Friday, June 04, 2010

When good writers go to the dark side

We drunk writers are passionate about great books and when we find one, we yell it to the skies, because great books deserve whatever recognition they can get.

One of the series I was completely passionate about was the Anita Blake series by Laurell K. Hamilton. Anyone who loves Urban Fantasy should read these books. I believe they started the UB genre, and certainly had a huge hand in creating the demand for the genre, and deservedly so. At the time these were written, they were unique, a different voice, a new kind of heroine (for me at least), and on top of that, amazing pacing, great sexual tension, and books that had me riveted.

These books hijacked my life, to the point where I spent lunch hours at work reading. And let me tell you - trying to get my head from fighting giant snakes, to looking at print patterns for baby clothes - not easy.

I handed the books to my friends, even my guy friends, even though the original covers on the first couple look like erotic novels and I often had to convince them to give it a try, and once they did, they too were hooked.

And then around book eleven, the books lost their appeal for me, book twelve did not capture my interest. I understood the author's dillema, she had to change the heroine, take the books in new directions, or she'd be writing the same thing over and over, and just because I didn't love the new direction didn't mean the books weren't great.

And so a couple of years later, I picked up (ie, Maureen let me borrow) one of the more recent paperbacks. And it feels like everything that made those early books so great is completely gone.

Fifty pages in and there is one, long, detailed sex scene, and no less than three telephone conversations, repeating basically the same message. The pacing is almost non-existent, and it's really hard to believe this is the same author that created those early books.

I can't imagine trying to write fifteen books featuring the same character, and I'm sure her deadlines are crazy and there's promotion and tons of other reasons, but in the end, I'm a little sad. I sort of wished she'd ended the series on book ten and left me with the awe and love I'd had for her books.

I know she had a publishing house with a very different opinion, but sometimes, a writer has to make the call and pull the plug. Just like Tv series and movie sequels sometimes need to stop. (Yes, Spiderman, and Law and Order, I'm thinking of you)

But I haven't had a publishing house back a dump truck full of money to my house, so I'm sitting very comfortably on my high horse and may(I wish) someday have to eat my words.


Karen W said...

I know what you mean. I was such as big fan of Anita Blake. I have every single book, plys the Princess Merideth series, which I also loved.

And the same thing happened on both series. You're a writer, so you can see it too. Buckets of money, so she kept writing when she was tired of it, bored, out of ideas, and I agree - she should have stopped.

Laurel K Hamilton is such a great writer that I'd bet she'd be sucessful with any new series she tried.

I'm on the 9th book in my Pack series for Harlequin Nocturne. And I'm thinking it might be time for me to try a new series. Recently, I introduced Vampires to my Shapeshifters to mix things up, and that's kept me going for a few more books. But still...

Stephanie Doyle said...

Two words: Janet Evanovitch (sp) bu you know who I mean. Lost it I think at book 10. Same thing over and over and over again. It's like come on already.

But she keeps putting them out and people keep reading them. It's hard to stop that train. Reading those books is like putting on a comfortable sweater and sometimes that's all readers want.

But it's for series like those that I give JK Rowling all the props in the world. Seven stories, one arc, done.

I'm in the process of writing book 1 of what I (hope) will be a series. And I'm really trying to think about how this is going to work. And as crazy as it sounds... how it will end.

But the one thing I had to agree when I decided to write this story... was that if it does sell. And people do like it... then I will be with these characters for a long time. Even 3 books would be a sick long time for me.

Eileen said...

Oh, Steph, I feel your Janet Evanovich pain. To her credit, I believe she tried to start a new series. Wasn't there a book called Motor Mouth or something like it? But I don't think there was a follow up.

I drive my boyfriend crazy now because I'm completely willing to read the first book of a series, pronounce it wonderful and then drop it. He doesn't understand. I keep saying that I could see where they were going and what they were doing and I'm satisfied. Subsequent books might not do it for me.

Some recent exceptions: Patricia Briggs and Ilona Andrews and Chelsea Cain.

Molly O'Keefe said...

this is very well timed, because I just gobbled the latest Ward book. And I skimmed some, sure, and I wondered WTF, sure, but I stayed up way too late reading it. Will I reread it like I do her first five - nope. Will I buy the next one - yup. I think in her efforts to keep the world fresh and avoid the same characters in the same situations problem that the evanovich books had for me - she's switching her world up a lot - which keeps it fresh, but loses some of it's tight world building appeal.

I think of those totally incomperable Brockman books at the beginning, the way she was able to keep things fresh and build unbelievable tension so the whole world was wondering - whose book is next? But even that SEAL world got old. Every good story has to have the right ending. And she lost me at Starett and Alyssa.

So, yep, it's a problem and I sure wish I had it.

KAren NINE BOOKS!!! That's amazing. My other problem is I can't think out past three. Nine is impressive....

Stephanie Doyle said...

Thank goodness... I needed someone to read the Ward book.

Molly - how "bad" are the rape scenes?

For whatever reason I can't read books with rape - it just stays with my too long.

I've only read one Brockman book because in it there was a detailed rape scene - and now I can't trust her or something so I just don't ever read her.

I had to put down the latest in death J.D. Robb book because I couldn't take it.

If it's talked about, or just alluded to - I can handle. If it's in POV of heroine I can't.

Anonymous said...

Cannot wait to read the Ward book. The one thing I have to give her, is she is willing to seriously mess with her world to keep her series fresh.

Janet Evanovich was on my mind when I wrote this post as well. Those early books were pretty great, but I can't bring myself to read any more.

And don't even get me started on the terrible historical series, when seven men are friends because of their deep abiding love for bunnies, and their bad experiences with foxes and the seven remarkable women who have to save them from themselves..

Roland D. Yeomans said...

I would suggest Patricia Briggs' Mercy Thompson series. She gives us a world where lesser fae beings such as brownies have "come out" to an incredulous public -- were forced out, more accurately,

-- because of increasing advances in technology and forensic investigations -- while the greater fae and supernatural buildings -- werewolves, vampires and such -- remain hidden from popular view.

Briggs, best known for high fantasy, makes a smooth transition to its dark, contemporary counterpart with the Mercy Thompson series.

I really enjoy your blog, Roland

Molly O'Keefe said...

Steph - the rape scenes are off page and the heroine is one tough cookie...that said, I think my biggest problem with this book is that the romance bwteen these two tortured people. SHe could have devoted a hundred more pages to making her transistion between sexual victim to agressor more believable - I mean I get she's a vampire, but it goes way too fast.

Seven Lords Love Hopping? Bad series...

prashant said...
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