So perhaps the single most awesome thing in my writing career happened for me recently. Nope, I didn’t hit the bestseller list for thirty seconds, or get closer to achieving my goal of luxury car ownership via royalty checks. In fact, my monumental feat has absolutely nothing to do with sales.
My books are now in my local library.
My husband told me that it would be unseemly to go visit them, so I just have to take the online card catalog’s word for it. I believe it; here’s the link.
For some reason, this is more validation for me as an author than having an Amazon page, a Goodreads profile, or a Facebook fan page. Maybe it’s because growing up, I never dreamed in a million years that something I wrote would be placed on those shelves. Shelves upon which I discovered my love of reading. And in the library setting, it’s somewhat of a more level playing field, in as far as my fiction books are alphabetized right in with traditionally published works by big named authors.
As you might recall, in November I was one of approximately 70 authors who took part in an Author Fair held at our Main Library. As such, we were encouraged to bring copies of our books for sale. This event pushed me to create paperback copies of my already published ebooks so that I actually had something to show off while I was there. Though I sold a few books there, I did come away with some inventory. Which got me thinking – what if I donated a couple copies of each book to the library so that readers in my community could enjoy them?
So I asked. And I got a quick response back. One that shocked me. It went something like this: “Of course we would be happy to accept your contribution. But we’d like you to know that we’ve already got the first book in your series on order and it should be stocked shortly.”
Yes, they had already purchased my book. Without me asking them to, or me getting down on my hands and knees and begging them to. And I had no clue. Which I found to be even sweeter than them agreeing to take some free ones off my hands.
I’ll likely never see the proceeds from that book, because my net royalty on that particular sale is only 50 cents. And I seriously doubt I’ll see an influx of paperback purchases that will help me cross the payment threshold. But I don’t care one iota. Because they showed me with that order that they believed in me, at least a little bit.
I promptly dropped off copies of Books Two and Three, as well as two additional copies of the one that they already bought. Now all three novels are in circulation, and as of this posting, over half of the copies available have been checked out. I’m really curious on how they are being displayed, or if library staff is recommending them or what. Other than a quick post to Facebook and Google Plus and a mention to some coworkers – who I seriously doubt are responsible for borrowing them – I’ve told no one that they are there.
I’m excited to see what the future holds, and I’m cautiously optimistic that this will have a snowball effect. A common take away from people that I met at the Author Fair was that it was cool that I based my books in Fort Wayne. And now, the community that serves as my setting has the chance to check them out, very literally.
Though I know not everyone in our city of a quarter million people has a library card, our library system is county wide. Even though the copies all originated at the main library, since readers can return them at any branch in the county, they may find their way to other locations in the area. Or if there is enough demand for the copies that they already have, the library may purchase additional copies to shelve at some of the more frequented branches.
Any way I look at this, the potential to reach a new set of readers is nothing to sneeze at.
It’s no secret that I like writing in first person best. Take from that what you will; some detractors say that it’s the absolute easiest point of view to write from. It’s what flows naturally when I sit down to write. I like the almost confessional nature of writing in someone else’s voice, of almost inhabiting that other person during their journey.
Writing in first person also leads to plenty of opportunities for bonus content. After all, there’s always more than one side to every story. And you know that other characters are having discussions about things outside of your narrator’s earshot. This is the place where secrets linger; you never get the whole picture if you’re only aware of what one person knows.
In my series, I’ve made a point of writing the prologue and the epilogue from another character’s point of view. This is always done in third person, because I feel that it’s too distracting otherwise. I don’t like reading things that switch back and forth from one first person POV to another. Too many narrators is not a good thing.
Now that I’ve finished book two in the series, I decided to go for a momentum shift. Book three will be narrated by another character. As will book four and ultimately book five. I’ve come clean about who gets the honors in number three already; you’ll have to wait and see who gets the lead in numbers four and five. A hint: they’re all three different and they are all three women.
Why? Because I can’t do justice to writing as a guy.
Yes, I’ve written prologues, epilogues and bonus content in third person from a guy’s POV, but those are pretty short in length. It’s fun to do for a couple thousand words or so, but I know I couldn’t keep it up for a whole book. I wouldn’t want to. Ultimately, I would delve into the world of stereotypes and have them think about sports or cars or hot women and then it would just be a joke.
This is one case of writing what you know that I totally agree with. I can write women characters with strikingly different voices and personalities, but these guys that I create are another story. There are plenty of things I have researched in the process of writing my series, but being a guy isn’t one of them and frankly, I’m not about to start.
Of course, that’s not to say that my male characters aren’t also multifaceted and interesting. They certainly are. When they’re being observed from the feminine point of view.
Mind you, I don’t have a preference in the books that I read if the main character is male or female. I’m not biased in that regards by any means. But I have noticed that male authors tend to have men as main characters and vice versa. It seems to be a natural gravitation toward writing in your own gender’s voice.
So for those authors that choose to write from the point of view of the opposite gender: is it as big of a challenge as I think it is to realistically portray the other gender? How much research did you put into making certain that your character was authentic? Was there a specific reason that you chose to write as the other sex?
I’ve seen a lot of mentions concerning “clean reads” lately. Maybe it’s a new fad or a vocal group of people who are rebelling against society’s post – Fifty Shades opinion of what is acceptable in a mainstream work of fiction and what crosses the line. Whatever the case, one of the most widely discussed genres involved is romance.
I’ve already discussed how I don’t write erotica. I write romance. To me, there’s a distinction between describing everything and using innuendo. Personally, I think my stuff is relatively tame. In my upcoming release, I push the envelope more than ever, but I still don’t think it’s that graphic. Ultimately, that’s up to the reader to decide.
So I was really interested in determining where my books were on the level of “cleanliness”. I learned that there are three general categories of clean: the first one where the parties involved never talk about relations and basically never even touch, the second where individuals kiss passionately but stop right there and the last category where things are hinted at, innuendo is used and during the actual deed, things fade to black. Just when I thought I might actually fit into the latter category, I read the caveat: bad words can be used, but never the f-word.
At that moment, I realized that I will never, ever, write a “clean read”.
It’s not that my novels are profanity laced, but I do curse. And I do use the f-bomb when I feel it’s appropriate. Why? It’s not for shock value; it’s because a large portion of people ages 23-30 use that word in everyday language. The majority of my characters happen to fit into that age range. When they are upset, it just doesn’t feel right to have them exclaim “Gee whiz!” and move on with things. It feels organic for them to drop the mother of all swear words.
To be honest with you, the first couple of times that I typed that word (or a form of it), I kind of cringed. I was even surprised that spell check recognized it. But I was emboldened by the fact that several authors I respect use that word in their novels. Their paving the way made me think maybe it was okay for me to do it, too.
I’m not a prudish person. I’ve spent years in the banking and insurance industries and trust me, some of my coworkers have cursed like sailors. I’ve been known to mutter things under my breath when things don’t go my way. But to see it written down for posterity is something different.
I brought my mixed feelings about swearing in my books up with one of my beta readers. This lady happens to have children around my age. She assured me that my books were mild and that I shouldn’t be concerned. With her approval and feedback from my aunt – who devoured book one and never even mentioned the cursing – I began to feel better about my decision.
So, no, my books won’t appeal to those that are looking for a clean read. That’s okay. In my humble opinion, you have to risk offending people in order to be successful. It’s a free country; you should read what you want to. I’ll continue to write what I want as well. Then we can all be happy.
And for those keeping score, my latest work in progress lost its ability to be labeled a clean read in the very first chapter.