Friday, January 25, 2013

It all started with Twilight.


I find this humiliating. If you’re like me (either an academic type or a heavy reader of much more hard-core books that include things like pre-marital sex), you’re supposed to trash the Twilight books. I’m very happy to do that, but honesty compels me first to confess the following sins.

1. I absolutely devoured them the first time I read them
2. I’ve read each two or three times
3. The series started me on my current life-path, first reading paranormal/fantasy and then writing (the adult version of) it.

Here’s the background: I’d been teaching English Lit. especially “Great Books” for several years and was working on an academic book on Jane Austen of all things. Being as I was this schmancy academic type, I of course NEVER read ANYTHING that could be characterized as popular fiction.

But in one of those chance occurrences that I must now view as DESTINY, in October of 2008, I got horribly sick on a vacation. Desperate for something to fill the lonely hours in my hotel room, I found myself in the resort gift shop, where prominently displayed were these two books, Twilight and New Moon, which I had never heard of. In my fevered state, they looked like cheesy fun, so I bought them, got instantly hooked, and read them through over the next day and a half. As soon as I got home, I bought the next two books (in Hardcover!) and read them through in two days.

The books represented a couple of firsts for me:
1. First YA (since I was a teenager)--except for Harry Potter
2. First Vampire book (since I’d read Dracula in a comp lit class in college)
3. First popular fiction I’d read in ages--except for Harry Potter
4. First romance novel I’d read since I devoured Shirley Conran’s Lace during high school (to go with the epic TV mini-series; see note below).

You might say that the Twilight series awoke this reader’s appetite for blood--or at least reading about blood-suckers. It started slowly enough: over the following months, I plowed through the major non-Harry Potter YA fantasy series: Paolini's Eragon (Inheritance Cycle), Riordan's Percy Jackson series, Pullman's His Dark Materials, Colfer's Artemis Fowl, and especially Jonathan Stroud’s Bartimaeus Trilogy (one of the few series I truly wish I’d written myself).

Then on March 10, 2009, a truly momentous day in my life, I got a KINDLE.

Hundreds of vampire stories later... (also werewolves, alien abductors, wizards, demons, vikings, red-hot highlanders, and more recently gay werewolves and alien abductors)

As it turned out, getting the Kindle was like emptying a bucket of coke in front of Tony Montana, or maybe getting a paper cut in front of Jasper Hale. I immediately went from reading a couple books a month, to reading a book a day. (I'll give my thoughts on Kindles and book-buying in another post).

I checked out the actual numbers: Over the last four years, I’ve bought 851 books, for an average of 212 books/year. About ten of those were purchased by my husband. Those ten are also the ONLY ones that do not fall into the genres of paranormal, romance, erotica, fantasy or sci-fi. Of the 841 books I bought, I didn't finish about a third, but I reread at least another third, most of those more than once.

And of course, I’ve written and published my epic work of (adult) fantasy, The Heartwood Box: A Fairy Tale.

Does this mean I shouldn't in good conscience trash Twilight? I DON'T THINK SO. But we'll save my critical ruminations on that topic for another day.

(For those you not born before 1980, Lace by Shirley Conran was the hugely popular best-seller from 1982 that featured the immortal line: “Which one of you bitches is my mother?” Like a lot of women’s popular fiction from that era, it is a bit too lurid and cynical to fit neatly into the romance category. Astoundingly, the current list price for the Kindle version is a staggering $30.59, proof positive that the old-line publishers truly do not have a clue about the new world we live in.)

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