The Writer’s Block – Writing a Trilogy with F.T. Bradley

There seems to be a trend in the industry to write books in trilogies. One great example in the middle grade genre is the Double Vision action adventure trilogy by F.T. Bradley. The third book in the series The Alias Men is launching this week. F.T. Bradley recently shared some insight with the mafia about writing her exciting trilogy.

F.T. Bradley--photo

Middle Grade Mafia: For those who haven’t discovered DOUBLE VISION, please tell us a little about the stories and how you came up with the idea.
Double Vision The Alias Men

F.T. BRADLEY: The Double Vision trilogy is a fun(ny) spy adventure series for middle-graders, fast-paced, and great for reluctant readers. The books are truly Linc’s story—he’s the main character, a trouble-maker who likes to play videogames more than school, but a twelve year-old boy with a good heart.

Linc happens to look just like one of the government’s top kid spies named Ben Green, and he’s called in to take Ben’s place. Of course Linc knows nothing about being a spy, so he has to rely on his quick wits and courage (and sometimes, his troublemaking skills) to make it through these tough missions alive. The Double Vision books take Linc to Paris, Washington D.C. and Los Angeles, and give a glimpse into these cities and their rich history, all while going on an exciting spy mission.

Linc is one of those vivid characters with a really strong voice—it was like he was telling me the story as I sat down to write. My agent and I came up with the concept for the series, and the rest developed with my editors at Harper Children’s. I really wanted the Double Vision trilogy to read like my favorite thrillers written for adults, since those are so hard to find for kids. I love mysteries and thrillers, and I love writing middle-grade, so this trilogy has been a dream to write.

MGM: We have seen a trend for books series to be written as a trilogy. While it seems like there is a potential for many Linc adventures, is there a reason you chose to limit your series to three installments?

FTB: I think a trilogy is a nice way to take a strong character like Linc, and give him more than one book, more than one adventure. It’s hard to let go of a cast of characters you love (Grandpa and Henry are other favorites of mine in the Double Vision books) as a writer, and the emails I get from readers always ask about the next book, so I think kids like a series too. Those characters become friends, even after one book.

Trilogies also allow for a character to change—I knew from the outset that I didn’t want Linc to be the exact same kid after going on three spy missions. He’s still the same kid at heart, still a funny troublemaker, but a bit different. You’ll have to read all three books to see the change.

MGM: When you were plotting the first book, did you map out the story arc for the entire trilogy or did each come after you completed the one before?

FTB: Honestly, I wasn’t sure where things would go for Linc and his spy missions when I wrote the first book… A lot of the series was developed with help from my agent and editors (Harper Children’s editors are pretty awesome to work with). Like Linc, I kind flew by the seat of my pants, and let the ideas develop with each book.

I did have a good idea what I wanted the character arc to be—that change in Linc by the end of the trilogy. It’s not huge, but important. I wanted those kids who are not necessarily great at school or sports to see that there are other skills and talents that are useful. Especially if you are an international kid spy…

MGM: In the first book, Linc has a substantial motivation and clear goal which is resolved at the end of the first book. When writing a trilogy, how do you keep the motivation strong throughout?

FTB: To be honest, it takes some strong plotting. The Double Vision books are thrillers, which means the pacing has to be fast, relentless, and perfectly balanced. Without a clear goal, the whole story would fall apart, so as I write I stay very focused on motivation. As a twelve year-old kid, you need to have a pretty good reason to go on a dangerous spy mission, right?

The key to strong motivation is understanding what’s most important to your character. Despite his trouble-making, Linc really loves his family and want them to be proud of him. Although there’s plenty of danger and external motivation, it’s that character motivation that truly drives him.

MGM:  What’s next for F.T. Bradley?

FTB: Right now, I’m busy with promotion for the Double Vision trilogy as Double Vision: The Alias Men (the third book) is out in October 2014. It’s just so exciting to see how many kids (and parents, teachers, and librarians) have been following along with the series from the beginning.

I’ve just started writing a new middle-grade mystery, which is coming along pretty fast. Middle-grade is just so fun to write. I’m one lucky author.

F.T. (Fleur) Bradley is the author of the Double Vision trilogy (Harper Children’s), a series of fun spy mysteries for middle-grade readers that School Library Journal calls “a must-read for mystery fans, including reluctant readers.” She lives in Colorado Springs with her husband, two daughters and entirely too many cats. For more information on F.T. and her books, visit her website and follow her on Twitter.


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