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.