bill and I started work on that series in 1992, right after the first China Bayles book came out. We'd been writing young adult books together since 1985, and both of us enjoyed the process of writing together. So we came up with several ideas for a co-authored series. After much energetic back-and-forth, considering various options, we decided to set the series in England in the late Victorian-early Edwardian period. There was so much going on at that time, politically, socially--and especially forensically. Fingerprint identification was just becoming available, and there was forensic photography, ballistics, toxicology, serology, and so on. So it was an ideal setting for an investigative series.
We also decided to use real people in the series. The second book, for instance, featured Beatrix Potter. The sixth, Jennie and Winston Churchill. The twelfth, Guiglielmo Marconi. This proved to be a very good idea, and really kept us interested in the series. Readers have liked it, too, for each book introduces them to a new segment of English society, to a new set of issues, and new points of view. But it also proved to be exceedingly difficult, for each book required not only the usual background research, but also specific biographical research about the person we chose as our "featured" character.
The series originally went as paperback original to Avon, but they were having troubles at the time (the mid-90s) and didn't do a very good job getting the books out there. We moved the series to Berkley, where it has been ever since, very happily. We've loved working with our editor, Natalee Rosenstein. The series went into hardcover with the seventh book. We've discontinued it with the twelfth--Lizard (originally in hardcover in 2006) will be out in paperback in July. When we started, we thought we might do ten books. The series went to twelve because we enjoyed the collaboration so much.
I say "discontinued," because it's always possible that something will come along that will make us change our minds. We left some plot threads hanging, just in case we want to pick it up again. But there's no "next book" in this series on our horizon. The reason: the research load is very heavy. It wasn't so much the background research in the period--that was entirely manageable. It was the biographical research on the individual characters and their world that made it difficult. For Marconi, for instance, we worked our way through all the available biographies, plus books about the telegraph, the wireless telegraph, and radio. And believe me, there's a LOT of stuff out there. Bill spent a couple of months on the research and we each put in three person-months on the writing. By the time all was said and done, we'd put a full year into the book.
Yes, we probably overdid it. We might have gotten by without doing so much. But we loved the learning (that's one of the reasons we're writers). Readers, too, have appreciated that level of specificity, and once we began creating these richly-detailed worlds, we really couldn't go back to a more general, non-specific kind of writing that so often passes for "historical" fiction. Readers would have been disappointed, and we wouldn't have enjoyed the work nearly as much.
That's it, gang. That's why we decided to discontinue the series. I'll continue the China Bayles books indefinitely (as long as you keep reading), and hope to do a short story collection and a cookbook in the series. There will be four more books (eight altogether) in the Beatrix Potter series, and maybe a junior biography. I'm working on a memoir project now, and have a novel in mind, to be written sometime in the next couple of years. Bill and I miss the Robin Paige collaboration, but now we have time for other things we want to do together, so it all balances out.
If you've been a reader of this series, thanks for your support. Please know that you belong to a relatively small and select group: there are many fewer readers of historical fiction (particularly the non-bodice-rippers), and they don't network the way readers of other mysteries or romances do. So it's harder for an author to reach you, or to develop an effective "marketing program." Also, as a group, you are demanding: you know your history and you want your history done right. Bill and I hope we managed to do that.