Playing it Safe. Or not.

Paperback Writer has an interesting post on how the new incarnation of Battlestar Galactica has inspired her. The result is that she has vowed to write one dangerous book this coming year.

By that she means, something out of the ordinary for her personally. A departure from what’s comfortable. The reason this feels risky for her is simple:   she’s got a large followship and has been very successful with  more than one series of novels, so to make any big changes in approach or topic is somewhat frightening. You don’t know if the readers will make that jump with you or not.

[asa book]0399154663[/asa]

I’m kind of in the middle of that experiment myself, hoping that the Sara Donati crowd will follow the Rosina me into contemporary romatic comedy. I can’t really say how it’s going to turn out in the long run, but it was a risk I took. And it was scary. It still is scary. Every once in a while  — not too often — I get a note from an irritated reader who is not happy with my departure:

Stick to historical fiction.

Don’t lecture me about gay rights.

You’re not as funny as you think you are.

I’ve had snarky comments about the Wilderness novels too. The guy who was furious when he thought a soldier had shot Treenie. He didn’t care about people being killed, but the death of the red dog had turned him off my work forever. Or the person who was very unhappy with me about Liam’s behavior in a certain barn. People who have read Lake in the Clouds will know what I mean. But that’s different. Those kinds of negative reactions I can take and consider with equanimity. It’s harder when you’re talking about a new novel in a new voice, with a new approach.

And that’s why it’s tempting to stick with what works. If you’ve put out three mysteries in three years and your readership is going up up up, it’s hard to stop. Your editor and publisher certainly want you to keep going and building on your success. The readers are eager for more, and in many cases they won’t care if the quality starts to slide. They’ll hang in there for another three or five or even ten books in the hope that you’ll get the magic back.  Some of them won’t even notice, or won’t care.

And you, you might be pulling out your hair, begging to be let lose from a stale character-author relationship. But there’s the mortgage and the orthodontist and so you sit down yet again and grind it out.

Or you take a chance. You put aside the tried and true and you write something that excites you. Sometime that gives you back that old feeling, the let-me-at-the-keyboard thrill. This is what Lynn is talking about, having the courage to take on that challenge and hope that the readers come along for the ride.

For my part, once I finish book six I have to concentrate on something I can be fairly sure will find a readership. Maybe I’ve got great ideas for another couple contemporaries, but those will have to wait for a while. At least until the mortgage is paid off. In the meantime I’ll most likely be spending my time in Rhode Island, circa 1720.

7 Replies to “Playing it Safe. Or not.”

  1. Dear Rosina,

    until now, I am really a historic novel freak *g*. The books in the german market for contemporary romatic comedy are – in my humble opinion – boring: they all seem to have the same storyline, the actors seem to be only two-dimensional etc.
    But until now, I haven´t yet read one of your contemporary novels, so maybe I will follow you into this market…*g*

  2. I am trying to follow you into the comtemporary romantic comedy market but the damn bookstores here in New Zealand only seem to stock your Wilderness books… I got some book gift vouchers for my birthday which I’m itching to spend so guess I’m gonna have to order in!

  3. I started reading your novels when I found your blog (from another blog – I think)…I liked finding some familiar characters in new situations (the first wilderness novel), along with thsoe that followed. I applauded your break into comtemproary romance and cannot wait for Pajama Girls.

    I find that I enjoy it when my favorite authors try new things. I may not always like what they do, but it has never “turned me off” for good… only a definitive lack in the quality of writing that stays poor will turn me off a particular writer.

    Good luck in your new ventures, I’ll be buying them!

  4. Happy New Year Rosina!

    Had the kids bang a pot lid with a wooden spoon to drive out evil spirits and opened the front door to a brand new year. (All the time, they’re saying ‘why are we doing this again?) Something different definitely gets the brain working in new patterns.

    Looking forward to whatever the muse and your amazing personal drive reveals.

  5. Oh my sides – I am still LOL at the ‘you’re not as funny as you think you are’ comment. I really love your comedic style.
    I’ve enjoyed and appreciated the humour in your contemporary novels Rosina and incidentally in the Wilderness series as well (especially the great one-liners you give to Bears). I am sure I have had LOL as well as COL (cry out loud) moments in all the Wilderness books.
    It’s one of the reasons I am looking forward to the Pajama Girls so much as from the snippets you have given us there seems a lot of potential for humour.

    Ang in NZ – I’m not sure whereabouts in Aotearoa you are but Whitcoulls does stock Rosina’s contemporary novels and I am pretty sure I have seen them in Borders too. The only book of Rosina’s I haven’t seen on the shop shelves is Homestead, but Whitcoulls will order that for you on request. I am in West Auckland and am well served by a couple of Whitcoulls stores which have enthusiastic and helpful staff so I haven’t used their online service but hopefully that would be just as satisfactory. Good luck

  6. ok this is now my 3rd attempt to get my comment up for this post. First failure was my fault but I’m not sure what happened last time.
    Anyway… Rosina I was LOL so hard at the comment ‘you’re not as funny as you think you are’. One of the things I love about your books is the humour – in both the comtemporary and the Wilderness novels. I especially like the one-liners that Bears gets (but then he is one of my Wilderness faves).
    Ang in NZ – try Whitcoulls. I am in W Auckland and the local branches all have Rosina’s contemporary novels on the shelves. The only one of Rosina’s books I haven’t seen there is Homestead, but they will order it in for you. As the actual stores provide such excellent service (and enthusiasm!) for me, I haven’t used their online ordering service but maybe you could try that.
    I am pretty sure the contemporary novels are also on the shelves in Borders. My local PaperPlus doesn’t have much of a selection though I have to say. Good luck.

  7. It was last just week when I have first read your book. My friends kept on telling me that you are a great writer.  Well, you really are!  Your book is full of humour and yet it has deeply moved me.  I am planning to make book reports of the books you have written.  You are a great inspiration:)

Comments are closed.