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VIRTUALLY HERS came out Oct. 2009. Get it at SAMHAIN Publishing. VIRTUALLY ONE coming soon.
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Tuesday, October 30, 2007

TalkBack Tuesday With Uber Irrational Reader

I finished reading the most anticipated book of the year for me--Lilith Saintcrow's fourth book in her Danny Valentine series, Saint City Sinners. Once again, I was riveted by the sheer power of Saintcrow's writing. Once again, I mourned because she (to me, needlessly) killed off two familiar characters. Now, Danny Valentine's main men have this tendency to get killed and be resurrected in another later book, but I'm getting worried.

Book Five, the next book, is the final of the series. I'm keeping my fingers crossed that there will be a happy ending for Danny and her demon lover. Saintcrow likes to kill off whomever Danny cares for and loves and the next excerpt hints that Danny wants to go down the suicidal path in her quest to fight the Devil. It doesn't look good because Saintcrow has set up the demon lover on the side against Danny and so he might be sacrificed at the end. Argh. Cannot. Take. That.

Sigh. I hate unhappy endings. It makes me feel incomplete, especially when I've invested four books into the relationship. If the two friends who died in Book Four already made me so anxious for Japhrimel's safety, can you imagine how I'm going to feel in January, when the last book comes out? Argggh. If you know me, I'm the biggest spoiler ho in the universe. So I'll probably peek at the end to see if there is a good ending, and if the last chapter ends well, then I'll finish this series. If not....I don't know. It's a dilemma. I don't know whether I can read a bad ending for a hero I've been so into.

Sort of like killing Jed at the end of the Virtual series, you know? Helen would survive his death, but I don't think I would. LOL.

So the question is this, am I, wearing the author's hat, responsible for the reader's emotional well-being? I mean, if I killed off a minor, but quite popular, character in the universe, and without good reason (or even with...coughcoughCam andPattycoughcough) can I reasonably reason with unhappy readers with words like "Muse," "creative freedon," "character growth," and finally, "well, that's the way it had to go." Yes, I'm stressing on REASON.

Because I tell you, although I'm a very reasonable and logical businesswoman when I'm a roofer, I'm an emotional reader. You cannot reason with me where my heart is concerned. I'm strong enough to take the deaths of minor characters because as a writer, I understand the need for some room for 'pain and gain,' as I call it...coughcough- CamandPattycoughcough...but I'm not strong enough to take the death of a major character. Not after 500,000 words! It's an undesirable ending. And unreasonable.

You see the emotional mess I'm already in, and I don't even know what the real ending of the Danny Valentine series is?! I've descended into the Afraid To Find Out state of mind. Meaning, I've sort of made up my mind to avoid that last book if my demon and Danny V are going to be parted forever, in death or living hell.

Yes, yes, totally irrational and unreasonable, but there you have it as a reader. But as a writer, I'm in awe of Lilith Saintcrow. What a great urban fantasy series!

And before you send out cries of doom at me, I haven't actually killed off Cam and Patty yet. To be honest, as a writer, yes, my Muse has suggested it, in several different scenarios, how one or both of these characters dead would make a really strong story for one of the characters. It's all in my head. But as a reader, I totally get the love for Cam and Patty, and I totally understand that some readers already have a story in their heads about those two.

There needs to be a balance, of course. A writer has to be faithful to his/her vision, but that doesn't mean, to me anyway, that the vision is unchangeable. Vision, in the precognitive sense of the word, is a possible layout of a future, and in writing, as in living, that layout changes with every word/action.

Just as life has many choices, creating art does too. Just don't think to pleasure the reader with love, and then later, reason with her for killing that love. I'm just sayin'.

Your turn to talk back: What kills your love for a beloved series, whether the books are labeled romance or not? And you can mourn about Buffy and Angel. The pain...oh the bitter pain is still with me today, so years later.

Don't REASON with me that the books aren't romance. I don't care!!!!!!! Yup, I'm an irrational reader.

(If you like urban fantasy, do try Lilith Saintcrow's Danny Valentine series. The action is fantastic and the heroine is believably edgy, although a bit stubborn in the communication department. The sexual tension between Danny and her two men (especially the main guy, Japhrimel) is top-notch. Just don't blame me if you fall for Japh and then gets all scared about Saintcrow maybe ending this series sadly. Heh.)



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14 comments:

kim said...

I'm sorry, I still haven't read your earlier books so this may be a stupid question but who are Cam and Patty? Or were they in one of the books I did read and I the unthoughtful reader neglected to remember them?

LadyZannah said...

Harry Potter; I shed a lot of tears over the death of one of the twins. It was bittersweet in a way.
The Cat Who series by Lilian Jackson Braun; she's always killing people so I lost my love for it.
PLEASE don't kill Jed, or Hell, or Flyboy, or Alex, or T, or Marlena, or Steve, or Nikki, or Grace, or any of the SEALs; well I think you see my meaning. Even tho I'm sure that when the ultimate showdown comes down, some might die or at least get badly hurt. Just not Jed & Hell.

Mo said...

Noooooooo! Please don't hurt Cam or Patty! They are so cute together!!!!!

vanessa jaye said...

I suck, cause if I writer goes around killing characters I've grown attached to, I pretty much don't read the rest of the series, or even anymore of their books. :-/


I'm not saying no one can die, it just that in certain cases, some authors have the skill to make me really care about even secondary characters. I get invested in their well being. And then BAM! They're dead. The magic is gone for me in terms of trusting myself to get emotionally immersed in the author's book.

I *remember* that sad feeling/shock, and I tend *not* to read for that, so I'll pretty much avoid books that leave me with that lingering emotion as the last and most lasting feeling after reading the last page. Sucks, I know.

There's a couple of books that did that (and they weren't romances) to me. I didn't even finish the books, in both cases I got this weird feeling someting 'bad' was going to happen, I read ahead, confirmed my suspicions and closed both books. They're still on my keeper shelf because they're excellent books (what I read of them) and I've recommended them time and again, but that was it for me in terms of going along with any fictional trip those authors created. :-P

Elaine said...

Reason tells me if an author receives payment for the books she writes, she'd want to write what people will buy. Makes no sense to me to write stuff that would upset her fans and put off prospective buyers.

If I found I hated having to write what sells, ie all that formulaic stuff like HEAs and well-endowed heroes, I wouldn't be writing to sell. I'd write purely for myself then I could have a hero with a small penis who gets killed off at the end...yeah, like THAT's ever going to happen if I wrote a romance!

As for killing off secondary characters, I can't recall any that I wished had lived to have their own book. Not even Patty and Cam. They were a cute couple, I agree, but not H & H material. Another secondary character who I didn't care whether she lived or not was J R Ward's Wellsie from her Black Dagger Brotherhood series. That series has died for me because of what the author did with Butch and Vishous. I have the 2 books but refuse to read them as I know I'd be dissatisfied. If I'd known what she was going to do, I wouldn't have bought them.

There's a certain amount of predictability I expect from a romance. An HEA is certainly the biggie here. Not necessarily marriage but at least an HFN.

But kill off the hero or heroine? I wouldn't buy that author again.

Sarah said...

Don't mind a death in a series if it is going to provoke emotional growth, but to do it needlessly just plain PMO! Cannot see the point in killing off a chicks hero, that just blows. Have not read the 3rd and 4th books, love the series! Have the 3rd by my bed and the 4th is in the mail... Think some authors feel the pressure to keep things new and fresh and that seems the only avenue? I sincerely hope she does not go there, would not be a satisfactory end for me.

Monique said...

I don't mind judiciously killing off characters. Sometimes, they just have to die. It makes sense or it's "right". That said, I am deeply emotionally tied to Cam and Patty and while I can see one or both dying, I would not want that. Truth is, I could see Patty dying and Cam going bonkers over it. But, I don't want that to happen. I really don't like the good people getting killed off, period.

Gennita said...

Kim,
Cam and Patty were secondary characters in Into Danger and Facing Fear. They were briefly mentioned in The Hunter.

Lady Zannah,

LOL. Okay. LOL.

Mo,
I know, I know.

Hi Vanessa,
Thanks for weighing in. I know exactly how you feel, not wanting to read that last book that you know will have an unhappy ending. That's why I blogged about my fear for the last book in the Saintcrow DV series. I love that series so much and can't bear to think of it ending depressingly.

Trusting an author has so many different implications. I know as a romance author, there is the added weight of the HEA promise, which I've gladly given, since I'm an HEA girl.

However, as a reader, after reading so many Urban Fantasies this year, and loving them, I'm just getting a bit afraid of having my tender heart destroyed by falling for the relationship in a series. You can't trust an urban fantasy author to give you an HEA, and that's just my opinion, after reading a few series have killed off one major character or ended in some vague chicklit aloneness. I think you know which series I'm talking about ;-).

Elaine,
Oh, I don't know. Cam and Patty can be cute and H/H material. You hardly know them, never been inside their heads. And, they are lost, in a crate, in a Macedonian mountainous place. Maybe prisoners. There's a story there.

Sarah,
Let me know what you think after you read Book 3 and Book 4! Let me know I'm not crazy being anxious like this ;-).

As for killing off a chick's hero...yah, that totally blows.

Monique,
Yes, killing off a secondary character that's been around is definitely difficult to write. Even thinking of writing it is very sobering. I just want to be honest while writing this post that I, as a writer, can see it from the author's POV because I've considered the notion. It's not something I want to do, trust me. But yes, Cam alone and bitter...can you imagine? :-).

Monique said...

Jenn,

The problem is that yes, I can imagine it. Oooh, the potential for backlash against a certain superior and his wife, for a killing rage, for a deep brooding hurt. Cam loves Patty so totally he is willing to change for her. That's powerful stuff.

Leilani said...

It bothers me when the writer kills off characters I've grown attached to. I might buy another book if the story sounds good, but I check the RT magazine or amazon for spoilers just so I know what to expect.

There also seems to be a growing trend for unhappy endings in romances...I've just read three in the last month e.g. Lover Unbound. Two have been part of a series and the third was a book that caught me eye. I won't be picking up their next books.

Kathleen Dante said...

Prodigal Daughter by Jeffrey Archer. I totally HATED the way he killed off the love of said daughter's life. After that, I never read another of his books *and* I disposed of both Kane and Abel (the prequel) and Prodigal Daughter.

And hitting closer to home, there was this Silhouette author back in the '80s who (after giving the H/H the expected HEA) killed off the hero offstage and gave the heroine a new hero in the second book. There was no reason for her to do that. It wasn't a series and the two books were in different lines. She could have changed the name of the heroine and it wouldn't have changed the story of the second book (the only characters carried over into the second book was the heroine and the references to the dead first hero) ... and that would have kept me buying her books. You can figure out what I did. :/

Jordan Summers said...

I am worried about the exact same thing. I just bought the two latest Valentine books. I will wait to hear a review before I buy the last one.

Chez said...

Lauren Henderson wrote these wonderful mystery/suspense sort of chick lit books and introduced a relationship for the heroine. After three or four books of sort of solve the mystery together she had the heroine have a bit on the side and then leave the main man. HATED IT. I know they are chick lit sort of books, but HATED IT. Have never read another of her books and just know that I could not stand to read her do it again, even with a different series. Loved her earlier books, but she broke my heart.

You know I think I remember those Sillhouette books Kathleen Dante is talking about .. loathed them too.

I also loved Sandra Hills viking books and sort of read them out of order. In one of her books they talk about the couple in the first(?) book and how they die together fighting some disease. I hadn't actually read their story yet and now it sits in my TBR pile and I just can't bring myself to read it knowing they died in a future book. Even with a historical that we know they would all be dead .. can't do it. I'm such a wimp

Gennita said...

Monique,
Yes, powerful stuff to write about, and very tempting, but I know my responsibility as a romance writer and there are other ways to explore emotions like those. But. The temptation is there.

Leilani,
I wasn't happy with Lover UnBhoundh's ending either. But the relationship of the protagonists weren't really given enough room in the story!

Kathleen,
I know which book you're talking about in that series. That one caused quite an uproar and no, I didn't think that was neccessary either, precisely for your reason. It could have been told using different sets of characters and the story would still have been just as good. We really love our Keeper Couples in our romance books and it'd be devastating if, let's say, Nora Roberts decide to kill off Roarke! ArghHhHhHhHh.

Chez,
We aren't weak ;-)...we're romantic. And we want our HEA. I know the Sandra Hill book you mentioned, and it was just a couple of lines in that book, saying that so-and-so died from disease. I remember going...noooooooo! I was heartbroken too because that was my first Sandra Hill Viking couple!

The responsibility of a romance author is huge because we write about ideals and emotions. Many people and other writers sneer at our genre because they call this responsibility very limited and limiting to their art. I've always disagreed because to me, I can turn around and say, it's just as easy to kill characters and start all "fresh" too.

I was just saying that, from a writer's point of view, I understand the need to explore issues and human conditions. But there are different ways to do that in the romance genre, just as other genres have their own ways.

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