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Fiction Complaints I’m Complaining About

26 Jul

Announcements:

We had a very exciting day yesterday! Take Me Tomorrow hit the top 100 in dystopian novels! It was even next to two of my favorite novels, Delirium by Lauren Oliver, I Am Number Four by Pittacus Lore, and Fracture Me by Tahereh Mafi so my little heart was filled with overwhelming joy.

65 in dystopian!

65 in dystopian!

Thank you for your support! Whether or not the sequel is released is entirely up to you, the readers and fans, so I hope you continue to check out my latest novel. (Because I really want to release the sequel!) Be sure to let me know if you post a review on your blog, so I can share it with everyone. Just email me at shannonathompson@aol.com.

To celebrate, I finally uploaded the soundtrack of Take Me Tomorrow to my favorite music station, 8tracks, so you can check it out by clicking here.

In other news, I was interviewed by Diary of an Eager Reader, and you can read it by clicking here. We talk about my biggest challenges as a writer, but we also discussed Take Me Tomorrow if you want to read more about it! And if you want to interview me, again, I’m available at shannonathompson@aol.com. I love speaking with you! So please don’t hesitate to message me.

Fiction Complaints I’m Complaining About

We’ve all dealt with this. You’re interested in a novel, and you tiptoe over to Amazon to check it out. Once you read the synopsis, you scroll a little further (hesitantly, of course) to see what other readers are saying. That’s when you read “Best Book Ever!” and “I hate this piece of crap” right next to one another. Confusing? Yes. But even worse are the ones that don’t explain.

Today, I wanted to talk about my top fiction complaints that have left me staring at my screen a little too hard. I only hesitated to write about this because I’m an author, too, and I don’t want any reviewer to think I’m complaining about them. In fact – this might seem strange – but I don’t mind these complaints as an author. If I saw any of these on my books, it doesn’t bother me. After all, readers are allowed to say whatever they want. But it does bother me as a reader when I’m looking for book suggestions because the reviews suddenly become very difficult to sift through. That being said, I normally don’t buy books based on reviews. Generally, I read the synopsis, take a look at the first three chapters, and go from there, but I do find myself reading the reviews after I’m done reading, and these are the top complaints I see that I truly don’t understand:

I hate this genre

So…why did you pick it up? No. Seriously. I want to know. Did you think this would be an exception? Why did you think it would be an exception? Why did it not turn out to be an exception? I don’t necessarily mind this complaint if they answer these questions, but I hardly ever see that. I just see one or two stars and this single statement. This doesn’t help me decide if this book is good or bad or in-between or anything. It just tells me about your preference, which can get really confusing since genres can describe a wide range of stories. In fact, genres are normally only picked for marketing reasons.

I bought this book for are friends, and there not happy with it, so don’t waist you’re money.

Sigh. Seriously. ::facepalm:: This kind of review blows my mind – especially if they complain that the book wasn’t professionally edited.

Parent/s and/or sibling/s are dead (or absent)

Warning: longest rant to come:

I realize that there is an abundance of these instances, but of course there are. Someone is going to be dead or absent or mean or have some kind of conflicting problem. If a character’s family were perfect, how annoying would that be? (Not to mention that it would be entirely unrealistic.) I don’t know about you guys, but every person I’ve met isn’t perfect, including parents, and “imperfections” is generally why someone is interesting because it’s make them…you know…human.

When it comes to the young adult genre, I think it’s also important to remember that teen readers are in a time in their life where they are striving to be independent, so they probably don’t want to read a novel full of parental influence. Not that parental influence is a bad thing, but a teen might even look at a perfectly good parent as a bad parent just because they are teens. I know I was that way at one point, so if the book is told from their perspective that could be another reason this trend happens.

But I want to add this to the conversation: As a kid who went through the loss of a parent, gaining a stepfamily, and watching my dad get a divorce from said stepfamily, I am not special. I met dozens of teens that were also going through many of the same shifts I was going through. The divorce rate is currently 50%, and 1/7 people will lose a parent or a sibling before the age of 20, not to mention other issues families can have. But you still feel rather alone when you’re young, and seeing teens in books going through the same kind of struggles helps. That being said, I would like to see more books with both parents actively involved, but I wouldn’t complain about a book where a parent or sibling is absent whether it is physical or emotional because it happens often in real life.

Factually wrong information in general

We’ve all seen it. That one review that says something like, “This book is told in third person, and it’s really weird.” But when you open the sample novel up, it’s told in first person, and you’re sitting there, scratching your head as you seriously consider whether you forgot the definition of first and third person until you realize – nope, you’re not crazy. The reviewer put the review on the wrong book. Or – worse – they didn’t read the book at all.

There are too many boys/girls in the book

Why does their gender matter? As long as the characters are round – complicated and they are there for a reason – I could care less if they are boys or girls. I understand this complaint if it follows up with “every girl was falling in love with him for no reason” but I have seen someone mention exact numbers like, “there were 10 boys and 4 girls” without elaborating on WHY this was annoying…especially when the book takes place in an all-boys school or in some other instance where the extreme numbers make sense. Without mentioning a specific book, I did read a book about a boy character who had a lot of friends that were girls in which someone complained about it, but I didn’t understand, because the boy was raised by his mother and sister, so he was more comfortable around girls, and it made sense. I can relate to this. As a girl raised by my father and brother, I mainly had guy friends growing up. That doesn’t mean every single one of them felt romantic toward me. In fact, I was as attractive to them as a lamp would be – meaning, not at all – but I don’t see anything wrong with a boy having girls around him or a girl having guys around them as long as it makes sense to the story and isn’t an excuse to have an empty array of love interests.

(Insert controversial political or religious topic here)

Keep your politics out of fiction reviews unless the book is specifically about discussing them. I’m looking at you, anti-reviewers of erotica. (At least, this is where I see it the most.) I have nothing wrong with someone having specific beliefs about when a man or a woman or anyone has sex with someone, but don’t shove it down others’ throats by filling up erotica book reviews with “I only read romance novels when they’re married like you should be” when you haven’t read a single page of their book. It doesn’t help potential buyers, and it will probably only hurt your review ranking, especially if you’re – in fact – wrong because I have seen this on a book where the characters were married, but (I’m assuming) the reviewer was mass reviewing erotica novels because it was against their personal beliefs. Amazon should not be your political or religious platform UNLESS the book is slated toward that discussion. Then again – on the contrary – I see nothing wrong with someone reading and reviewing a novel and stating something along the lines like “this book will not appeal to readers who are uncomfortable with premarital sex.” Just don’t go mass searching for these novels just to put them down.

And finally –

Complaining about another’s complaint

Haha. Yes, I just did it to myself. I’m just as guilty as everyone else. I am here, talking about the types I hate, but here’s the truth – readers are allowed to review a book for whatever reason they want to review it as. There is no rule that states your review has to be detailed or helpful to someone else, but I do believe Amazon asks reviewers to be helpful (and definitely not spiteful.) But I am amazed sometimes by the amount of drama I’ve seen unfold on someone’s review by other reviewers. If you think it’s spiteful, please report it to Amazon or Goodreads, but yelling at one another is getting us nowhere. We all have different opinions. I’m sure I’ve written a 5-star review on a novel that another reader thought was so bad it was insane. For all I know, someone is writing on their blog right now and using my review as an example as what not to do. But that’s okay because we’re all allowed our own opinions. That’s the beauty of it all! Just try to back up your opinion with sincere criticism and encouragement.

So those are my top types of reviews that I cannot stand as a reader. What can I say? I meant to do five, but I kept typing. Have you ever seen a review complaint that you couldn’t believe? As a reader, do they ever sway you one way or another?

Feel free to share below!

~SAT

Everything I Learned From “Against YA” and More

7 Jun

Two announcements before my post:

T.B. Markinson’s debut novel, A Woman Lost, is on sale until June 11th. Only .99 cents. I really admire T.B. Markinson, so I hope you take the time to check out her novel by clicking here.

The eBook of Seconds Before Sunrise releases in 5 days! That’s right. Only 5 days. I cannot believe it. I plan on sharing more insights from The Timely Death Trilogy soon. (Actually, I wanted to today, but the upcoming topic is very important to me.) Feel free to check out my Pinterest board full of hints and surprises before I announce more information, and be sure to join the ebook extravaganza party on Facebook for your chance to win a Kindle.

Happy reading!

Two days ago, my Facebook and Twitter blew up with a giant pink picture of an Alice-in-Wonderland-Look-Alike. It is an image that came with a title I cringe at: Against YA: Adults should be embarrassed to read children’s books.Even worse? The subtitle is “Read whatever you want. But you should feel embarrassed when what you’re reading was written for children.”

This horrifying article I am about to discuss can be found here. Written by Ruth Graham (not by THE Ruth Graham, you know, the philanthropist, but by Ruth Graham of New Hampshire.)

Don’t know who she is?

According to her Twitter, she’s a “contributing writer to the Boston Globe’s Ideas section; freelancer out and about (Slate, the Atlantic…). Former editor (New York Sun, Domino).” Her website – Ruth Graham: Freelance Journalist – is actually right here on WordPress.

Why am I sharing this?

Because I think it’s important to understand the writer behind the piece. I was hoping that if I followed her, I would understand where her opinion derived from. I was desperate for a deeper understanding, a slight chance that she meant well when she clicked “publish” on her viral post, so I followed her Twitter feed yesterday. I learned a lot from the woman behind the chaotic arguments that consumed every social media outlet I can think of, and I thought I would share what I learned below.

This wasn’t good for my blood pressure. It probably won’t be for yours either. You have been warned.

1. “Also YA writers & agents asking if I think they shouldn’t do their jobs. Uh, no? Definitely keep doing your jobs!”

screenshot

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It isn’t okay to read YA as an adult, but it’s definitely okay if you can make money off of it. Also, if you’re a YA author, make sure to tell your adult readers that if “they are substituting maudlin teen dramas for the complexity of great adult literature, then they are missing something.” This is because all YA novels are “uniformly satisfying” and completely unrealistic. Make sure your YA novel follows these standards because they are undoubtedly true. Every YA ending causes you to either weep or cry. Trust me on this. Graham explained how “emotional and moral ambiguity of adult fiction—of the real world—is nowhere in evidence in YA fiction.” Forget the fact that fiction is FICTION – not nonfiction. Adult fiction is a reflection of the real world and young adult fiction is a pleasurable escape from reality. Every. Time.

2. “Another mysterious thread today has been angry librarians & parents defending themselves for reading YA for professional/parenting reasons.”

Screenshot

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So mysterious. Readers actually want to defend a genre they read? Whoever thought readers actually cared about books? I definitely wouldn’t have expected teachers, librarians, and parents to defend novels they shared with their child. Weird. I would call Nancy Drew to get on the case, but I am a 22-year-old adult; therefore, I should no longer think of her as a viable reference to solving mysteries. But I do know this: parents should never read what their kids read. Knowing what their kid enjoys or trying to understand why their kid enjoys it is exactly why we have so many bad parents in this world. Librarians, too. Why should they spend more time trying to understand the marketplace? It’s not like it’s their job or something.

3. “I’m not saying I’m not pretentious at all, of course. But I’m definitely not the MOST pretentious. But trust me: There’s more pretentious stuff out there.”

2a

If you’re not the most pretentious, you’re okay. If you’re not the most mean-spirited or hateful or cruel, it’s also okay because there are worst people out there. In regards to reader shaming and reading snobbery, as long as you’re not the worst, it’s okay. Just put the disclaimer, “at the risk of sounding snobbish and joyless and old.” Follow that sentence with “we are better than this.” This will unify your reader and you while also distracting them from the fact that you don’t sound snobbish, joyless, old, or pretentious. You just sound like you want everyone else to be.

4. “I’m not at all opposed to guilty pleasures! I’m just arguing for some guilt along with the pleasure.”

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You can read YA as an adult, but you better feel damn guilty about it. You better feel so guilty that you ask for a gift receipt anytime you buy a YA book at your local bookstore so they won’t know you are the reader. Actually, get an eReader, so no one knows what you’re reading in public. Shame on you if you don’t feel any guilt. You could’ve spent that time reading real literature, preferably something with “Weird facts, astonishing sentences, deeply unfamiliar (to me) characters, and big ideas about time and space and science and love.” This is what Ruth Graham reads without any guilt, because she considers it literary, so you should, too.

5. “Working on something today that will make some people mad, wheeeeeeee!”

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Rejoice in the fact that you can anger people. This means you’re an adult with important things to say. Angering people means you are, in fact, important, and you should be proud and happy to anger people. This is literature. This is what reading is all about.

Okay. So I may have gone a little overboard. My blood pressure is still too high, after all, but I had to respond. I had to point out the fact that this article was written, knowing how much it would anger the reading community, yet we allow it to go viral because it strikes a place in our reading hearts that HURTS.

We love to read what we love to read.

I am very passionate about changing our reading community to only encourage readers. In fact, I’ve written about this before in my blog post Readers Hating Other Readers, and – sadly – I doubt this will be my last time writing about this.

With a heavy heart, I want to conclude all of the emotions I have ever had about reader shaming:

Adults shouldn’t be embarrassed to read young adult fiction. No one should be embarrassed to read anything. Reader shaming is what we should be embarrassed of.

~SAT

P.S. If you’re a young adult fiction reader – no matter your age – I would love it if you read one of my novels. In fact, I will probably do a little dance of excitement if you do. I even share all reviews right here on ShannonAThompson.com. (If you’re boycotting Amazon, don’t worry. Also available on Barnes & Noble and Smashwords.)

Click today!

Click today!

Hachette and Amazon. Let’s Talk About It.

3 Jun

Important Update (10:22 p.m.): Amazon seems to be loosening their grips, perhaps because of how readers have gone to other retailers to buy Hachette titles, but an agreement has not been made yet. Here’s the article: Amazon Is Now Re-Stocking Some Hachette Titles

If you haven’t heard, Cold War II is happening between publishers and distributers right now – specifically Hachette Book Group (Little, Brown and Company’s parent company) and Amazon – but there are others involved, including Wal-Mart, Barnes & Noble, and …oh, yeah…AUTHORS. (Because the fighters seem to forget to mention the authors.)

I am going to attempt to talk about it. But – here’s the most confusing part – since Amazon and Hachette are respecting their signed confidentiality agreements, neither is speaking specifics. They are talking in their secret club tree house, and you’re stuck on the ground because they are not going to throw you the rope ladder anytime soon. You are not invited. This “signed confidentiality agreement” is a fancy way to tell us that they aren’t allowed to be honest yet, even though they are quite possibly discussing a shift in the market that could affect dozens (probably hundreds) of publishers, distributors, and authors. Rumor has it that they are arguing about eBook prices, including revenue splits. Whatever mysterious, Illuminati decision they come to could set a precedent for all publishing houses and authors of the future. (Okay. So that might be a tad dramatic, but seriously – it could affect a lot of people.)

So what’s the big deal? This has happened before after all, but this – THIS – is different. How? If you want more specifics, here’s a bunch of articles that explain some of the dirtier details: Hachette Chief Leads Book Publisher in Amazon FightWal-Mart, Barnes & Noble, Slash Prices as Hachette-Amazon Feud Continues, Inside Amazon’s Battle with Hachette, Bringing Down the Hachette.

In summary: one of the five, BIG publishing houses is being threatened by one Amazon warrior. And Hachette is only the first…and they don’t look like they’re winning. In fact, Hachette seems to be retreating to protect their other retailers first. (Gaining alleys maybe?) But the terrifying part is the repetition of it all. Amazon has tried to take out publishers before – BIG publishers – and it seems that they want the five owners of the monopoly to fall to one. (One being Amazon, of course.) I know. I know. It’s easy to rejoice in the five falling, especially when you’ve been rejected by them one hundred and fourteen times, but allowing Amazon to take their place is more than a bad idea. It’s self-destructive. If you have ever played the family friendly game of Monopoly, it is not fun when your older brother owns every piece on the board. In fact, I’m pretty sure you’ve just lost the game when that happens.

Have I scared you yet?

I hope not.

I am going to sound like I just flipped 180 degrees, but I don’t think this is something we need to be scared of. (Not yet, anyway.) I don’t believe Hachette and Amazon’s high school drama is something we should obsess over. Should we watch it unfold? Yes. Understand as much as we can? Yes. Share the information as the two companies share it? Absolutely.

Since we don’t technically know anything, we can’t keep talking about nothing. We should share what we know with others, but we have to stop crowding our articles with theories and lies and lack of links for information. We’re only confusing one another. We can, however, talk about what has happened.

After Amazon blocked pre-orders of Hachette books (including the geniuses that are David Sedaris, James Patterson, and Robert Galbraith a.k.a. J.K. freakin’ Rowling) Barnes & Noble and Wal-Mart have stepped into the ring. Oh, did I mention that Wal-Mart is holding a %40 off sign? (on “select titles” of course.)

Yep. That just happened.

You can go to Wal-Mart right now and buy James Patterson (and whichever second author wrote his latest novel) for %40 off – and Amazon can’t do anything about it. Barnes & Noble can though. They are also displaying major discounts, even reportedly selling buy 2, get one free. FREE at certain locations.

As the reader inside of me rejoices, the author inside of me dies.

Why is no one talking about the authors? Granted, I know that Amazon and Hachette are on a Top Secret Mission to save or destroy their authors (who knows?) but every article discussing the latest events are focusing on the giant companies having their way, both claiming to help authors, neither explaining how because of the signed confidentiality agreements. (I can almost picture other publishing houses chanting, “Secrets, secrets are no fun, secrets, secrets, tell everyone!”) But Wal-Mart and Barnes & Noble are steering clear of the actual battle while still reaping the awards of it. In fact, Wal-Mart has reported a %70 increase in sales.

…sigh…

When two get in a fight, two others jumped right in. I guess I’m not against the brawl necessarily. I can’t pick a side when I don’t know what everyone is fighting for. But I am concerned about the authors – you know, the ones who actually WROTE the stories we’re trying to buy (or buying at a %40 discount.) And I am nervous to see the results of Amazon picking this battle with Hachette.

Will Amazon lose its reputation as a customer focused company? Will Hachette’s authors ever see their rewards? Will Amazon fight other publishers next? Will Barnes & Noble or Wal-Mart deepen their involvement now (or even in the future)?

One thing is for certain though.

Readers and authors are the innocent ones. They aren’t battling. They can’t. And they are the ones who are being affected the most.

~SAT

P.S. If you’re asking yourself, “What can I do about this?” – label this my call-to-action:

Stay informed, watch for new developments, and share the information with as many people as you can.

Writing Tips: Holidays

5 Jul

As promised, I’m continuing writing tips, and today I am concentrating on the use of holidays in literature. No matter what culture you have or what country you live in, you probably celebrate holidays. I think this is a beautiful thing. Not only do holidays give us an opportunity to remember aspects of life like love, parents, or independence–they also allow us to dedicate the entire day to it. So why not use holidays in our novels to do the same thing?

Happy late Independence Day!

Happy late Independence Day!

There actually are reasons to NOT do this. They can easily come across as cheesy or distracting instead of symbolic. This brings me to my first rule:

Pick a Holiday Carefully: 

Holidays are often unnecessary, so choose carefully if you decide to use one. This is simply a personal preference, but I think holidays become something more when the author uses it in a symbolic manner rather than an event that simply happens. But I think that goes for an entire novel. All events should mean something within the plot, so why shouldn’t a holiday? For example, Minutes Before Sunset begins on Independence Day (Happy belated Fourth by the way!) I did this for three reasons:

  1. Irony: Minutes Before Sunset has a huge theme about fate and choice. Independence Day is…well…as it sounds: Independence Day for America–the setting of the novel. Because of this, it can symbolize the beginning of independence. It can also symbolize the opposite: lack of independence. This is what I’m talking about. The holiday now has two meanings. It fits the plot, and it fits whatever the reader wants it to be.
  2. Symbolic: Minutes Before Sunset is about the Light and the Dark. To me, this holiday involve a major ritual that is very light versus the dark: fireworks. I thought it represented the powers well, but it also represented Eric’s confusion in the beginning.
  3. Timing: it fit. Although I don’t want to admit this is a reasoning, because it seems to take away the meaning, it is, without a doubt, one of the biggest things authors have to consider. Does it fit your plot without straining the time or the characters? Use the holiday if it fits naturally. If it doesn’t, move on to my next topic. You may want to consider it 😀

Considering Creating Your Own Holiday: I think this is great in any kind of novel, not just sci-fi and fantasy. It can show a unique side to a character, family, or community, which, in turn, can create a more believable or relatable setting. This can also apply to creating a special event. Fun fact: Minutes Before Sunset has a “made-up” celebratory event: The Naming. This is when the shades receive their powers. I really enjoyed creating this, but, to my surprise, a lot of readers found interest in it as well:

Ky Grabowski wrote: “A part of the book I really liked was the naming ceremony that is held when kids turn of age to receive their powers. A big part of the Shade’s history. The ceremony is not all it’s shown to be with glitter and crowns. Eric shares his thoughts while watching it all unfold & he makes note that what was in store for the future was far from something to celebrate. They had responsibilities and a lot of pressure comes with that.” Read rest of her review here.

Basically: Holidays are great. That’s why there are entire books about them, like “A Dog Named Christmas” by Greg Kincaid.

Fireworks on the lake

Fireworks on the lake

I hope all of your writings are going well, and don’t forget that Goodreads Book of the Month, Minutes Before Sunset, is on sale for $3.89 (ebook) to celebrate the award! I’m also giving free copies away for review: email shannonathompson@aol.com

Available now on AmazonBarnes & NobleSmashwordsKoboDieselSony, and Apple.

~SAT

Paperback Published & Spotlight Interview

14 Jun

WEBSITE UPDATE: If you all recall, Minutes Before Sunset needed nominations for “Book of the Month” on Goodreads, and you all succeeded! But I need votes. PLEASE VOTE BY CLICKING THE LINK. I need all of the support I can get 😀

Thank you for voting: Gregory S. Lamb, Christina Channelle, Amber ForbesBob Williams, Marie Bailey, Laura B., Raymond, Silver Wolf, Christie, and Kristy Feltenberger Gillespie.  (I’ll add your site here when you vote too!)

Minutes Before Sunset is officially available as a paperback through Amazon and Barnes & Noble. It’s been available as a pre-order, but now it will ship to your house when you order it! I’m really excited, because this is a day I’ve been waiting on for a long time! If you click on the picture below, you’ll be taken directly to Amazon, which has the cheapest prices and the most reviews. I’m always excited to share my stories, but I’m even more excited to share your thoughts. If you do a review, let me know, and I will link your websites on this very page! Thank you for all of your support.

Click the pic and go to Amazon!

Click the pic and go to Amazon!

I wanted to share one of my most supportive followers, Ky Grabowski. A fellow writer and reader, you all may recognize Ky Grabowski. She hosts The Inner Workings Of My Mind, and she’s reviewed Minutes Before Sunset already. She also won a signed paperback. It’s a treat to connect with my readers like this. But she made my day when she sent me a tweet including a picture of her with Minutes Before Sunset

Ky Grabowski with "Minutes Before Sunset."

Ky Grabowski with “Minutes Before Sunset.”

I also mention Ky Grabowski for another reason.  Ky Grabowski is also doing a “Spotlight” feature on her blog, and I’m excited to announce I was featured on this yesterday. She interviews authors and other artists, and her questions include focus on Minutes Before Sunset, inspiration, advice for new writers, and fun questions. Here’s a preview

“What would you like readers to get from your book (s) ?

My ultimate goal when writing a novel is to help young adults understand decision-making and moral values. I also encourage teens to think outside the stereotype box. For instance, “Minutes Before Sunset” includes a character named Crystal Hutchins. She may dress like a “punk,” but she’s an aspiring journalist, and she loves events, so she’s very excited about prom. This character was created carefully, because I wanted to show there is more to a person than just their dress or their actions. She may contradict herself, but that’s simply an action created by her trying to figure out who she wants to be.”

Read the rest of this interview by clicking this link

Ky has graciously given me three spots for the Spotlight Feature to fill, so you can be showcased on her website! Comment below, and let me know if you’re interested.

And help me celebrate today’s release by checking out Minutes Before Sunset! Available as paperback and ebook on AmazonBarnes & NobleSmashwordsKoboDieselSony, and Apple.

~SAT

June 16, 2013: Why I Won’t Give Up

My Thoughts On: Fifty Shades of Grey

6 May

One Announcement: I’ll be reading poetry at the University of Kansas this Wednesday at 11 a.m. until 12:15 p.m. in the English Room. If you live in Kansas, come out and support some talented poets! 

Back on April 10, 2013, I introduced a new topic, My Thoughts On, and I posted My Thoughts On: Young-Adult Fiction.

I did this for numerous reasons, but it really came down to the fact that I feel as if the analytical structures behind very popular novels do not seem to get discussed anymore. Sure, the plot, characters, and overall story does. But what about the sheer reasoning behind why it became so popular in the first place? I restate this, because I want to clarify that, although theses are “My Thoughts,” they are not my personal opinion on whether or not I enjoyed the novels, but rather why I think they became what they are. And analyzing popular books, especially as a writer, can help anyone understand the mainstream industry (even more so when the book isn’t originally considered mainstream.)

Book cover of Fifty Shades of Grey

Book cover of Fifty Shades of Grey

So I asked followers to comment on what they wanted to hear about, and here were the suggestions (with votes)

Fifty Shades of Grey: 2

Twilight: 2

The Hunger Games: 2

Eragon: 1

And, since there was a tie, I decided to go with the first mentioned novel, and that was Fifty Shades of Grey by E.L. James. However, I am not going to bother going into description of the novel, as I’m going to assume this conversation is more about the why, and the plot will come out during the discussion.

I highly encourage everyone to comment as a healthy debate, which means, to me at least, to please keep out personal like or dislike (ex/ I hated this novel!) because, again, that is not what this is about. I encourage, however, “I don’t think the novel worked because of A or B, but rather C or D. I hope this makes sense. If it does not, I apologize. But, without further ado, this is my analysis on the popular, English erotica. (WARNING: There are spoilers below)

1. Language: In this specific case, I think it’s really important to remember where this novel came from. It was originally Twilight fan fiction, and it was written on a blog. The author is British, and, when reading this novel, knowing these few facts can change the opinion of the reader. Some of the slang my come across as awkward to American readers, but this is not something James should be judged for. She’s British. Of course her writing will have British terms. Granted, the argument I’ve heard about the setting taking place in America means it should use American slang makes sense. But I can sympathize with a writer, because she was a blogger. It wasn’t expected to get popular, and it first came out in Britain. I’ve read plenty of American books that take place in other countries that do not have that country’s slang.

When it comes to the explicit language, I had no problem with it. After all, it is an erotica (And, again, it’s English erotica, and Britain is more open towards sex than America is.) To me, complaining about sexual language in a British erotica, is like complaining about blunt honesty in a memoir. It’s the point, and it wouldn’t be true to the art without pushing boundaries held within the norm.

2. Characters: To me, the characters were the most important part of this novel and why I believe it went mainstream. James, unlike many erotic authors, had a reason behind the extreme sexuality of Christian Grey. He was abused sexually, and then he was taken under the arm of another woman who was sexually abused. She showed him, through a series of what is legally sexual abuse with a minor, how to control his fears by exposing him to S&M. Granted, he was the submissive, but the explanation given from Grey later (when he talks about how the submissive does not have to worry, because everything is chosen for them) explains how Grey was finally able to relax within his inner demons. (I am by no means saying this is right. However, I am saying it showed a reason behind his actions, and I commend James for creating a believable background story that led up to his present self.) A perfect example of this believability, although sickening, is when Grey confesses to Anastasia that all of his previous submissives, and Anna, resemble his mother. Another example happens at the very end of the three novels when we finally are able to see Grey right after he was adopted. He cannot hug his own adoptive parents, and the woman who takes him under, because he learns how to deal with it, is now able to touch his parents and other loved ones. He is attempting to defeat his problems, even if he isn’t consciously aware of it.

Now, Anastasia Steele. She’s a different story. I found parts of her to be completely contrasting to her behavior and background, especially in the first novel. However, she is an adult, and she can make whatever sexual decisions she wants to make, and she does. Even while being a submissive, James shows Ana’s ability to rebel when it came to the “hard limits” in the contract. This showed a realistic part of her I think many readers forget. However, I think Anastasia becomes much more believable in the end. And, in my opinion, she definitely becomes the dominant one once Grey realizes she isn’t a submissive, but rather a lover willing to be dominated in the bedroom but not in nonsexual parts of life. I think it’s also important, again, to go back to the Twilight fan-fic part. She was based off Bella Swan, a human who dates a vampire. That’s a very submissive role, so Anastasia being submissive is necessary in the sense of who she is based on.

3. Plot: Sex. Sex. E-mails. More sex. An argument. More sex. Everyone knows the basic plot, but I found the scenes between the sex to be the most telling, because that is when readers learn of Grey’s past and such. However, there was one scene to particular that struck me as brilliant, considering the context of sex. I have to admit that I cannot remember which of the three books it appeared in (and I leant my copies to a friend) so feel free to remind me (please!) It’s the lipstick scene. As all readers know, Christian Grey, because of his abuse (specifically with cigarette burns) he cannot be touched on his chest, and Anastasia pulls out her lipstick. She draws “barrier lines” on his body, so she can literally see the places he cannot handle. And, eventually, she breaks through these. This scene, from an analytical standpoint, not only stays true to the eroticism but the emotional boundaries of sexual abuse that I thought the author ultimately succeeded in. Basically, in terms of plot, it seems very pointless at the surface if the reader only pays attention to the sex. But, if someone looks into these scenes deeper, they will see a very dark reality many people struggle with on a day-to-day basis. This is, quite literally, a couple who works through it together, and, ultimately, ends with a connection created from the suffering they’ve endured. Fifty Shades of Grey really isn’t just an erotic adventure, but an exploration of sex under the pressures of extreme sexual abuse and the relationships (and people) effected by it.

4. Movie Adaptations: Seeing as this is not a movie yet (but is in the process) I cannot say much here. But I can say one thing. I hope the directors are honest to the work. I hope it is rated R, as it is meant for adults, and I hope they do not hold back on sex. However, I am not saying every scene should be explicit. In fact, I hope the focus isn’t necessarily just the sex, but the point of the sex, which truly revolved around Christian Grey’s abusive past. I’m afraid they will not explain how he became the way he is, because sexual abuse is often very difficult for viewers. I understand not having some of the horrible scenes (like being next to his dead mother or having S&M sex with an older woman) but my hopes is that they explain it (or at least hint to it) in a way that a viewer who has not read the book will understand. If they don’t do this, I’m afraid the novel will come across as what many already see it as: a pointless S&M novel. And, under analysis, I do not feel this way about the piece.

So why was it so popular? Fifty Shades of Grey pushed through the barrier of erotic fiction by facing a dark reality many struggle with. Instead of only being sexually based, it had a promise. One that suggested there are ways to deal with sexual abuse (Again, I’m not advocating S&M, but rather showing a specific way one couple was effected by it.) And, because of this, the appearance of a simple plot deepened into a complexity many erotic novels have not done before. It was also based on an already popular novel, and she gained many older followers that way. Hence the mainstream.

I hope you enjoyed a more specific “My Thoughts On.” Feel free to suggest more novels in the comment section and/or debate away! I love hearing what other readers and writers have to say. It’s fascinating, and I thrive on meaningful conversations that can potential show the meaning of art and where art can go in the future.

~SAT

P.S. Don’t forget that my young-adult novel, Minutes Before Sunset, is now for sale for $6.99 (plus a 20% discount until Wednesday)

There’s also an array of favorited quotes on Goodreads: two examples below

“Her kiss could kill us, and my consent signed our death certificates, selfishly and without control. (Eric)”

“I knew nothing of death, and, for some unexplainable reason, I was beginning to feel guilty for that. (Jessica)”

Thank you for all of your support! This release week has been very exciting! And Bogart is very happy you enjoyed all of his tips. I promised I’d post his collection of toys he’s received:

Bogart's pile of toys he collects in places on a regular basis.

Bogart’s pile of toys he collects in places on a regular basis.

My Thoughts On: Young-Adult Fiction

10 Apr

21 days until the Minutes Before Sunset release 😀

So I’m trying out a new topic, “My Thoughts on,” because I get asked (mainly in my every day life when people find out I’m a writer/author) about my opinion on certain aspects of the publishing industry, and I think it’s a topic worth exploring.

Today I want to talk about young-adult fiction for two reasons: it’s a very popular genre, and I write it (so I obviously love it.) But I also wanted to explain why and what I don’t like.

1. Language: Many complain about the simplicity of language within young-adult novels, and, honestly, it’s one of my biggest pet peeves. Of course it’s simple. It’s marketed towards readers as young as 10 years old. (I am not talking about New-Adult Fiction, which is marketed towards 18 to 25 year olds, but is often mistaken for YA Lit. I don’t blame readers for this, however, because many booksellers haven’t adjusted to this change in the market, and numerous novels blur the line.) But (::breathing break::) I still believe the language is allowed to be simple in both, not only because of the readers, but the characters, which are generally younger and (probability speaking) have a simpler vocabulary base.  It honestly depends on the speaker.

2. Characters: Again, this is probably another complaint about readers and their analysis of characters. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve read “the protagonist is incapable, whiny, stupid, naïve, etc.” I don’t understand this complaint. Most protagonists in YA Lit are teenagers. Of course they don’t have everything figured out. Most adults don’t. So why do we expect a fifteen-year-old to be this perfected virtuous hero? I’m unsure. When I read YA, I never expect the character to be all that capable. Instead, I expect them to learn throughout the novel and possibly grow (not always) because that’s how real people work, and I find believability in characters when they have human faults (just like we do.) Nevertheless, I hear this complaint about YA Lit more than adult fiction, and this astounds me. I will get into more depth when I post “My Thought On” specific novels. If you’re interested in a certain piece, such as Twilight or Fifty Shades of Gray, please post below, and I’ll talk about it.

3. Plot: Personally, I enjoy the simplicity of relationships and life. You have friends and girlfriends/boyfriends, and then their world flips. I like the equation. It isn’t distracting. I’m not waiting for the protagonists to sleep together (because they are so young) and, honestly, I feel super awkward when that happens in YA Lit. I realize it may happen in real life, but, considering the audience, I feel like we are pressuring that audience to abide to societal expectations of sex when we place things like that (which should be an adult matter) in YA books.

4. Movie Adaptations: I generally love them. I’ve talked about this before in a previous post, Movie Mention: The Host, when I elaborated on how different kinds of art brings different aspects to the table. I never expect it to be the novel. If movies were like that, they’d be hours and hours long, full of narration, and I don’t think I’d enjoy watching something like that. Instead, I go for the cinematic experience, normally glad I read (so I can understand some things that are lost) but I try to take it in as art standing on its’ own—basically, I try to pretend there wasn’t a novel, and the movie is new. That way, I don’t get caught up in the little things while watching, so I can reflect when the movie is over.

I realize this may have been a general post, but I made it that way, so my basics are out of the way when I analyze specific pieces in the future. Every post is an encouragement towards a healthy debate, rather than my personal opinion of whether or not I enjoyed it, and I’d love to hear what you’d like to discuss.

Comment below! 

On my Goodreads page, you can look at my bookshelf, which includes a lot of novels I’d be able to discuss. I think I have an array of adult and young-adult fiction, along with poetry and nonfiction, but if you see something that isn’t on there, let me know.

Just an example of one page of my Goodreads bookshelf.

Just an example of one page of my Goodreads bookshelf.

~SAT

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