Laughter from a Moribund Writer

The first time I heard the phrase “The author is dead” in an intro to literary theory class, I was completely puzzled. We wouldn’t have many sequels if all authors were dead, now, would we?

But it didn’t take long to realize that the words were figurative. (Figurative language in a literary theory class? Who’da thunk?) Once a book is out in the world, it doesn’t matter what the author meant it to say. The book is open to the interpretation of all who read it.

This was one of the things that I worried about leading up to Demon’s Heart‘s release. Once it was out in the world, in a way, it would no longer be mine. It would be whatever the readers made it out to be based on their own experiences, tastes, opinions, and so forth.

But the day after release, I’ve already had a good laugh over this very concept. I’ve had two very dear people place Demon’s Heart on opposite ends of the romance spectrum. Romance! Do you know where romance falls on my list of things I think about when categorizing Demon’s Heart? Somewhere on level five or six. Sure, there’s a boy and a girl and teenage hormones play a role, but to have romance brought out as a principle sub-genre and critiqued as such in two very different ways . . . it made me smile. I suppose everyone views it through their own eyes.

What do you think? Is the author truly dead? Have you ever had a reader give you a totally unexpected perspective on your book?

If you’re interested, here are a few reviews that have rolled in. Enjoy!

Reality Check

I read a lot of YA fiction, and the bulk of it is fantasy. There’s just something about fantasy that speaks to me. I enjoy the new worlds, the new rules, the creativity of it all—and the fact that there is so much truth to be found in something that’s not real.

But every once in a while, I top out. I reach a point where I can’t look at another fantasy book without cringing. It’s like eating too many sweet foods: they taste good, but there comes a point where you just need something salty.

Thankfully, the library seemed to sense that I was in need of a good dose of reality this week, and my hold on The Boys in the Boat by Daniel James Brown came in. I’ve been waiting on this one for months, and it was worth the wait. It’s about the US rowing team in the 1936 Olympics. I have zero experience with rowing (except that I knew a coxswain once), but the book combines personal stories, rowing background, university rivalries, and international tensions (read: Nazis) in a way that makes it just as hard to put down as any novel.

What are your reading habits? Do you stick mainly to one genre or spread around? Do you ever find yourself sick of your favorite genre?

And seriously, if you have any desire to read a good nonfiction, check out The Boys in the Boat. One of the best reads I’ve come across for a long time.

Sylvester Stallone and Crossing Genres

There seems to be a lot of discussion lately about whether it’s a good thing to write multiple genres as an author. Is it better to seek out the wider audience by hitting several genres, or to stay loyal to your followers by continuing in the same genre you succeeded with?

So let’s talk about Sylvester Stallone.

I have no love of Rocky or Rambo or The Expendables or really anything he’s done, with one exception. In 1991, he was in a movie called Oscar. Hilarious. I quote it incessantly. (Sorry, Boss!) One of my favorite comedies of all time.

There are others who think it’s utter ridiculousness and would rather spend their time watching what I would term visual torture. I have my preferences, you have yours, they have theirs.

What does this have to do with writing?

There are always going to be people who won’t like your work. It’s the occupational hazard of being an author. If you change genres, there will inevitably be people who say you should have stuck with your original, even those who say you have no business straying outside of your genre. Jane Austen herself complained, “Walter Scott has no business to write novels, especially good ones.–It is not fair.–He has Fame & Profit enough as a Poet, and should not be taking the bread out of other people’s mouths” (from a letter to Anna Austen, September 28, 1814). If Sir Walter Scott couldn’t avoid getting lambasted for changing genres, I’m afraid you probably don’t have a chance.

So?

You, as an author, are not writing for readers, agents, publishers, editors, or anyone else. You are writing because you have a story inside of you that has to be told. Don’t forget that. The second you start writing for someone else, your writing will take a dive faster than Spiderman 3.

Should you write in various genres? Certainly not if you’re doing it for the sole purpose of garnering a wider audience. But if you’ve got a story and it just happens to be in a different genre from what you’ve previously written, go for it! Give it to the world and be proud that you were able to get another world of characters and places and relationships and rules out of your head and onto the page.

What do you think? Do you write in several genres? Do you read books of various genres from the same author? Are you going to go watch Oscar now because I told you it was amazing?