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Friday, May 1, 2009

Great Expectations

As the author of a series, I've been fortunate enough to have readers really plug into my world and characters. This is the highest compliment to me, as I was an avid reader long before I was an author, so I know what it's like to feel connected to characters. Especially in a series, where each book delves a little deeper into the same set of people.

At the same time, being an author of a series, I've had to turn off my "people pleasing" tendencies. Why? Because it's impossible to write a book according to reader expectation. I have three books on the shelves now, with more coming soon, and for each book that releases, opinions vary. Devoted fans of the first book might have hated the second, or readers who loved the first and second book didn't like the third, or readers who liked the second and third book didn't like the first...there's been every combination of liked it/hated it for the order of my books. And for every, "I loved book A but didn't like book B. Can't you write more books like A and not B?" I get another email that says, "You blew it with book A, but thank goodness you made up for it with book B!"

*grin* See my point? Any author who attempts to write to reader expectation will end up with a very schizophrenic book, because no book will read the same to every reader. That's the beauty of the reader/book relationship, in my opinion. Readers are diverse. They don't want the same things, don't like the same things, and one reader's favorite book can be another reader's worst. This is a good thing. How boring would the literary and genre world be if every reader only liked the same type of book?

Squashing our inner people-pleaser is something aspiring writers need to watch out for, too. Many writers have heard the advice: don't chase trends. Why? Because by the time a writer finishes and shops a novel in whatever "hot" trend, that trend could be over. And likewise, with the current publishing schedule many authors have, by the time an author sees reader response on their latest book, the next one's already written and in the production stage. So writing just to catch a trend, or according to a perception that varies from person to person, will only frustrate the author - and readers, who can smell an insincere effort a mile away - instead of ensuring a satisfying book.

Does this mean authors should ignore their readers? Absolutely not. I read every email and blog comment that comes my way, and I appreciate the time readers put into their correspondence. I feel I owe it to my readers to put my best effort into each book, to stay true to the worldbuilding I've established, and to stay true to my characters' personalities. That's an expectation readers should have of me. As far as writing more books like A, B, or C...well, I can't promise that, but I can promise to write the book I feel the most passionate about. I don't think my characters, or readers, would want it any other way :).


Jeaniene Frost is the New York Times bestselling author of the Night Huntress series featuring half-vampire heroine, Cat Crawfield. She lives with her husband and their very spoiled dog in Florida. Although not a vampire herself, she confesses to having pale skin, wearing a lot of black, and sleeping in late whenever possible. And while she can’t see ghosts, she loves to walk through old cemeteries. Jeaniene also loves poetry and animals, but fears children and hates to cook. She is currently at work on the next novel in her Night Huntress series.

To read the entire first chapter from Jeaniene’s books, deleted scenes, creature mythology, events schedule, blogs, and contact information, go to: www.jeanienefrost.com


lastnerve said...

Jeaniene, Just wanted to stop off and say hi and I really admire your outlook on people pleasing. I think I would go insane if I had to please everyone! I look forward to reading your work.

Stephanie said...

I'm such a bad site owner! One of my favorite authors and I neglect to stop by and say hi! I'll go punish myself now.