Have you ever just fallen so hard for a writer’s work that all you want to do is read ONLY their books? I admit it’s a rarity for me. There have been a few series that I follow, but eventually, I get bored and move on, or I can see a pattern developing in the writer’s work and it’s the same story, but just a retelling of it. Sometimes, it can be very disappointing as a reader when that happens. So as a writer, I try to keep that in mind while writing my own series.
I’ve been reading a lot of Susanna Kearsley. First, I read THE WINTER SEA, an extraordinary book on all counts.
This is how Susanna describes herself on twitter “NYTimes bestselling writer who can’t choose between Historical, Contemporary, Paranormal, Romance & Suspense … so I just blend it all together in my novels.”
Does she ever.
And I really have kind of, um, fallen for her. As a reader and a writer. Writers are told over and over again to write in one genre. Don’t mix it up. But I think when you have this kind of talent nobody gets to tell you how or what to write. At least that’s what I want to believe. And she gives me hope that one day I might mix it up a bit in my writing.
In THE WINTER SEA, she weaves history, romance, suspense, and a very interesting paranormal (for the lack of a better word here) thread into this story. Plus, here was a romance arc so skillfully done that it took my breath away. The “paranormal” element was about the way the main character-writer in the story appeared to be channeling memories of an ancestor. I eat up this kind of thing. I can ponder where writers get idea for hours. Sometimes I wonder where I get mine. (But then I ask myself: do I really want to go there? It may be best to NOT look too deeply at it.)
Kearsley’s writing has been compared to both Mary Stewart and Diane Gabaldon. Her obvious love of history, archeology, landscape, romance, with interesting paranormal elements leads me straight to Gabaldon. I just finished another one of Kearsley’s books, which is a time-travel adventure romance—THE ROSE GARDEN, very much in the same vein at Gabaldon’s OUTLANDER series.
But I can also see so much of Mary Stewart in her writing—the atmospheric language, the love of suspense, the sweeping landscapes, and moody skies.
One thing all three writers have in common, no matter where they take their heroines, is that their lead characters are all independent, strong women, not likely to fall in love with the first handsome bloke who looks her way. And they are also not likely to be women who will believe easily that they have fallen through a time-warp, are channeling long-lost ancestors, or in ghosts and psychics. But they are all faced with unexplainable happenings, nonetheless.
I think this is the key to making this kind of fiction work. These women characters are formidable—if they did not have it together, they would not be up for the adventure. These are not the swooning types. (That is not to say, however, that they don’t have wounds.)
In THE SHADOWY HORSES, for example, the main female character is an archeologist, very driven by science and not looking for romance, at all. Of course, she finds it, along with a psychic boy and a ghost haunting the ground she is digging in. This is the kind of material that just sucks me in. It’s when a grounded, normal, every-day, maybe smarter-than-average woman who thinks she’d got parts of life figured out (and she does), confronts things she never imagined existed. Ghosts? Time travel? Channeling an ancestor through your writing? Pshaw.
You know this is part of why OUTLANDER works so well. Claire is nobody’s fool, right? She’s a nurse, very practical, earthy, and outspoken. Gabaldon has written these characters so well and wrapped the story in such detailed history and descriptions that she pulls whatever skeptics there are among us right into the story. We think, “Okay, maybe, Yeah. This COULD happen.” Okay so even if we don’t quite get that far in our thinking, the story is so good that we don’t care. Fall through a standing stone and landing in Jacobite Scotland? Okay. Slip into a trance-like state and channel your ancestor’s story into your book? Yes, because the characters, the setting, everything else is so believable.
Falling in love with a writer can be frustrating. I’ve picked up several other books while I’m waiting to get Kearsley’s next one. I am stopped dead in my tracks. I can’t do it. Nope. I give up. It’s simply a wave I must ride, enjoying every minute of it, of course. Why fight it, right?
Has this ever happened to you?