I’m a huge fan of author Lauren Dane’s books. She creates characters that are strong, but flawed and she never shies away from a challenge. In her latest series for Harlequin, Dane writes about the Hurley brothers, members of the super successful alt rock band Sweet Hollow Ranch. We met Damien Hurley in Lush, as Dane was working on that story, Damien’s brothers showed up. She fell in love with them and knew they needed their own stories. Paddy, Ezra and Vaughn all get their due in The Hurley Boys series. In the first book, Best Kind of Trouble, Paddy meets his one and only, Natalie. Ezra and Tuesday’s story is told in Broken Open and Vaughn and Kelly get their second happily ever after in Back to You.
The books can be read as stand alone stories, but readers of the series get an added benefit. The second and third books have overlapping timelines. As a reader, I found the hints of Kelly and Vaughn’s story in Tuesday and Ezra’s story were enough to make it interesting and whet my appetite, but not so much as to be distracting. When I finally got to read Kelly & Vaughn’s book. It was fun to view events in the story from a different perspective and it never felt repetitive.
As a writer, I read these stories and marveled and all that it took to effectively pull off overlapping timelines. I reached out to Lauren Dane and asked if she’d talk to me about the process of writing these books and their overlapping timelines and she was gracious enough to oblige.
I asked her how the overlapping timelines came about. “Here’s the thing. I did not plan to do that at first. As I was writing [Broken Open] I realized I had totally backed myself into a corner.” Towards the end of Tuesday and Ezra’s story, there is a family medical emergency that perfectly sets up the beginning of Kelly and Vaughn’s second chance. “It’s kind of a pain, but I like how out it turned out in the end. It wasn’t something I planned on. It was just something that happened when I was writing Broken Open and I thought ‘Ok, well, I’m in’. ”
Challenges of writing overlapping timelines
Dane talked with me about two of the challenges she encountered while writing the last two books of the Hurley Boys Series.
The first challenge was staying true to the characters of both the stories without giving away too much of the final story. “The main challenge when you are writing romance is you want to focus on what is happening between your main characters. So the main couple is going through this stuff and normally, given the dynamic between these brothers, they would talk with one another and the reader would know because Vaughn [younger brother] would have gone to Ezra [oldest brother]. I had to figure out how I could keep that communication between the brothers open which was a natural thing and who these characters were, but not give the reader all this information that would render the third book unnecessary.”
The second challenge was maintaining a sense of suspense for the second story. “I mean it’s romance so you know there’s going to be a happily-ever-after but [the reader has] to be unsure of how that’s going to happen. [The reader has] to be going along with those characters and really believing their metamorphosis as a character over the arc of the book.”
What to think about when writing overlapping timelines
It’s worth noting, that the overlapping timelines impacted more than just the brothers’ stories, two of the heroines decided they wanted to be friends, so she had to carefully manage their interactions too! To manage the flow of information to the reader, Dane kept lots of notes of information that had to be shared. “I had a whole lot of notes about things that I couldn’t leave out. Trying to managing all that stuff, I thought ‘ugh I’ve just given myself a huge problem’ but I think it all worked out.” She has developed a special fondness for sticky notes.
The other thing she did was carefully manage the point of view from which a scene was told. She really had to analyze for which character the scene was most important. “I thought, oh she would have said more, but then I thought, well, Kelly can’t say more because she needs to have this conversation in the next book because it is important in her point of view.” Sometimes she’d be going along and realize “This bit of information that we glean here isn’t really necessary until later.” Out would come another sticky note.
“Would you do it again? I asked. “If I did do it again, it would be more purposeful from the beginning. I always say that but I’m kind of a pantser so a lot of the meat of my stories and who these characters are doesn’t come to me until I’m writing and so this is why I get into these situations, so then I think well, it has to be this way.” She thinks it’s possible that if she had thought through the overlapping timelines at the beginning, she might have psyched herself out and written it differently.
Thanks to Lauren Dane for taking time between deadlines and prepping for the Romance Writer’s of America National Conference to talk with me and answer my questions. The Hurley Boys series is available in print and ebook and on sale at all major retailers. To learn more about Lauren Dane and her books visit her website www.laurendane.com, follow her on Twitter @LaurenDane or visit www.facebook.com/authorLaurenDane.
As a reader how do you feel about overlapping timelines? As a writer have you ever written overlapping timelines? Would you?
Lee Laughlin is a writer, wife, and mom, frequently all of those things at once. You can find her on Twitter @Fearless. She blogs at Livefearlesslee.com and she is a regular contributor to the Concord Monitor. Her words have also appeared in a broad range of publications from community newspapers to the Boston Globe. She is currently working on her first novel, a work of contemporary, romantic fiction.