Playing it Safe – Guest Author Kelley Armstrong

November 5, 2008 at 5:45 am (Guest Bloggers) (, )

Hi everyone –
Please welcome my guest today, author Kelley Armstrong.
Deborah Cooke

Living with the Dead

Living with the Dead

The 9th book in my Otherworld series came out last week. For it, I deviated from my usual 1st person narration and wrote it in 3rd with multiple viewpoints because that’s how this particular story needed to be told.

I know I will have some readers who read it and say “What the hell was she thinking?” I know I’ll have some readers who are disappointed. And the thing is, I knew that before I started the book, and I wrote it anyway.

That decision didn’t come easy for me. Whenever I change things in my series—the narrator, the tone, the narrative format—there’s a part of me that throws up screaming red stop signs. That part tells me to play it safe, don’t make waves, just give the readers what I know they want and save myself from angry Amazon reviewers. This time, that part was telling me to write a Cassandra or Savannah book—you know readers are waiting for that, Kelley. Or an Elena book—can’t go wrong with Elena, Kelley. So what if I don’t have a good plot idea for those narrators. Make something up. Who cares if it sucks and I’m embarrassed by it. Readers will buy it!

The problem is that, when I decided to turn Bitten into a series, I made myself promise one thing—that I would never let it devolve into “churning out crappy books because I know loyal readers will buy them.” I decided I would never play it safe, and started down that road with book 3, by changing the narrator.

What readers want is important to me. Who am I writing for if not my readers? But keeping readers happy also means keeping the series alive and fresh, and sometimes, to do that, I need to take a risk.

In their review of this latest book, Booklist said “Rarely is the ninth book in a series as fresh and entertaining as the first, but this Women of the Otherworld volume defies the odds.” And that is exactly what I want to hear.

I know, however, that not every reader will echo Booklist’s sentiments. And that’s why, when I went to a convention in Alaska last year and thought of a great idea for an Elena book, I jumped on it for book #10. Because I do want to please readers. Sometimes, though, doing that in the long-term, by keeping a series healthy, means doing something riskier in the short term. But the alternative is to play it safe, and that’s something I don’t ever want to do.

Kelley Armstrong


  1. Beth C. said,


    I have a hard time with the first person telling, but now I like each story having a different narrator. It does keep it fresh. Your free shorts had multiple viewpoints. I’m sure it will be fine.

    And all I can say is Yeah!!! to getting another Elena story. She and Clay are favorites.

  2. Deborah Cooke said,

    Kelley –

    I think POV is one of those things that authors often worry about more than readers. It’s a lot more common to hear of people disliking first person than third, so maybe this will find you a whole new group of readers!


  3. Bree said,

    Hi, Kelley!

    I had different expectations for this book, and I’ll admit that made it a little strange reading it. But I loved the book in spite of those expectations, and I think your gamble paid off. I really enjoyed the third person multiple POV and I adored the new characters. I appreciated a chance to spend more time with Hope and Karl, who are without a doubt my favorites, and am really hoping to see a Robyn book some day. 🙂 If the biggest disappointment I took away was that I didn’t get enough time with the new characters, you’ve obviously done something very right!

  4. nadine said,

    i have yet to read your next book but it is on postal order! im looking forward to it regardless of change of POV. Im sure that all your readers,like myself,treated themselves to your free short stories online. Therefore they shouldnt be complaining about book 9!! new characters are always a bonus, they just expand that little world you take us to each time we read any of your stories.

  5. Karin said,

    Congratulations on staying true to yourself, Kelley.

  6. Donna said,

    I love it when an author keeps a series fresh! The last thing I want is the same book told over and over again. Congratulations on a great 9th book, Kelley! Not every author can do that.

  7. Kimber Chin said,

    Great post, Kelley!
    One of my business buddies always claims ‘if you’re not living on the edge, you’re taking up too much space!’
    Ya gotta do what is right for you and your book.
    Rock it!

  8. Jennifer Brown said,

    I have never been disappointed with any of your books – my only regret is that I read too fast and the books come out when they come out. Darn it. Your books are my must-get-now books – even if I’m reading something else, I drop them all to get and read yours.

  9. Jackie B said,

    It was different reading the book in entirely the third person, but it didn’t ruin it at all. There’s no way we could have been made aware of everything going on without it! I may not always like the narrators you choose (I was very nervous about Jaime) at first, but the story you weave makes it work. You definitely take risks in a genre where the fans are very particular about what happens to the characters, but you pull it off.

    Whose favorite installment is Haunted. ; )

  10. Andrea said,

    Hi Kelley,

    While I like the first person narrative more, I definitely get the need for 3rd person. I’m working on writing my first novel, and I’ve tried to make it work with 1st person. It’s not… I’m delving into a fantasy world, and I feel I need a narrator who has been to the human world.

    Anyway, I liked that this book was 3rd person. Not because I thought the story-telling was better, but because we got to know five characters. While we already know Hope, there were four brand new characters. And writing 1st person for 5 people would have been too confusing.

    I really like Adele, despite the crazy, and the Kumpania stuff was really neat. It was different than anything you’ve written before. I am re-reading Bitten, and there was a part in there about building a commune to hide, and it made me laugh… especially after reading LWTD. There hasn’t been clairvoyants in the otherworld books yet (except Faye), and I liked learning about them.

    As excited as I am for another Elena novel, I must say the thing I’m most excited about is the new short in the Men of the Otherworld. I love Jaime… especially when she’s with Jeremy.

  11. SciFiGuy said,

    I agree with those that have said the new characters of Robyn and Finn are fab. They definitely deserve their own story. Multiple POVs are a refreshing change and IMHO added even more depth to the story that is tough to get with 1st person. Great book and series. No matter which character you pick I look forward to the next.

  12. Michele Ann Young said,

    I have never written in first person, but I have read lots of books are really enjoy in first person. I think the only thing I’m not keen on are those books where they change from first to third and then somehow change the tense in there as well from past to present.
    I do have a bit of a bias for more than one pov, but sometimes a book works better the other way.
    Great blog. Interesting to see that you made conscious choices about this.
    Thanks Kelley.

  13. Pamk said,

    just wanted to let you know I love your books and even though I’ve not read the one in question I will. First person third or whatever doesn’t bother me as long as it’s a good story. I’m easy just have to have a great story.

  14. Tamara said,

    Hi Kelley
    I just love all of your books. Once I got “to know” the different characters, it all just seemed to flow. I think you’d be hard pressed to write a dud!
    Can’t wait for the next books!

  15. Kelley Armstrong said,

    Thanks to everyone who stopped by! While I fear the wrath of pissed-off readers when I do stuff like this, I also know that most readers support the general idea of (minor) change in a long-running series, so that helps. I’d never make a drastic, permanent change, but a little shake-up now and then keeps things interesting 🙂

  16. Marcia said,

    This is the reason why I keep kicking myself for being so far behind in your series. While there were a few that left me scratching a hole in my head, yours is DEFINITELY one of the best series out there. I say change away!! Have at it and have as great as a time while doing it. 😉 I know I’m having a fantastic time reading it.

    And not to get off topic, but we need a BITTEN movie something bad. 😆

  17. Savanna Kougar said,

    Good for you, Kelley. I applaud your author’s integrity.

  18. Kazelmsa said,

    Hi!zlny! gurnv rcohl

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