The topic for today’s post came in and I panicked. I’m not talking a little “oh no, what will I write about” panic. I’m talking “holy crap, there is no way to do this in less than a doctoral thesis” panic. The topic? Discussing our favorite book. I know, I know — I see the panic on your face. I felt the same way. How can I choose just one book? Impossible. This isn’t a remake of Highlander and there are no swords and beheadings and stuff. But I’m still talking books. Just a little off center.
Reading is a huge part of my life. I’ve been a compulsive reader ever since I was a kid. Some of my favorite memories center on the mailman delivering my Disney reader books every month. Remember those little square, cardboard-cover books? Yeah, those. I still have all of mine, even the ones my evil little brother defaced with crayons. He almost had his eyebrows shaved for that one. If only Mom hadn’t caught me with the straight razor… There’s still time, though.
When I entered elementary school, I was exposed to the Serendipity books. They were a huge turning point for me. It was like this creative switch was turned on in my brain and I fell in love with reading. It was then that I knew I wanted to write. I wanted to create stories that made people think and feel and get lost in the words. I was six.
As I got older, I continued to read. As a child, my absolute favorite book was Watership Down. I didn’t understand all of the social implications of the book, but the story was incredibly engaging and it made me think. I was nine when I first read it.
I also loved anything by Shel Silverstein, particularly A Light in the Attic. The man was a brilliant voice for children. One of the favorite things I have ever written is a silly poem. It won awards. It made me realize humor had to be part of my literary voice.
In college, I read romance. Lots and lots of romance. Anything I could get my hands on — historical, contemporary, paranormal. I realized that romance gave me an outlet to get lost in a world where the outcome was much more predictable than anything I was facing at the time. And, though predictable happy endings occurred, I never knew which path the author would take to get me there. Of course, my favorite book then was Outlander, though I know the author isn’t keen on having her book categorized as straight romance. That book taught me the value of complex world building and reader engagement.
In my thirties, I glommed onto paranormal romance like it was an illicit $5.99 drug. Yes, paperbacks were still $5.99. I read Kresley Cole, Larissa Ione, JR Ward and a few Sherrylin Kenyon. I found Nora Roberts’s different trilogies and ate up anything with recurring characters. I discovered I’m madly passionate about stories where I get to experience characters over and over. A main character in one book who cameos in the series? My favorite setup ever.
It wasn’t until my mid- to late-thirties that I discovered “good” erotica — stories with an actual plot that were sexy as hell. Thank you, Denise Rossetti and Robin Rotham. I discovered that closed-door sex scenes annoy the crap out of me and, therefore, have no place in my writing.
I entered my forties last January. I’ve discovered Gena Showalter. Why it took so long is beyond me, but it did. I’ve devoured everything of hers this summer. Her paranormal romances have indulged my love of world-building in a contemporary setting.
So many authors have had so much influence on my love of reading that it seems horribly unfair of me to limit myself to one favorite. In forty years, I’ve collected favorite books and favorite authors and favorite themes and favorite… You get the idea.
What about you? Are you able to identify one book that is, above all others, The One?
Sorry for the late post today. Frankly, the weather’s been so nice, after being crappy for so long, my head is full of gardening and birdsong LOL! Thank goodness for auto-reminders, although I only just saw that too, having already been out with the dog and having drank a cup of tea sitting on the patio. Here’s just a little of what I did yesterday, after a trip to the plant store. So lovely to be in an apartment with good light again, and have plants indoors!
So, to get to the question of which author I’d like to be, well, that’s an interesting one. There are so many authors whose work I love and admire, some of whom have already been mentioned by others here, but there really isn’t any one I’d truly want to be, because then I couldn’t be me, and I’ve grown quite fond of my strange, quirky self (and it’s about damn time too, after all these years!). What I’d really love, though, are some of the attributes of other authors, kind of smooshed to fit my personality and voice.
I want the imaginations of Stephen King and Charles de Lint (to name just two of many!), the prolific abilities and business acumen of Nora Roberts or Maya Banks, the opportunity to write books that become classics, like JRR Tolkien–you know, stuff like that. But really, what I secretly dream of–although it won’t be a secret anymore after this–is the ability to create and sustain a character people come to love, like John Sandford’s Lucas Davenport in the Prey series. I love how Sandford makes the setting and people come alive, how Lucas has remained recognizable throughout the series but has also grown and changed, just like people really do. If you read the first book in the series and then read the last, it would be like seeing someone you haven’t seen in years but instantly recognize because they were memorable and, although time has brought changes, they’re still the same person. Another character like that is Harry Bosch, created by Michael Connolly, and yet another is Jack Reacher, in Lee Child’s immensely popular series.
Of course, characters like that are generally more suited for genres other than romance, but Nora Roberts did the same thing with her In Death stories, embraced wholeheartedly by romance readers, so there’s still hope for me! I’ll just keep plugging along here, hoping for the day a character rises up and says, “You know, I could be a series…” *nudge, nudge, wink, wink*
What are your favorite characters that have stood the test of time, and what is it you love about them?
Nora Roberts really knows her shit.
I mean, this isn’t late breaking news for anyone who’s read a Robert’s or Robb novel. They wring out your emotions, make you laugh and cry and sympathize with characters you didn’t think you would at the beginning. You can’t go into any romance section without seeing rows and rows of Nora novels, even though bookstores are downsizing.
I’ve seen Nora speak a handful of times, and each time someone asks how she writes, she holds strong to her mantra:
Sit your ass in the chair and write.
Each time she says it, I nod, agreeing that a book can’t be written if you don’t put in the time. Duh, right? You can’t get thin by sitting on the couch. You can’t learn to play sports without getting out there and doing them.
This month I’m reciting her mantra…
I’m smashed under a deadline. Vampires ofCrimsonBay#3 is due in May. I’m…not behind, per se, but I’m definitely not cooling my heels drinking Long Islands. I have to write 1500 words each day in order to meet the deadline which would leave a week or so for edits. Usually that kind of pace would be no problem for me, but this book is heavier than the rest. There’s more at stake. It’s the end of a certain villain and the beginning for a new breed of paranormal creature. (Can’t give too much away!)
I’m finding it beyond difficult to meet my daily word count and distractions are everywhere. (Hello closets, you look like you could use a spring cleaning!) It’d be easy for me to lax on my word count and take off for the weekend now that the weather in Northern Cali has put on its happy face. Instead, I sit my ass in the chair and chug through the words. It’s slow going. It’s give-you-a-headache hard. (Writing is HARD folks, who knew?)
While some days I feel like I’m not getting anywhere, those words are adding up. I’m at 64k (approx 210 pages) and to be honest, I’m not sure how I got there so quickly. Wasn’t I just sloshing through 40k?
All I know is, even on days when the writing is sluggish and the words don’t seem to fit into the puzzle just so, I keep going. I sit my ass in the chair and what do you know…the book takes shape.
When the writing is sunshine and wildflowers, it’s easy to sit in the chair and pump out a chapter or two. When the writing is quicksand…that’s when the men are separated from the mice.
So sit your ass down, leave your closets alone, and get that book done.
Nora Roberts really knows her shit.