Guest blogger: Andrew Grant

Is it true that the more things change, the more they stay the same? Looking around, it’s tempting to say that the old phrase is right on the money. The big banks have been caught cheating again. The politicians are still calling each other names. Doom and gloom abound in the world of publishing. England lost on penalties at a major tournament, and it rained at Wimbledon. It makes you wonder – is change even possible? Or are we all doomed to shuffle endlessly through the same landscape till the end of our days?

I’m not sure about real life, but one place where change is certainly possible is between the pages of a series novel. Though when it comes to a series, it’s not so much a question of whether to change things, it’s what to change, and how much? The protagonist’s character? His or her job? The location? The villain? And the snag is, there’s no right answer. It’s down to personal taste. The consistency that could delight one reader may leave another cursing an author for their monotonous approach.

My own attitude to maintaining a series is perhaps a little contradictory. On the one hand I cannot stand it when some things are changed – I think there’s nothing worse than finding the ruthless, cynical hero you’d grown to love has undergone some kind of touchy-feely epiphany and become a self-doubting, conciliatory wimp. But on the other, life’s too short to feel like you’re stuck in the thriller equivalent of Groundhog Day. So what’s the answer? How do you find the ideal balance?

This is something I gave a great deal of thought to when I was working on the third installment of the David Trevellyan series – More Harm Than Good – and in the end I kept coming back to something I remember my dad saying when I was a kid. He’d often describe things as the same, only different. Now, in a way, this sounds crazy – my dad is Irish, after all. But if you apply it to the hero – the beating heart of the series – it suddenly makes sense. To me, anyway. Because I don’t want my hero to become a different person. I don’t want his values to change. His principles to slide. His reflexes to wane. His skills to decline. But I do want to see how he behaves in different circumstances, or when he’s faced with new challenges or threats. For me, that’s where the continuing interest lies. I think of my hero as being a little like those crazy three dimensional objects they make you study in math class – dodecahedra, or some such weird name. They’re actually the same entity, but they can look surprisingly different depending on the angle you observe them from.

So, what’s different in More Harm Than Good? Well, three primary things. The first is how David becomes entangled in the plot. I wanted to see what happened when the snowball started to roll downhill because of something totally mundane and unrelated to the world of agents and espionage – a random stranger stealing Trevellyan’s boots from a hospital ward – rather than an overt threat to world peace (which is not to say that the stakes don’t end up perilously high…). The second is I wanted to see how Trevellyan responds to working closely with another person, after two adventures where he operated essentially alone. And finally, I was interested in the challenges he’d face in working in his home territory – a place where ironically, he feels more of a stranger than anywhere he’s been sent to in the past.

These three factors certainly pull Trevellyan in new directions. But do they change him? Let me know what you think…

Andrew
Andrew was born in Birmingham, England. He went to school in St Albans, Hertfordshire and later attended the University of Sheffield where he studied English Literature and Drama. After graduation Andrew set up and ran a small independent theatre company which showcased a range of original material to local, regional and national audiences. Following a critically successful but financially challenging appearance at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival Andrew moved into the telecommunications industry as a ‘temporary’ solution to a short-term cash crisis. Fifteen years later, after carrying out a variety of roles including several which were covered by the UK’s Official Secrets Act, Andrew became the victim / beneficiary of a widespread redundancy programme. Freed once again from the straight jacket of corporate life, he took the opportunity to answer the question, what if … ? His most recent Trevellyan novel, MORE HARM THAN GOOD, is currently available as an E-book and paperback. Visit his website.