Kaitlyn Dunnett/Kathy Lynn Emerson here. I’m not sure what got me started on this topic, but I’ve been thinking lately about the various protagonists I’ve created over the years and speculating about what might have happened to them after their respective series came to an end.
I can remember quite clearly my reaction to learning that St. Martin’s Press had decided, after seven books, not to continue publishing my Face Down series featuring Susanna, Lady Appleton, sixteenth-century gentlewoman, expert on poisonous herbs, and amateur sleuth. I had a lot more I wanted to do with that character and was determined not to abandon her. I ended up writing three more Face Down novels and numerous short stories featuring Susanna and her friends and she also appears in the second book of my spin-off Mistress Jaffrey Mysteries. What happened to her after 1586 (“Lady Appleton and the Yuletide Hogglers,” included in Volume Three of The Face Down Collection). As I imagine it, she’s living comfortably at Leigh Abbey, her home in Kent, devoting herself to local concerns and taking care of her long-time companion, Jennet, who has a dicey heart. She’s been reconciled with her adopted daughter, Rosamond, and there’s a prospect of grandchildren in her future by way of Rosamond and her no-longer-estranged husband, Rob, Jennet’s son.
Will I ever write more Lady Appleton stories? Probably not. I’ve already done prequels (included in Volume One of The Face Down Collection), and frankly, by sixteenth-century standards, now in her mid-fifties, she’s getting a little long in the tooth to gad about solving crimes. Mid-fifties in those days would be equivalent to mid-eighties today. As for Rosamond and Rob, the third of their adventures (Murder in a Cornish Alehouse) left them happily returning home to London and responsible for Rosamond’s young half brother’s well-being. I didn’t actually say so, but in my mind, Rosamond was already pregnant. Raising a family should keep her too busy to meddle in more murders.
How do I know Rosamond had children? Because my other historical mystery series, the Diana Spaulding 1888 Quartet (soon to be released in an omnibus e-book edition), mentions that she’s descended from a famous sixteenth-century herbalist. Given the passage of several centuries, her knowledge of her own ancestry isn’t precisely accurate. Since Susanna had no children of her own, it’s her adopted daughter, Rosamond, from whom Diana is descended. Rosamond and Rob’s first child, Andrew, is Diana’s ancestor.
Similarly, the protagonists of my two contemporary mystery series have lives that continue after the final book. In the thirteenth Liss MacCrimmon Mystery, A View to a Kilt, Liss is left contemplating two possibilities for her future. One is a career as a professional investigator. The other is a partnership of some unspecified nature with her mother, with whom she has gradually developed a working relationship after years of antagonism. Either way, I don’t see children in her future, but I do see her continuing to live in Moosetookalook, Maine with her husband, family, and friends, and staying involved in community activities. She and her mother will continue to work at understanding and accepting each other. They may even succeed.
I had made a few notes for a fourteenth book, dealing with nefarious doings surrounding the construction of senior citizens’ housing on the site of the mansion that figured in two previous entries in the series (particularly in the Halloween book, Vampires, Bones, and Treacle Scones), but it didn’t have much in the way of an original plot. After seventy books, most of them novels, I ran a very real risk of repeating myself. Lacking enough of an idea to inspire 75,000+ words in a series my publisher no longer wanted. I realized Liss was in a good place in her life at the end of book thirteen and decided to leave her there.
As for Mikki Lincoln, you might think that since she’s in her seventies, she doesn’t have that much of a future left. I beg to differ. Although she and her friend Darlene have certain physical limitations due to their age, they still have their wits about them and, unlike Susanna Appleton, have the benefits of modern medicine to help them deal with the downside of getting older.
One of the things negative reviews have noted is Mikki’s tendency toward indulging in nostalgia, particularly when she shares memories from her teen years, That was when she last lived in the village of Lenape Hollow, New York. Looking back was deliberate on my part, since she reconnects with both an old friend and an old enemy (the classic “mean girl” from high school) and those relationships were slated to grow and change in the course of the series. Did I have plans for another book after number four? Not really. I pretty much did all I wanted to do with those characters. I envision them continuing to live and work together for at least another decade, enjoying both their present-day activities and the occasional fond recollection of years gone by. I can personally vouch for the fact that when one passes the age of seventy, memories from fifty-plus years earlier are often more vivid than those of the recent past.
So there you are, the “where are they now?” for my sleuths. I’d love to hear what readers think of those fictional futures. And, if you leave a comment, you’ll be entered to win a print copy of The Valentine Veilleux Mysteries, the one bit of “new” writing I’ve done since completing Murder, She Edited (written pre-covid and published in 2021). A drawing for the winner will take place on May 10.
Kathy Lynn Emerson/Kaitlyn Dunnett has had sixty-four books traditionally published and has self published others, including several children’s books. She won the Agatha Award and was an Anthony and Macavity finalist for best mystery nonfiction of 2008 for How to Write Killer Historical Mysteries and was an Agatha Award finalist in 2015 in the best mystery short story category. She was the Malice Domestic Guest of Honor in 2014. Her most recent publications are The Valentine Veilleux Mysteries (a collection of three short stories and a novella, written as Kaitlyn) and I Kill People for a Living: A Collection of Essays by a Writer of Cozy Mysteries (written as Kathy). She maintains websites at www.KaitlynDunnett.com and www.KathyLynnEmerson.com. A third, at A Who’s Who of Tudor Women, is the gateway to over 2300 mini-biographies of sixteenth-century Englishwomen.