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July 30, 2008

What A Tangled Web We Weave with Lorelei James

Tied Up Tied Down My special guest today is Samhain author, Lorelei James. She’s talking about family trees and books. Over to Lorelei and her Western men!

Shelley contacted me after she’d finished, TIED UP, TIED DOWN, the latest book in my Rough Riders series from Samhain Publishing, wondering if I’d ever considered creating a family tree for the characters as a reference point for readers.

I’ll admit I hadn’t thought of it. I’ll also admit I have lots of characters in my books — no one really is an island, even in the middle of nowhere Wyoming. The Rough Riders books are a Western saga, if you will, featuring a large ranching family. Each book can be read as a standalone, but each book builds on the entire arc of the series, both forward and backward, and each one features a different McKay or West family member.

***Complete disclosure; if I had it to do all over again, I would not have so many ‘C’ and ‘K’ names in this series – although it is something families do frequently out here in the Wild West, begin all offspring’s first names with the same letter. As sort of a wink wink nudge nudge to my readers and myself, in TIED UP, TIED DOWN, Skylar complains about the excessive use of the same consonant in the McKay family. And Kane asks his twin brother Kade why their mother gave them such similar names.***

I remember a series by a famous author in which the first couple in the series birthed one kid in the epilogue. Then in the next connected book that same couple were blessed with twins…but no mention of the first child. In the 3rd or 4th book, that same couple had triplets, not twins, still no mention of that poor little forgotten first kiddo. The inconsistency pulled me out of the story. Readers might think it is the copy editor’s job to double check facts and character lineage, but I wonder if the whole incident could’ve been avoided had the author created a family tree.

So I took Shelley’s suggestion to heart. Not only would an official roadmap be a bonus for readers, it’d be an easy way for me to keep track of my own characters. I checked a couple of author sites to see how they structured their family trees to get an idea of what I wanted. Then I posed the challenge to my readers loop, The James Gang, and two fabulous ladies volunteered to head up the project. Honestly, I think they’re afraid if I’m dinking around with working on a family tree I won’t actually be writing, and they’re sort of antsy for me to get the next book finished :grin:

These fans, Joy Roett and Carla Hartman created not one, not two, but three separate family trees. Immediately I sent the finished project to my website designer to post. Check out the results here.

Question of the day for readers: Do you look at family trees in the beginnings of books? Or skip over them entirely? Or would you go to the author’s website for more information?

Lorelei James writes erotic Westerns set in the modern day Wild West. For more information on books, contests and the James Gang readers yahoo group, visit Lorelei’s website: www.loreleijames.com


  1. Sandra

    What a neat idea, ladies! I love it.

  2. Susan Helene Gottfried

    Hey, Lorelei!

    Me, I glance at a family tree in the front (always better than in the back, where sometimes it’s not seen until you’ve finished reading) when I start — but then I refer back to it time and again AS I read.

    I’d vote for putting a tree both online AND in the book.

    And kudos to your fans for stepping up! They rock.

  3. Lorelei James

    Hey Susan – how’s every little thing? If you notice I haven’t been participating in Thursday Thirteen :( too dang busy, I miss reading about what’s going on…

    Morning Sandra!

    Yes, the James Gang rocks. I’m lucky to have such fab readers and fans :)

  4. Kristie Fleetwood

    Hey Lorelei,
    I do love the new family trees for the McKay/West gang. If I’m reading a book and it has a family tree, I always take a few minutes to study it. I am one of those people who likes to keep all the characters connected in my head when I’m reading several books that relate to one another.
    See ya on the James Gang Loop!

  5. Renee

    I love family trees. Especially on long running sagas. Stephanie Laurens’ Cynster series is an example. There is no way we would be able to keep track of who did what and if we had the books in the right order without the family tree. I read all four of your westerns in 3 days and I had to write down when they were published so I read them in the right order. If that would have been in the front with the book order, I would have know which order to read them and not have to carry a postit note around stuck on my ebookreader LOL.

  6. Barb

    Love the family tree! It’s really going to help out as the series continues and gets larger. I know I’ll reference to it.

  7. Esther Rose

    I agree w/ Barb: family trees on long running sagas are a big help. I do refer to them often. Sometimes, when I find characters on the trees that I didn’t read a lot about in the books, I start to make up backstories for them!

  8. Gabriella Hewitt

    Family trees are interesting but I generally skip over them. I am an easily confused person. Heck, I am lucky if I know my own family tree outside my own household. HEHE

  9. Tempest Knight

    Congrats on the new release! Love the cover. Very sexy. :wink:

  10. Lorelei James

    Waving at Kristie :lol:

    Barb I hope I get a chance to fill out that tree with more books!

    Renee, Laurens’ family tree was one I looked at for ideas…

    Esther, I have that same problem, with wanting to write stories for every character.

    Thanks Tempest, I do so adore this cover :grin:

    Gabriella, I hear you on the confused part, but now I have no excuse :mrgreen:

  11. Leah Braemel

    YES! I have done family trees where I’ve gone back five or six generations. Especially if it’s a paranormal where my characters lived longer lives, or Historicals where I had to figure out who had what title.

    I was going to mention the Cynster family tree, I think Julia Quinn had one for her Bridgerton series, too, didn’t she? As does Lynsay Sands for her Argeneau vampire series. I love ’em! So helpful as a reader (and especially for the writer) when you’re dealing with series.

  12. Shelley Munro

    Hi Lorelei – several people have mentioned Stephanie Lauren’s Cynster series. She’s giving away a small booklet with details of all her books, along with a family tree at the conference. :grin:

  13. Jess Dee

    I tend to brush over the family trees in the beginning of a book, and then refer back to them once I’ve gotten to know the characters.

    A series would be different however. I’d study the tree at the beginning of the book, and reminisce about all the characters I’ve already met.

  14. Lorelei James

    Shelley – Hope you’re having fun at the conference – thanks for letting me sub :)

    Leah – whoa, 6 generations? that’s amazing.

    Hee hee – hey Jess, thanks for stopping by, can’t wait until our Menage and More antho comes out…

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