EPISODIC NOVELS (FOREVER FINLEY)

Haunted creek

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In November of 2015, I wrote a short story called “Come December.” I’d been a hybrid author for several months (meaning I’d released four books through traditional publishing houses, and two novels independently, through channels like Kindle Direct Publishing, iBooks, Kobo, and Nook Press). What I loved about indie publishing was that the door was literally wide open: I was free to go where my heart wanted to take me in terms of subject matter and style, and even length. The ultimate writer’s playground.

I’d been writing full-length novels solidly for years, and wanted to get back to an old love: the short story. It would be a joy to sit down and write a shorter piece—something I could draft from beginning to end in a single sitting. As busy as we all are, I thought my readers would feel the same way—happy to be able to sit down and devour a story from beginning to end all in one gulp.

“Come December” took off during the holiday season, finding its way onto the e-readers, tablets, and laptop screens of readers who were being introduced to my work for the first time. I was absolutely delighted to hear from so many of them, who were taking time from their own holiday hustle and bustle to shoot me e-mails. The response was so positive (and I’d had such a great time with it) that I was convinced I needed to continue telling the tale. I decided I’d offer a new installment once a month throughout 2016, and that each new story would be titled after the month of its release.

But in what way did I want to continue? Did I want to follow along with the adventures of Natalie, the new girl who rolled into town in “Come December?”
Well—not exactly. It was the town itself I found the most intriguing. Already, I had depicted a kind of mystical place in “Come December.” Like my readers (and Natalie), I had only just crossed the city limits. I wanted to learn more about this new place.

In “January Thaw,” I introduced two new characters (Natalie took on a supporting role), but the central focus was on the town itself. Finley had become the main character of my ongoing series. “Forget February,” the third installment, allowed me to dive into its history. To relate the legend of Amos Hargrove, the town founder. A new question arose: was Amos simply a town-wide superstition? Or were the stories about him true? Could Finley be not just a quaint town, a lovely town, but a place that was literally fueled by something—well—otherworldly? Was it enchanted? Did the spirit of Amos Hargrove have a hand in manipulating the events that took place? I couldn’t wait to return every month.

As the series progressed, I wove together historical and contemporary scenarios. In addition to the legend of Amos Hargrove, the Civil War soldier desperate to reunite with the spirit of his sweetheart (who died before Amos’s return from battle), we have stories of modern-day relationships: new loves, old loves, friendships, engagements, couples who have been together decades, couples who are still learning about each other. We see Finley through the eyes of some of the younger residents, and through the eyes of the oldest.

In the end, Forever Finley became an episodic novel. Which is just a fancy way of saying each story can stand on its own. But together, they all build toward a single ending, in the same way that chapters in a novel all build to the final conclusion.
Finley has become one of my favorite places to visit—and I hope you’ll enjoy your own journey through its borders as well.

Best wishes in reading—
Holly Schindler

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