Friday, October 5, 2012

Staying True to Your Author Brand and JK Rowling

I recently read a blog post that made me think.

David Farland’s Daily Kick in the Pants—Defining Yourself
“It’s always good before you begin to write to really understand who your audience is and that they’re needs are, so that you can better meet those needs. But it’s also important to understand who you are as an author, and what it is that you want to achieve.”

“For example, Dan Wells mentioned that he wanted to be the “Stephen King of young adult fiction.” When his first novel, I AM NOT A SERIAL KILLER came out, it earned him huge advances overseas and led to the start of a brilliant career.

I want to be “A contemporary Mary Stewart, writing suspenseful women’s fiction with a touch of romance and magic.” I loved her books when I was a kid and I still do. And I think that's important, too--that teenagers and grandmas can read my books without flinching. I love the exotic locals, the mystery, suspense, romance and the touch of magic.

 I also love Debbie Macomber's small town series and I've tried to emulate her, too. Small town in the Pacific Northwest and a cast of characters who interact with each other. Of course, I hope that once a reader reads one book, she'll want to read another, even though the stories are stand-alones and independent. Can I create a Mary Stewart/Debbie Macomber hybrid? I already have.

And just like I think it's important to have an author's brand, I think it's even more important to have a moral code that anyone that knows you will recognize and respect--because they know and love you. They trust you to be the same person, today and tomorrow and in any given situation.

I think that's why the world is so disappointed with JK Rowling. And no, I didn't read her book. I really, really wanted to until I read the reviews. And I'm probably being wildly presumptuous to speak in behalf of the world--but honestly, is there anyone not disappointed? I haven't heard one kind word about her book, unless it was from her. And maybe I'm being unfair by criticizing a book I didn't read, but I'm not interested in " swearwords, rape, racism, pornography, self-harm, suicide, domestic violence, heroin and marijuana use, a character who contemplates child abuse, and graphic descriptions of sex." I'm just not. It doesn't matter how much I loved Harry, I won't pick up A Casual Vancancy, because it sounds too much like it's title--vacant.

And I know that an author isn't her characters and she doesn't live her character's circumstances, but I wonder-- do the differences in Rowling's first Harry Potter book and her latest in anyway reflect the differences in her life experiences? What, other than the fame and money, has changed in her life that prompted such a radical deviation? Of course, only she can answer that. At this point I could rant about the dangers of wealth, abundance and fame, but I won't. Back on track--

As a Harry reader and fan, I feel betrayed. I expected something from Rowling and she delivered something else entirely. It was like getting on a plane to France and being detoured to Death Valley.

And so as I navigate my own authorship and life, I need to remember the lesson I learned from a book I never read, the lesson I'm sure Rowling never meant to teach--stay in touch with who you really are, whether you are writing a book or buying a head of lettuce. Anything else will be nothing but a big fat disappointment.


  1. Oh, I loved Mary Stewart's books, too! And I'm totally with you about wanting to write books my kids can read (or their kids now).

    I was planning to read Jo's new book until I read what it was about. I knew it wouldn't be my kind of book. One sentiment that I've gotten from people who've read it is that everyone in it is unhappy.

    I love your point about the author brand. In writing this book, Jo wasn't the least bit concerned about her fans. It was all about her and taking a different route in her career. Reminds me a bit of when Julie Andrews, specifically to get out of the clean roles she'd always been in, bared her breasts in a movie.

  2. I'm actually reading the book. Honestly, there are VERY few writers that I would tolerate this long without throwing the book away. Getting through this has been a chore! I'm about 75% through and it is actually getting a little interesting.

    I'm reserving final judgment until I get to the end. But I think if somebody who's name wasn't household had submitted this, no publisher would have touched it.

  3. I have yet to read the book, and it looks like I won't. Honestly, why would I want to read an adult book written by J.K. Rowling.
    It gives me pause and also makes me think about what brand I want to write the most. I can't be a children's picture book author and write stories about serial killers. Unless I use a pen name, of course.

    Thanks for the food for thought.

  4. You are right on the money Kristy. I had the same experience with JK Rowling's new book. I had heard very little about it until the day before it was released here in Australia and I rarely read reviews. It was actually a fluke that I happened to see a headline about the book that made me frown. I was quite taken aback by the review and disappointed. It is true that audiences associate a name with a certain "typecast" whether they are actors or authors. I can see why Rowling felt the need to move away from Harry Potter, but I think she has disengaged many more readers than any she may have won over.
    Unfortunately I can't trust that her name on the cover guarantees a good read.
    It is nice to see that you are finding your own brand and drawing inspiration from truly talented authors you have enjoyed reading. It does make me wonder though, do you have a "moral code" or set of "rules" that you apply to your own writing?

  5. Hi! Stopping by from MBC. Great blog!
    Have a nice day!