Norma: Yes. Years ago, some of my author friends and I did crossovers–we featured each other’s characters in our books. I came up with a tabloid in my Silhouette Romance Something Old, the International Intruder. I lost track of how many books in which it appeared. We got letters from readers who’d picked up on the connection. “You all know each other, don’t you?” they’d ask in their letters.
William: Crossing over. It’s done from time to time with television shows, even with different production teams. Characters cross from one format to another, usually as a two part episode. It can also be useful if characters, institutions, or even references cross over between authors. And so it is that Norma and I have been talking recently about the subject.
William: It’s a fine way to give your readers a treat!
Norma: More recently, I decided to bring back characters from past novels for the Chasing the Wind series. Alexander Kiriakis from Dance of the Gods had his international conglomerate headquartered at the World Trade Center–the events of 9/11 opened up a new storyline for him and his family. Jaime Lynde of A Time for Legends (soon to be re-released as The Unicorn’s Daughter) is also returning–the recent events in Libya inspired a new direction for that character. And Collin and Ashley Deverell (Angels at Midnight) and their children will also have a new storyline.
William: Having had enjoyed Collin and Ashley in particular so much, I’m looking forward to seeing what you do with them at this stage in their lives. And A Time For Legends/The Unicorn’s Daughter is certainly timely again with the Libyan revolution. It’s handy to write, even if you’re using different genres, for a shared universe. It makes that kind of crossover possible.
Obviously, a crossover requires some common traits. A novel that falls into the romantic comedy category wouldn’t mesh very well with another novel from the dystopian future. In our cases, though, that we both write in a real world setting. Characters like Collin and Ashley could conceivably be mentioned, for example, in one of my novels, for example, or in our joint work in the Same Time Tomorrow follow-ups. In fact, we’ve decided to start our own crossover with our male lead in Same Time Tomorrow, Gabriel Miller, meeting one of my characters, Tom Stryker, in my next book, Sword of the Faith.
Norma: You know, Collin and Ashley and their particular, uh, talents could indeed work in your books. Feel free to use them, partner!
William: I have considered using a jewel thief in a book…. or bringing in consultants in a future novel….
Norma: I thought from the beginning that there could conceivably be a link between Gabriel and Stryker. I’m looking forward to seeing what you do there. Also, I mentioned to Beth that I’d like to create a connection between our Same Time Tomorrow protagonists and her main characters from Wildflower, Sandy and Nick.
William: The shared universe keeps growing and growing that way! And with the Lynde family you’ve used in A Time For Legends, that genre is the same as Heaven & Hell, which gives the idea of a crossover a smooth, natural feel.
The idea we have at the moment is that Same Time Tomorrow and Heaven & Hell roughly overlap. Same Time Tomorrow begins in the early spring, and runs through to late summer. Heaven & Hell starts in February and goes until late April. We’ve decided that we can make an indirect note in Same Time Tomorrow about the events happening in Heaven & Hell. And down the line, with Sword of the Faith, it takes place a year earlier. Stryker is an archaeologist on a dig in Egypt. Gabriel, a photographer, meets him while on a photo assignment. And one of the benefits of writing a series is that we can have them meet again… which we’ll do in the follow up to Same Time Tomorrow, when Gabriel comes across a man he met a couple of years earlier…
Norma: I’m looking forward to that!
Readers love to see characters return, and this is a great way to do it. When I began to consider bringing back characters from twenty-plus years ago, I quickly saw how profoundly their lives had changed. Alexander, for example, lost his wife in a terrorist attack. He’ s raised their three children alone and now, in the years following 9/11, he’s dealing with resurrecting his conglomerate as well.
William: It’s an ideal way of revisiting old friends.
What sort of ground rules should there be in place for a crossover? I’d say that borrowing the character or characters requires that nothing out of character be done with them… that any participation in another book must be plausible and true to who they are. The timing of the character’s appearance in another writer’s book can’t conflict with anything the originating writer has in mind for them. And the originating writer ought to have a veto. If they feel the passage doesn’t suit their interpretation of their character, they have the right of first refusal.
Norma: I agree on all counts. I would only “borrow” characters from an author who’s a personal friend. Likewise for loaning mine out. For example, I have no doubts at all about letting William use any of my characters, because I know he’ll treat them with respect.
Does that sound corny, or does that sound corny?
William: Not at all!
Norma: I’ve written brief summaries of what my backlist characters have been up to in the years since their books were published and found they each have a lot of options open.
William: It’s a small world… and as long as it feels plausible that characters might cross each other’s paths, it can be a real source of fun to make use of someone else’s creation, to, in effect, play with someone else’s toys for a little while.
Norma: I also enjoy seeing how another author sees my characters!
William: Definitely! It’s a chance to see a character in a situation you might not otherwise put them in.
Norma: For example, I’m looking forward to seeing Gabriel as he was before he met Chloe.
William: Me too!
Borrowing characters from authors who trust that we’ll play nice with them is a rewarding experience. It exposes our readers to someone they might not have met yet, gives our fellow author some exposure, and creates the sense of a shared universe. Just as long as it doesn’t get silly. Such as something like, oh… Archie Meets The Punisher.
Norma: Yes, that would be stretching it a bit too far!