This is the second post of a rolling blog tour on the topic of Mystery Authors Who Inspire Us. To read previous blog tours, check out My Favorite Mystery Movie, The Lure of the Red Herring and Please Don’t Ask Me, among others. At the bottom of this post you’ll find the other participants in today’s tour, and a link to the next article in the series.
It was difficult to decide which mystery author has inspired me the most, since I feel I’ve been influenced by so many – Carolyn Keene (which I realize is a whole bunch of people, but must be included, since the Nancy Drew Mysteries were the reason I fell in love with mystery reading and writing), Jennifer Crusie, Louise Penny and Sue Grafton.
But Janet Evanovich tops the list, since I love her voice, humor and quirkiness. With the Stephanie Plum series she pioneered the funny mystery genre. If there is an author before her who did that, let me know, since I’m not aware of them.
An author walks a fine line when he or she tries to make mysteries funny. What’s funny about cars that blow up, dead bodies, weird family members and getting chased by bad guys? It’s all about perspective. Through her character of Stephanie Plum, Evanovich manages to make all of these events hilarious, if only because Stephanie herself is someone we can relate to and root for. And through her writing voice, Evanovich makes it funny.
Most of all, these stories are pure entertainment, and as a reader, entertainment is key. If I’m in the mood to be educated about the pure misery of the world, I can pick up any city newspaper, thank you very much. With my fiction, I prefer to escape to the land of funny.
Being inspired by another author isn’t necessarily a positive thing. Janet Evanovich has actually inspired me not to do something.
Disappoint my fans (ahem … once I get some).
Janet Evanovich will release number 18 in the Stephanie Plum series in November 2011. Many readers, including me, feel the first half of the series (books 1 – 9) were funny, fabulous reads. Since then, it’s been a steady downhill slide. Books 10 onward feature recycled scenes, flat plots, zero character development, and disappointing love relationships. Not funny. As one former fan points out, “After a while it felt (like) I was reading the same book with a few name changes.”
This is where writing a series gets tricky. How to keep it fresh? How to stay innovative? How to allow your character to complete their journey? Is Evanovich’s editor now her friend, and not her editor? Does her publisher care more about making money than publishing a quality product? (Of course they do. They’re in the business to make money, period. They’ll keep flogging that horse long after it’s dead.) Could Evanovich be accused of selling out her creativity in favor of making a buck, and to hell with her former fans?
I don’t know, so I can’t answer those questions, even though they’re valid. If someone paid me a ton of money to keep churning out mediocre books, maybe I wouldn’t say ‘no’, either.
Is this about sour plums? I hope not. Am I an idiot for even saying this about a famous author when I’m a nobody? Maybe. But I’m also a reader. And I like good books. And it pisses me off that publishers think readers are going to swallow whatever they throw at us if it has ‘a novel by Janet Evanovich’ stamped on the cover. Not to mention charge us $12.99 for an e-book.
I do know one thing. I’ll never write a series. Maybe a triology, but that’s it. For the simple reason that keeping a series fresh and compelling is difficult. I can think of only one author who has done it well – J.K. Rowling. I have yet to find a mystery series that has ended on a high note. Mostly it’s recycled stuff.
I don’t read Janet’s books anymore, and it’s a shame. But I still admire her writing style, and I respect her for paving the way for the funny mystery genre.
To learn about mystery authors who inspire other mystery authors, check out the next stop on the blog tour:
Ryder Islington - http://ryderislington.wordpress.com/
The Subject for Wednesday’s tour is: Favorite Male Mystery Heroes