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Author Expectations?

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rebecca
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Author Expectations?

Post by rebecca » Fri September 23rd, 2011, 5:59 am

I have not read Jean Auel's Earth Children series which began with 'Clan of the Cave Bear' and finished with 'The Land of Painted Caves'. I did go and visit the Amazon website and read the reviews of her last book of the series and was astounded at the searing and brutally honest comments from those who had embraced this series so willingly. I felt for the disappointed readership and also for the author herself.

Can anyone imagine what the author must be feeling after devoting so many years and arduous hours in researching and then writing these stories? The poor author must feel like curling up in one of those caves, never to venture out again. Then there is the disappointment of the readers who had invested so much of their emotions into the characters of Jean's books.

Then there is another author who seems to engender a love/hate relationship with her readership, her name is Philippa Gregory.

I write from my own point of view in that there are books I like and others that I loathe. I think her most controversial book is 'The Other Boleyn Girl' it is my personal favorite followed by 'The Boleyn Inheritance.' Though TOBG is a favorite I can understand why others hate it and their points are valid in that the book is full of inaccuracies and the author’s interpretation of Anne Boleyn is almost feral in her description of Anne’s personality.

Now the above author has centered her attention on the Plantagenet’s which has also courted some controversy because of the license she has taken with factual evidence and also her inclusion of mythic legends such as Melusine as someone who really existed. The biggest complaint though with Ms. Gregory's books is the repetitive nature of her story telling where she batters the reader over and over by repeating herself every second page.

Then comes the doyenne of Historical Fiction and one of my personal favorites Sharon Kay Penman and her new book 'Lionheart' which will be released next month. So far the reviews are mixed. There are many who are raving about this particular book and its total accuracy when dealing with the facts, while others feel the book is bogged down with too many facts.

As I read the reviews of the works of these authors I wondered...Do we expect too much from our favorite authors?

Another question is: What matters most to the reader factual accuracy or liberty with the truth in favour of a better story?

It seems to me the marriage of the two doesn't seem to exist. So how do you answer the above questions?

"Life can't ever really defeat a writer who is in love with writing, for life itself is a writer's lover until death - fascinating, cruel, lavish, warm, cold, treacherous, constant." ~Edna Ferber

Bec :) PS: I hope I have done this right. I have never started a new thread.

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MLE (Emily Cotton)
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Post by MLE (Emily Cotton) » Fri September 23rd, 2011, 6:41 am

I confess to a sliding standard when it comes to how I review books.
If a book is getting lots of PR and earning lots of $$$, they have their reward. I don't need to hold back if I didn't like the offering much. Usually if I don't like something, I don't finish it, and even if I do I don't feel inclined to review it.

But I did make an exception for one novel that has received lavish praise and awards, which I thought was far overblown. Maybe giving it one star was a little harsh -- But something was needed to balance all the gushing five-stars. Of course, some people really enjoyed the book, and that's fine. I put in my review for readers like me.

Jean Auel and Philippa Gregory are big commercial successes. A certain amount of reader backlash comes with the territory. As the dh would put it, "That's a high-quality problem."

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Post by Misfit » Fri September 23rd, 2011, 10:48 am

Bec, good questions but it is much too early in the morning for me to chime in. I'll be back later.
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Post by Ludmilla » Fri September 23rd, 2011, 1:25 pm

In a work of fiction good storytelling overrides everything else for me. For historical fiction, specifically, I expect a good effort made toward an authentic representation of the period. If the author has gotten the big picture right I'm not going to be too bothered by the little details that some make such a fuss over, esp if the storytelling is good. And there is also that intangible quality of chemistry. Do we experience any personal chemistry with the characters or what's happening to them? It's impossible to predict, even for ourselves.

I have learned over the years to take what other readers think is 'good history' with a grain of salt. I think it's much more helpful to know what the author's own intentions were (escapist fluff, mystery/thriller, theme-focused, character-driven, parable... any number of which can provide good reasons for creative license) and I'd rather evaluate the work in that light. I also think in this age of instant gratification and a mind-boggling number of choices more and more readers expect their own tastes to be personally catered to and it is impossible. The old adage does apply:
You can please some of the people all of the time, you can please all of the people some of the time, but you can’t please all of the people all of the time

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Post by wendy » Fri September 23rd, 2011, 5:36 pm

Authors are merely humans who have managed to get their ideas published. We just do the best that we can!
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Post by SarahWoodbury » Fri September 23rd, 2011, 11:03 pm

I have had readers quibble about the most amazing details--stuff that like 1/2 of 1% of people might even notice. I think it's one thing to have medieval people eating potatoes, and another to stick so close to the real history that the story doesn't feel dynamic. But I think if the story is good, then the quibbling is less.

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Post by Divia » Fri September 23rd, 2011, 11:46 pm

If Phillipa gregory wrote good books these days she wouldn't be getting the backlash she is.

It sucks but it is what it is. I mean I havent really liked any of her books since BI. I personally think its her style of writing. Or perhaps their name has become so big that they feel they can be slack in their writing.

But lets face it the bad reviews dont seem to be hurting them one lick.
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Post by rebecca » Sat September 24th, 2011, 4:31 am

MLE: "If a book is getting lots of PR and earning lots of $$$, they have their reward. I don't need to hold back if I didn't like the offering much..."

I think it comes down to personal taste and who the author is. I will use Alison Weir for an example. I really loved her book 'Innocent Traitor' and though there were many who criticized her portrayal of Jane's mother, Frances Brandon, for me personally it wasn't an issue. Then comes 'Captive Queen' which I really disliked and yet others loved it but it doesn't put me off buying her books only yesterday I ordered her book on Mary Boleyn. But I do appreciate good honest reviews by readers which then leaves it up to the person if they wish to purchase the book or not.

Ludmilla-- "In a work of fiction good storytelling overrides everything else for me. For historical fiction, specifically, I expect a good effort made toward an authentic representation of the period...there is also that intangible quality of chemistry. Do we experience any personal chemistry with the characters or what's happening to them? It's impossible to predict, even for ourselves."

I think you have hit the crux of what makes a good story. When I read your comment the first book that came to mind was 'Forever Amber' where the author did not allow historical detail to get in the way of a good story with a heroine who one can admire as well as villify and it is full of historical detail which doesn't bog the book down. In the end it is essential to care about the characters even if they are not particularly likeable. It is the key that keeps the reader, reading.

wendy--"Authors are merely humans who have managed to get their ideas published. We just do the best that we can!"

Exactly so which is why I really felt for Jean Auel who had created this incredible story and over such a long period of time. Another author that I enjoy reading is George Martin and his 'Song of Ice and Fire' does this mean that I enjoy every single page? No. But this authors genius lay in being able to entice the reader into caring enough about his characters to continue the journey to the end. In the end I think that's all a reader can ask for.

SarahWoodbury--I have had readers quibble about the most amazing details--stuff that like 1/2 of 1% of people might even notice..."

I have to admit I don't much like nit picking for instance in her book 'The White Queen' Gregory makes the mistake of mentioning Nonsuch Palace which of course didn't exist, but that little mistake didn't worry me as it did others(from reading other book blogs). No author can get everything right 100% of the time, don't you think?

Divia--If Phillipa gregory wrote good books these days she wouldn't be getting the backlash she is...."

When it comes to Philippa Gregory the one sticking point I have is her tendency to repeat a fact or a thought over and over again. Another thing that leaves me perplexed is her tendency to choose to write about the most uninteresting times in her heroine's life. I will use 'The Other Queen' as an example-Surely the most interesting part of Mary's life was her time in France and then as Queen of Scotland and all the machinations of that particular Court?
But though I can't read minds I can choose where to spend my money and I will decide that when I read her latest 'Lady of the Rivers,' when it arrives in a few weeks.

Thanks ladies for your input. Misfit I will look forward to your comments.

Bec :)

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Post by Misfit » Sat September 24th, 2011, 12:08 pm

Can anyone imagine what the author must be feeling after devoting so many years and arduous hours in researching and then writing these stories? The poor author must feel like curling up in one of those caves, never to venture out again. Then there is the disappointment of the readers who had invested so much of their emotions into the characters of Jean's books.
I have read all these books, including the last one. Fortunately I wasn't as emotionally invested as many of her fans were, but I can feel their anger at such a let-down. My first thoughts were to wonder how could she possibly feel this would be an acceptable conclusion to the series for her fans? Did she seriously believe this was what they wanted, and the best she could do, or did she just not give a damn? They sure sold plenty of books after all.

Do we expect too much from our favorite authors?


I think perhaps we do, and that makes it so much more disappointing when they don't quite live up to it. I really really think a lot of it might be traced back to the publisher's door. When authors become too successful and keep on cranking out those best sellers perhaps they become too big for their you-know-what and the publisher either can't or won't stop and say...excuse me...but do really really want to do that? Look at what Gabaldon did in Echo in the Bone with
. Eeeeewwwww.

Is is realistic to expect an author to consistently pump out top notch work day after day? Do we expect the same from our favorite actors/artists, or should they be allowed an off-day on occasion?

What matters most to the reader factual accuracy or liberty with the truth in favour of a better story?


No secret, but I do care about historical accuracy, but I also care a great deal about a good story. Now this is strictly my own personal opinion and I am not knocking others for having a different opinion (to each their own), but the problem with many of these newer releases is that they are not a good story. As Jerelyn from PBS no aptly coined it, I'm very tired of Tudor 90210 and IMHO very few of the latest and *cough* greatest authors are not bringing anything new to the table - just lots of pretty barbie dolls in pretty dresses. Clearly from sales, etc. there is a market for this and clearly I am not that target audience.

As to PG, yes I loved TOBG when I first read it. Would I love it today? I don't know, but I do know that what she's doing with this new series is not good, and that's over and above the diddling with historical facts. The writing is Just. Not. Good. If you edited out her repetitive sentences, the Melusine redundancy and all those repeated titles I doubt Lady of the Rivers could top off at 100 pages.
Then comes the doyenne of Historical Fiction and one of my personal favorites Sharon Kay Penman and her new book 'Lionheart' which will be released next month. So far the reviews are mixed. There are many who are raving about this particular book and its total accuracy when dealing with the facts, while others feel the book is bogged down with too many facts.
I've seen some of the same comments you have about Lionheart and while I did enjoy it a great deal, I can very much understand why some might not be as enamored of it (Tanzanite says it very well in her review), YMMV. Sharon did set herself a pretty high standard in Here be Dragons after all.
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Post by EC2 » Sat September 24th, 2011, 8:37 pm

[quote=""rebecca""]
As I read the reviews of the works of these authors I wondered...Do we expect too much from our favorite authors?
Not generally no, but I think if we really, really enjoy a novel and it strikes a chord, then we want more of the same but different. However, for an author, writing more of the same but different isn't always an easy path to follow. Also, authors being human can have off moments in their job as well as moments of brilliance. They can get stale and go past their sell by date, or the reader himself/herself can develop in different ways and move on. I loved Kathleen Woodiwiss when I was 14, but as I grew older I fell out of love. Not KW's fault, but she just belonged to that time in my life. So I think we should expect high standards of our authors and be fair. That doesn't mean gushing and worshipping the ground they walk on, but it means standing back and looking at their entirety.
Another question is: What matters most to the reader factual accuracy or liberty with the truth in favour of a better story?
I want accuracy AND a good story. The best authors manage it.
I
t seems to me the marriage of the two doesn't seem to exist. So how do you answer the above questions?
[/quote]

Yes, it exists. History is always told with a slant - and that includes by historians. The best writers weave history and story together, warp and weft. Obviously historical fiction is fiction for the very reason it contains imagined scenes and conversations, but those scenes and conversations will be a reflection of that character in primary sources if the author has done their research. It will also be a thumping good read if the author is a good enough story teller. It's the way the accurate history is moulded into the structure of the story that will determine whether that story is a fabulous read like a sparkling diamond, or just a dull lump of stone. Obviously if the author doesn't do the research, then the sparkling diamond will be a piece of cheap glass, and those in the know will grind it underfoot.
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