After finishing my first novel, Not Famous, it was difficult to get my head out of the world I’d just created, and it was sad to leave those characters. I used to say that I could have made the novel twice or three times a large because of how much I wanted to explore those characters more.
Of course, there were also thoughts of a sequel. And why not? With a sequel I could just continue the stories of the characters, maybe even delve more into their backstories. Perfect solution, right?
Except it really wasn’t. As much as I loved those characters and the story, I knew I was done writing the story of Nick Forrester and Alli Conwell.
And I knew this before I even finished the novel. I can’t really explain without giving away spoilers, I knew that another novel focusing on their story just couldn’t happen. I had the basic plot of my second novel in my head already, and it didn’t work for them. The solution came towards the end of the writing process: to set my next novel in the same universe as Not Famous, without it being an actual sequel.
This is hardly a new concept, so I’m hardly claiming to pioneer this idea. Nick Hornby quietly did this with his novels. In About A Boy, the main character Will shops at Championship Vinyl, the record shop Rob Fleming from High Fidelity owns. In his third novel How to Be Good, the main character Katie Carr encounters Dick from the same shop. DJ GoodNews from that novel is referenced in Hornby’s next novel A Long Way Down. All of Matthew Norman’s novels take place in the same universe as well, as the fictional novelist Curtis Violet, a central character in his debut novel Domestic Violets, is referenced in his subsequent novels.
This became my solution. My next novel would be set in the same universe. Those of you who have read both Not Famous and Not Dressed probably recognized that Nick’s one-night-stand Emma has a larger role in Not Dressed as Jake’s friend and co-worker at Burnham & Modine, the architecture firm that Nick and his business partner Jay design a website for during the events of Not Famous.
It was a lot of fun to expand on the world I’d created in Not Famous in an entirely separate story. And I even used the opportunity to give a peak about Alli and Nick’s future.
The question I ultimately had to answer was whether I’d connect the books as part of a series or not. To keep a long story relatively short, I chose to brand them as part of a series, and I settled on calling it the Wallflowers Series. Calling it the Not Series just sounded weird, and naming the series after Alli Conwell seemed disingenuous because even though she’s ultimately the primary character of the universe, she does not make an appearance in Not Dressed.
I chose Wallflowers as the name of the series because Wallflower is the name of a song and album of Alli Conwell’s and also a unifying characteristic of both Alli Conwell and Kaylee Cooke, the main female character in Not Dressed.
Of course, I am working on my third novel now, and it will also be set in the same universe, and I’ve been having a lot of fun with it, and there will probably be a few surprises for fans of the first two books.