Can I Write a Crossover Novel?

I’m not a bestselling author, but I still have loyal fans who write to me, especially readers for my Sam Westin Wilderness Mysteries, which currently includes six books, and my Neema the Gorilla Mysteries, which has three. The number one reason fans send me email is to ask when the next book in the series will be out. This question makes me simultaneously cheer and groan. While readers excitedly report that it took them only two or three days to finish the book, I remember that it took me ten or twelve months to write and publish it.

So, I recently had the bright idea to solve this dilemma by writing a crossover novel, in which the characters (or at least the main ones) will appear in the same novel. Bright idea? The problem is that these two series are very different. The Sam Westin mysteries always involve wild animals in wild places, so there’s a lot of hiking and descriptions of rugged areas. The Neema series involves captive gorillas that are learning American sign language, and a beleaguered small-town police detective who gets drawn into vague mysteries when the gorillas observe something frightening and give him cryptic clues, such as snake arm and tree candy. (Poor man, trying to interpret gorilla signs that could be vital clues about a crime or hints about what Neema wants for lunch.)

How the heck am I going to get these two series to mingle? What the heck could these characters ever have in common? In the Sam Westin series, I’ve already focused on cougars, bears, sharks, and wolverines, so I decided to include wolves in her next adventure. How could captive gorillas and wild wolves ever mix? And the answer is: of course they don’t! And they won’t in this next novel, either.

Although my books include a lot of animals (obviously), the crimes are always committed by humans. So I need a human thread—something mysterious, of course—to bring the gorilla world and the wildlife world together. I mulled this challenge over for a while on my break for the last five months. (Some would say this was actually my prolonged period of procrastination, which I have perfected over the most recent years.) While I was in Vietnam last November, I met a fascinating woman who works for the Red Cross locating refugees and their relatives in the United States and elsewhere. I asked her a million questions about immigrants (both legal and illegal) and refugees, which are a legally designated and protected category of migrants here.

Migrants who come to the U.S. are often seeking to join relatives who are already here, and sometimes groups of migrants get broken up, either by the need to travel separately or by one person successfully entering the country while another can’t.

So I plan to have one undocumented immigrant mysteriously killed in the vicinity of the gorillas, leaving behind a toddler who cannot speak English. (Sorry, but this is a mystery and we all know some tragedy is called for.) Poor Detective Finn gets to figure out what happened to mom and who the heck this abandoned child is and how she connected with the gorillas.

Meanwhile, Sam Westin is going to backpack into North Cascades National Park in hopes of finding wolves that have been reported there, only to discover an injured foreigner and an injured horse lost in the wilderness. And then someone will try to kill them all before they can reach civilization.

Okay, there are so many questions left. Who the heck is the foreigner lost in the wilderness, and why is a horse wandering in the woods? And most urgent of all, who is shooting when Sam is trying to rescue the unfortunate man and beast? And what is the possible connection between the abandoned toddler and the illegal migrant Sam has encountered?

I’m not going to tell you all that (okay, so far I only have vague ideas about those challenges), and I can’t even tell you the title for my new novel, because the Neema series books always have “The Only” in the title, and the Sam Westin books are usually one word (Endangered, Bear Bait, Undercurrents, Backcountry, Borderland, Cascade). So what title can I use that will make sense? And how will I advertise this crossover novel?

Only time will tell whether writing a crossover novel will please the readers of one series and introduce them to the other (thereby saving me a year of writing another book), or whether I’ll be the next victim running through the woods, trying to escape angry fans.

2 thoughts on “Can I Write a Crossover Novel?

  1. Pam, It always helps to talk things out, I’ve found I figure out holes or walls that are in the story when I can talk it out. I just did a research trip that now has me backtracking in the book I’m writing. But all the changes will make a better book. Good luck!


  2. When I hit the “comment” button it went to a page that said “Page not found” so I’m replying to this email. I hope it works! 🙂

    “Fascinating post Pamela. I am very intrigued as both an animal lover and a mystery reader. I wonder if a gorilla somehow saves the day . . . hmmmm. 🙂 I’ll have to read and find out!” Karen A. Phillips

    Liked by 1 person

Comments are closed.