Thursday, November 04, 2010


Molly said something truly profound when we saw each other at NJRW last week. (I don’t know if she remembers – she’d had a few beers, I had a few wines). But it really stuck with me despite the wine. I was moaning and groaning about my WIP, not really sure what it is –romance, mystery, historical fiction, blah, blah. I’m afraid I’m not focused enough. I’m afraid of just about everything right now. And in talking about she said, “What are you expectations? Who do you want to be?”

When I read this book… whose work should this be as good as?

Okay. My first thought was Deanna Raybourn. Her Julia Grey novels are part of what inspired me to want to write this story. I thought… I want to be as good as she is.
I just finished her latest - The Road to Darjeeling. It was, in a word, perfection.

Absolute perfection. The voice, the mystery, the setting, the feel of these people in the late Victorian era, the familial relationships, the surprises and most importantly the romantic elements between Julia and Brisbane. Now that they are married, this might have slipped. It did not. There was just as much conflict, just as much emotion. Which goes to show you can “get a couple together” and still make them interesting.

I read this book and thought F***. I cannot live up to these expectations. I can’t be this good. My writing isn’t as crisp. She does all these small things that are soooo Victorian but of course I can’t use any of it because it’s hers.

Hookay… plan B.

I can’t be Deanna Raybourn… so who can I be? Robyn Carr who was the keynote speaker at NJRW also said another profound thing during her speech. “Write the book you want to read.”

Simple, but important.

So as I was near despair after finishing the perfect book and thinking about what I was going to do I had to stop myself and say what would I change? How do I want to be different? What are the things that are going to make my story standout?
For one Deanna Raybourn gives us this hot, sexy, muscled, hairy-chested hero. I want to take this guy home and make him my sex slave. But any time he and the wife get busy we find the line “he acted on his marital affections” or some crazy euphemism like that. It was perfectly done and to great effect. Always a little tongue in cheek, it told the reader everything you needed to know without the couple actually “getting busy” on page.

And I thought – okay. That’s something that I want to do differently. I want to read a story that gives me everything that hers did and hot sex! (I know I can’t help myself) I also want more POVs. I also want things to be a little dirtier and grittier as I take my characters a little bit out of the world of the gentry.

The moral of the story is – I can’t be her. I can’t be as good as she is. She’d hardly be one of my idol’s if she was a chump though – right? Sure, I can aspire to be better. Who doesn’t do that? But most importantly – I have to be me. (That is so freaking cheesy – I can’t believe I just wrote that.)

You – out there – who do you want to be as good as?


Molly O'Keefe said...

This proves once again that I am so much smarter with beer in me. Doyle - you have asked one of my favorite questions - who do I want to be. I am a three parter:

I want the humor and ease and the half realism half fairy tale quality that comes from Susan Elizabeth Phillips.

I want the restraint and dramatic emotional tension of Laura Kinsale.

All stirred in with the plotting, pacing and totally readability of JR Ward.

Kwana said...

Loving this post so much. Of course after reading this I have to now read the Deanna Raybourn book so I too can obsess over it too. And I will.

Oh who do I want to be? I don't know. I guess me but so much better. And then as good as all those writers I admire. Robin Carr, Anne Stuart, Lisa Klypas, Jennifer Weiner who the heck to I think I am?

It so daunting that it's paralyzing. Eee.

Stephanie Doyle said...

Nice combos Molly and Kwana!

I'll go the sophistication of Raybourn, the heat and chemistry of early Hoyt, the depth of character of Kinsale and the layering of history and setting of Bourne.

I want to be Deanna Elizabeth Kinsale Bourne Doyle

Karen W said...

I want to be Lisa Kleypas. Not only is she drop dead gorgeous, but her writing.... sigh.

I also wouldn't mind being LyVryle Spencer, even though she doesn't write anymore.

So in other words, I want to be the type of writer who can write words that elicit strong emotion from the reader.

Not there yet.

Sinead M said...

Stephanie, Molly with a few beers is almosy always profound.

Great question. For me, a large part Suzanne Collins, with the emotional intensity of that damn zadist book, and the wit and appeal of Maggie Osborne's heroines.

Eileen said...

I often am much wittier and sexier with a glass or two of wine in me. At least, in my head I am. Pictures seem to tell a slightly different story.

So, who do I want to be?

I want the societal relevance of Jodi Picoult and Kathryn Stockett. I want the humor and strength of Suzanne Brockmann. I want the psychological intensity of Lisa Gardner.

Maureen McGowan said...

Oh, I do love this question but often slough off actually answering it.

With my darker YA I want my characters to face the intense situations and challenges of Suzanne Collins but with the emotional punch added by writers like Carrie Ryan and dare I say Stephanie Meyer.

With my adult paranormal fantasies, I again want the pacing and intensity of Suzanne Collins, but combined with the sexiness and heat of JR Ward. Not sure I'd ever be able to pull off some of the emotional stuff she does, though...

With my funnier adult stuff, I think I too would love to have the social relevance of someone like Jodi Picoult and the un-put-downable quality of Emily Giffin's early books where, although not a whole lot was happening, I could not wait to see what happened next. That's magic.

Anonymous said...

Exactly! I wrote something about comparing myself to other writers and one of my readers said, "Just be Kathy Holmes" and there was such peace around that. But I must be the best Kathy Holmes I can be and I'm still working on that. :)

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