Monday, August 18, 2008

Polarization

So I've been sucked into Stephenie Meyer's Twilight series. I suggested book one for my book club, just because I was curious to see what the hype was about, and now we're all like a bunch of rabid Harry Potter fans, glomming up the books and trading them amongst ourselves, while we neglect our dirty living rooms and unmade beds (but not the kids or the day jobs, of course!). I'm just about finished with the third book--will probably get to the end tonight as I get too little sleep and will probably read at least a page or two of the final book in the series, Breaking Dawn.

As a writer, what I find interesting are how polarized Meyer's reviews are, especially for the final book. People are either giving it five stars and falling all over themselves to expound on how GREAT it is, and what a GENIUS Meyer is. Or they are giving it one-star reviews and going on at length about how much they hated it.

I wonder if Stephenie reads her Amazon page, and if she just wants to smack the one-star reviewers upside the head. Especially the ones who feel like the final book "doesn't fit" the rest of the series, and that she got the ending "wrong." As if the series creator could get her own series wrong! But, of course, the other three books inspire great passion on either ends of the review spectrum too--on the one hand, fans are lining up to buy her books, get her autograph on them, name their children Bella after her heroine, and tattooing Edward's name somewhere on their skin. And others are yammering on about how they don't like the heroine, how Edward seems unrealistic, how poorly written the prose is, how predictable the books are.

And Meyer's series is called the successor to the Harry Potter phenomenon, while it's author rakes in seven-figure checks for her artistic work and has single-handedly turned tiny, damp Forks, WA, into a popular tourist destination.

It reminds me of something author Gail Blanke said at the published author retreat at the recent RWA conference in San Francisco. Actually, her mother said it.... When Gail was young and came home crying because another little girl at school was running around telling everyone she didn't like Gail, this wise woman told her daughter, "The only thing everyone likes is water, because it has no taste."

Translation: Do you want to be boring as all get-out and have everyone like you, or do you want to be fabulous and original and inevitably turn some people off?

I know what my answer is: I love 4.5- and 5-star reviews for my books, but if I can't have that, give me one star over 2 or 3 any day. I'd rather inspire some sort of strong emotion, rather than a "meh" reaction.

Reading is so subjective. I'm over the moon about Jeffrey Deaver's work, particularly because I love the careful research and minutely researched forensic detail. A friend just emailed me after reading him for the first time and said the details drove her nuts. I loved Laurell K. Hamilton's first several books in the Anita Blake series and wasn't as excited about her shift in an erotica direction--but she remains a literary force to be reckoned with and went into hardcover after she made that shift. Nearly every romance writer I admire cops to getting wildly polarized scores when she enters contests like RWA's Rita award.

I'm not sure where I'm going with this, other than that I just wanted to talk a little about how much I love the Twilight series, and how ready I am for whatever ride Meyer wants to take me on in Breaking Dawn. It's her story, and that fact alone makes me confident that whatever she does to tie it up is the right path. So because I've been so sucked into the series, I'm just going to turn off my internal editor and enjoy it.

And the next time I get a strangely low contest score, I'll remember her example and figure that maybe I'm doing something right.

P.S. I finalled in the Maggie Awards with my tracker story, Finding His Child. So I guess those score sheets won't be polarized! We'll see what happens at the finals!

6 comments:

MaryF said...

WOOT on the Maggie final!!!!!!

I read Twilight and was kinda bored, so I haven't read the others. I read a cool review on the last book (three pages on livejournal) that made it sound pretty good, though.

Tracy Montoya said...

Thanks, Mary!

I had a hard time getting into the first two-thirds of Twilight, but once the tracker came on the scene, it zoomed by. The second one has that same quick pacing, and the third is close, so I think you might like those two a lot better. I just finished book three, and I'm looking forward to getting into the last one! I hope your reviewer is right!

Michelle Monkou said...

Tracy, you blind me everytime I go from your blog to the comments section. But I must be addicted because once again, I'm here.

Good luck on winning, but you're already a winner in my heart.

I haven't read any of the books, but I find it funny that people are getting equally up in arms based on what they read in the blogs and reviews. Now how crazy is that. They are attacking the author based on someone's opinion that she used the Book of Mormon to be racist. This is the same atuhor -right?

Tracy Montoya said...

Thanks, Michelle! (Sorry about the color change--blame my web designer. It was her idea to put the red on my blog page!)

I hadn't heard about the racism stuff. I went to check it out, but the instigator's blogs on the topic include spoilers for book 4, and I'm not about to read a spoiler until I finish this one! I'm guessing it has something to do with the heroine always ending up with the pale white vampire over the brown, Native American werewolf. But the characters are so three-dimensional and the story mythology is so intricate, I can't buy that at the moment. But I'll revisit the topic once I finish Breaking Dawn before I dismiss it all as shrill and ridiculous.

Guess it's NOT always easy to be a multi-million-dollar bestseller. Although I still think I could handle it. : D

Cathy in AK said...

Congrats on finaling, Tracy! FHC is one of my faves.

I haven't read Twilight, but I'm not a big reader of vampire stories to begin with. I have read the "It's great" "No, it stinks" reviews for it and the sequels. Different strokes for different folks.

Tracy Montoya said...

Thanks so much, Cathy!

I'm not a huge paranormal reader, and I haven't really loved a vampire story since pre-Narcissus in Chains Laurell K. Hamilton (other than my friend Caridad Pineiro's Calling series, which rocks). But I really do love the Twilight series--the suspense is great, the mythology is unique, and the characters are REAL. You may hate how they act from time to time, but it's wholly realistic and human. I'd recommend them for any romantic suspense reader!

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Tracy Montoya writes romantic suspense for Harlequin Intrigue.

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