|Trying to Break Out of the Box |
- Sculpture by Peter Kiss
Honestly, at first the review bothered me. While authors don’t expect everyone who reads their work to fall in love with it, no author wants to see his or her work disliked that much. Then I read and digested the review. The reviewer, although she called Murder in Vein “[b]loody, nasty, and totally unlikeable,” didn’t dislike the book because of its writing style or character development or even the plot. She hated the book because it wasn’t like my other two series. The reviewer even told Amazon customers: “If vampires aren't your thing, stay away no matter how much you may enjoy the author's other books.”
What it boils down to, Murder In Vein was vilified because it was a vampire book and dark. Because it wasn’t a cozy like my Ghost of Granny Apples books or cozy-ish like the Odelia Grey novels. But then again, the cover and back of the book make that quite clear, so I’m not sure why the reader was surprised by what she found on the page.
Rather than throw stones at the book, I wish the reader had recognized what I was accomplishing with Murder In Vein – I was breaking out of my box.
Breaking out of your comfort zone is difficult in any situation. People love the comfy little boxes they create for themselves. We decorate them with fluffy pillows and cushy rugs and pipe in soothing music. We set up house in our personal emotional places and defy anyone to drag us out. It’s no different in writing.
I’ve never wanted to write just one type of novel. I’ve always dreamed of writing across genres, envisioning my name on mystery novels and general fiction alike, whether they be cozies or hard topics with difficult and unsavory situations. Last month here on Inkspot I wrote about other ideas I have for future books. They run the gamut from fun romantic capers to painful coming of age novels to very dark character studies. I would never tell myself I can’t write those books because they are not like the other books I’ve written.
For example, I love pizza. It’s my favorite food. Calorie and fat content aside, I don’t eat it every night because I would quickly become bored. It’s the same with writing. Creating the same type of book over and over can be boring for a writer. And if the writer is bored with the writing, there could be the danger of that boredom translating onto the page, creating a boring read.
Most publishers build a brand for the author and want everything that writer produces to fall within that nice safe box of reader expectations. After awhile, some writers end up writing the same book year after year after year because that’s what their readers expect and the publisher and author do not want to rock the boat. My publisher, Midnight Ink, didn’t hobble me with such limitations. I wrote the book I wrote and they loved it. Thank you, Midnight Ink. Thank you for letting me break out of my box. And fortunately, most of my readers and the reviewers have loved and accepted Murder In Vein as a “Sue Ann Jaffarian” book.
And talk about timely. This coming Sunday, October 3rd, at 2 pm, I will be on a panel at the Los Angeles Chapter of Sisters In Crime discussing writing across genres. My panel mates will be the distinguished Edgar winner Naomi Hirahara and the always entertaining and gusty Christa Faust. You can be sure I’ll be mentioning my one star review as an example of a reader feeling assaulted by change.
Since I started this post with the worst review Murder In Vein has received to date, I’m going to end it with the best, just so I can remember I’m heading in the right direction – straight out of my box.
Like Stuart Kaminsky, Jaffarian juggles her franchises deftly, giving each a unique voice and appeal. Her latest series kickoff may be her best yet, blending supernatural sexy with down-to-earth sassy. – Kirkus
Sue Ann Jaffarian
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