This question has been plaguing me for a few days now. I'm three quarters of the way through the fourth book in a series by an author I once would have quickly claimed as a favorite. But a couple of things have let me down.
First, let's focus on the book I'm reading before I recant my entire collection of her works. This series started out great, it was a New York Times bestseller, though this wasn't the first time she'd published these books. The first time around, many many years ago, apparently they didn't do so well. But that's kind of besides the point. I know this author is capable of great things, which obviously made her a multi-New York Times Bestseller. She had something that really spoke to people.
This book I'm reading now, its like the words and the story is there, but the spark, the passion behind it is missing. And quite truthfully, though she writes several different genres, all her books are starting to sound the same to me. Like, A plus B with a little of C, D and E. Viola! You have a book.
There's been more than a few times I've had to go back and re-read a sentence or paragraph because it'd been composed awkwardly or so convoluted I forgot what the original point at the beginning was.
I'm sorry, but to me, this just smacks of laziness, from everyone concerned. From the author, her agent, and editors at the publishing house. Yes, I know this author's name probably guarantees a squillion sales alone, but doesn't quality matter?
In the course of the story, the author touched on one of the secondary characters being gay. I have absolutely no problem with this. One of my favorite couples/stories ever is Suzanne Brockmann's Jules and Robin romance. It was just done so fabulously. I've read a few other authors with tough, gay characters, JR Ward notably being one of them. I don't want to call it a trend, gay romances are becoming more acceptable in mainstream fiction. I even have a vague notion I'd like to tackle on myself one day. Not because everyone else is doing is, but because of the difference, similarities and intricacies of bringing something like that successfully to the page. Except when I read the gay character in this book, it didn't feel authentic, it felt like a popularity grab. I don't know, maybe I'm just being too cynical and harsh these days.
Its getting to the point where I'm having second thoughts about buying any more of her books. And this is not the first time I've been stung by this author. There have been other books in other series that were written so badly, I had to wonder if it was even the same writer. There was one in particular that comes to mind, I never even finished it.
All of this brings to mind the future of my own career. I'd like to think that in ten or twenty or thirty years, if I write something sub-standard, something that is lazy or crap or just plain horrible, then there might be someone around with enough balls to tell me so. I don't care if my name on a book will mean an instant 500,000 copy sale, I want to know that my readers won't be left disgusted or disillusioned. Quite truthfully, I'd rather be making next to no money, but know that what I'm putting out is worth the time my readers put into it.
Right now, I have so many ideas and dreams and plans. But what happens when I reach the day when I've explored them all and achieved everything I set out to? I'm sure every writer dreams of eternity, that there won't come a day when they have nothing else to say. It could happen though. Will I be brave enough to put down my pen or stop bashing my keyboard? Because if the spark and passion is gone, is there any point pushing on? Readers can tell and readers can be ruthless. So do you risk the reputation you've made to try and hang on to your glory days? Or do you fade away with quiet dignity? Many authors have faded away with quiet dignity and we may not give them much more than a passing thought. It's the ones who destroy what they've built we remember long after the flames have subsided.
I don't know about anyone else, but I don't really want something like that to be my lasting legacy. I don't know what the future holds, I guess all we can do is the best with what we have to deal with.
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