Due to boring circumstances beyond my control, I will not be online much for awhile. Fortunately I’ve been able to line up a number of stellar guests to fill in for me. Most are writers, but I also thought it would be fun to get some publishing types to explain what it is they do, teach you some more about the industry, and answer your questions, as well as one or two bloggers.
Melina Marchetta is probably Australia’s most popular YA writer and with good reason her books are deeply awesome. I just finished her latest, The Piper’s Son and I think it’s her best book to date. I was up reading it till 3AM and then I couldn’t sleep for another hour because I was weeping too hard. LOVED IT.
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Melina Marchetta is a Sydney writer. She has just released her fifth novel, The Piper’s Son, a sequel to her 2003 novel Saving Francesca which will be published in the US next March. Her website is www.melinamarchetta.com.au.
Please note that this is not a piece about books I don’t like, but about personal taste and what we look for in the novels we choose to read.
When you don’t like a book that everyone is raving about, you feel guilty. You don’t want to be that person who lets hype affect their reading because I hate that person. I want to say to that person, ‘Grow up. You can still be individual and love the same book or film as everyone else.’
I’m only admitting this publicly because he’s dead and I won’t be offending him, but I’m in the minority and didn’t care for The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo. Despite being told that I wasn’t going to be able to put down Dragon Tattoo after page 200, I spent the next 356 pages dying to do just that. But I’d like to think that deep down, me not liking it had nothing to do with the hype or with Stieg Larsson’s writing and had everything to do with personal taste.
It wasn’t until I recently read another crime fiction novel, Peter Temple’s The Broken Shore, that it became clear to me that when it comes to that particular genre, I need a tortured hero, lack of exposition and killer dialogue. As booklovers we choose novels because they have the secret ingredient we need to nourish our personal reading appetite. We reject others because they have the ‘turn off’ ingredient that is made up mostly by our personal idiosyncrasies or context.
Someone close to me is turned off by YA literature, for example. I forgive them because they have pretty good reasoning. Being a teenager was bad enough when they were young and they can’t bear the idea of re-living it again through angst-ridden characters like most of mine.
But the problem with me and those who have rules about what they do and don’t include in their reading material is that we miss out on some great stories and genres. I love it when someone stumbles on my work by pure accident. I love it when I stumble into a genre that I’ve kept away from. Science Fiction is a classic example. I always felt it was a bit over my head and then I read Cordelia’s Honour by Lois McMaster Bujold. I picked it up because I thought it was a romance. I ended up having a mini obsession for every Miles Vorkosigan novel. It was a good introduction to the genre.
But despite that, I still have my list below of what turns me away from reading a novel. Any suggestions to change my mind will be appreciated.
- Love triangles. I haven’t been in one since fourth grade so it’s probably love-triangle envy that I’m feeling.
Novels where middle aged men end up with much younger women.
- Novels where there are no women or vague references to them. I forgive Melville and Conrad for Moby Dick and Heart of Darkness because one has a killer opening line and the other nourishes my obsession with rivers, but that’s as far as I’ll go.
- Poor female representation. This can be anything from insipid female characters to one dimensional kick-arse heroines. Of course there are some fantastic kick-arse heroines out there, but the ones I don’t care for are those who display a plethora of male traits and nothing else and are considered the new feminists.
- Novels where the character describes themselves as feisty, witty and quirky on the first page. These are characteristics that can’t be self-diagnosed and have to been shown not told.
- Novels where the hero/heroine die at the end. I’m that person standing beside you in the bookstore reading the last page first. If there’s death on the last page the book goes back on the shelf. I know I’m missing out on some really fantastic novels by this exclusion. Before I die, for example, will be the first novel I read if I let go of my not-reading-novels-where-the-heroine-dies-in-the-end rule because I hear it’s absolutely fantastic and I’m going to go with the hype. If you’ve read any of my novels, all the deaths happen early on, usually on the first page and a couple of hundred in between, but rarely at the end. The idea of mortality keeps me awake at night so having to agonise over my death as well as another character’s is trauma I try to avoid.
Note: The no-death rule also applies to films. I refuse to watch any more productions of Romeo and Juliet or anything to do with the life of Jesus Christ because we all know what happens at the end. They die.
Does anyone else have any turn-off ingredient? (please don’t mention book titles unless the author is dead).