Tuesday, December 2, 2008

What is it, really??

So I was talking with a friend tonight about books. She knows that I've been doing a lot of blog reading, and I mentioned to her that I see a lot of 'popular author' bashing on many sites. They go after authors with tongue in cheek, implying that if you don't think this author is low-brow and pandering to the LCD then, clearly, you are low-brow yourself and should just declare your love for the Billionaire Sheik Virgin's Secret Mistress's Bride's Baby book of the week and hide your head in shame.

The author who brought out this most recent round of vitriol is J.R. Ward. My friend loves her. I just read the first book of the Black Dagger Brotherhood series and loved it myself. But, I read the 4th book of the series, the infamous Vishous book first, a few months ago, and though I felt horribly betrayed as a reader, I could still see that this woman had the chops of a damn good writer underneath it all. Based on the 5th book, I glommed her entire backlist and am reading it slowly. My TBR is so big, I have the luxury of doing that.

Now, on the blogs, what I read is a lot of behind the hands snickering about Ward, they make fun of the hextra shilent h's. But there's something more there. There's a mean-spiritedness behind it. And I can't quite get a handle on what they object to. Is it the plot? the world she's built? her characterizations? is there too much going on? not enough backstory? TSTL heroines? bad writing? What is it about her books that inspire such backyard bullying?

I've been thinking about it for a while, and I think the answer is a depressingly simple one - jealousy. The blogs and sites I read are populated by mid-list authors. That's not to say these authors are bad (or good), they simply haven't broken out yet. They publish, but they don't need a press secretary. Their publishing houses don't market them any more than the average Joe (the plumber) and they are never featured on mass e-mailings by b&n or borders. These authors are good at their jobs and they work on the craft of writing, but they don't enjoy the super-star status--or its literary equivalent--of the authors they pick on.

J.R Ward has found herself a hook. She's got a popular series going on, and she's got a very large following. I notice a few things in her writing that I'm not crazy about myself, and I'm going to be stupid enough to name them.

-She takes me right into the head of the bad guy a bit too often. When I read a romance, I don't want to be icked out. However, I give her credit for unabashedly doing so.
-She follows multiple storylines at the same time, which can push her books more into the literary genre than the romance category, but she weaves them together well, so I'll go with it. It does dilute the power of the romance itself, but that's her voice. I'm not going to quibble with it. The woman sells for goodness sake. I should be so lucky.
-In Vishous' book I got bogged down in backstory. And worse, the backstory was at a place in time that bores me. I don't read historicals, and once again, I don't like being icked out so the backstory was all an exercise in Not Fun for me.
-She makes up so many words, she needs her own glossary.

That's it. That's all I have to say about Ms Ward's books that I don't like as a reader. But I DO like her books. As a writer, I envy her imagination. I admire her plotting and good ol' macho men-loving *tee hee hee* alpha heroes. I admire how in touch she is with her muse. I admire her courage in breaking some covenants of the genre.

I would hope that six or seven years from now when I have my own ten-book backlist (ha! ha! ha!) that I don't take another author's success and bitch about them without being brave enough to say exactly why.

Currently reading: Talk Nerdy To Me

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