Tuesday, February 9, 2016

What I'm Reading by Suz deMello (#iamreading #RegencyRomance #YAparanormal)

Scanning the blogs of my fellow OGG-ers makes me feel hopelessly prosaic, even unsophisticated. Lisabet loves Winter's Tale, a book I found memorable for its lyrical prose but completely incomprehensible. I learned what it was about from the movie. Someone (Giselle?) here wrote she is into Canadian literary fiction. If that includes Margaret Atwood, I guess I'm there occasionally, but not often.

Authors are often advised, "read in your genre," especially when we're starting out, in order to familiarize ourselves with the norms of the genre or subgenre. So when I decided to write romance I started to read romance. I chose to write romance fiction not because I loved it but because it hogs the biggest share of the fiction market. 


The only romances I had read before were by Georgette Heyer, and Regency romance remains my favorite reading. I don't write it often, however, which is super-stupid--they sell really well. My one Regency novel, Lord Devere's Ward, is one of my consistently bestselling books. And my Regency satire, The Romantical Groom, actually hit #1 in the Amazon "free parody" category.

I agree with the comments of the other OGG bloggers about the uneven nature of genre fiction. It's a very hit-or-miss thing. As I've become more aware of good writing craft, I've become a pickier reader.

I've read most of the books by my critique partner, Diane Farr, a Regency author. She shares my focus on craft so I love her work, which is also clever and funny. But I'm coming to the end of the line on her books (sob, sob). So I was delighted to find that Courtney Milan is also really, really good.

Another subgenre I love is Young Adult paranormal--think Harry Potter and the Hunger Games. Now that I've seen all the Hunger Games movies, I'll probably reread the series--I was happy to have forgotten them (mostly) when I saw the films. Anyone knows that reading the book before seeing the movie made form it is fatal to enjoying the movie. One is always muttering to oneself (and disturbing others movie patrons) "Oh, they really screwed that up," or "Why'd they leave out that part?"

Right now I'm immersed in Julie Kagawa's books about the Iron Fey. 
Most books about the Fey focus on the conflict between the Seelie and Unseelie (or Summer and Winter Courts). The books by Melissa Marr are well-written and typical. Kagawa posits another group of supernatural beings, the Iron Fey, born of our technological advances.

Kagawa's books are both imaginative and well-written, if a bit repetitive. Destroying the threat that the Iron Fey pose to Faerie is the constant theme, and the "hide then fight" plot, when read over and over, gets old. But in the main, I enjoy immersing myself in the world Kagawa skillfully created.

My guess is that I love to read about alternate realities because I read to escape. Both Regency romance and YA paranormal are escapist fiction. 

When I was transiting from practicing as a trial lawyer and into writing, people (editors and agents) tried to push me toward writing legal thrillers. To do so I'd have to read legal thrillers. Step back into the cage when I prefer to escape into another world?

No, thank you.


  1. When I read for myself, I generally want something that offers more scope than genre usually provides. Not that I don't read erotica. My editor's job on ERWA keeps me dick-deep in it. That and doing reviews for my pals.

    And what you say about being a pickier reader is certainly true. Perhaps that's why I usually go for the more accomplished authors. Inept writing/editing distracts me too much to enjoy the story. Maybe that's why I've got so many unfinished books lying around.

    You are among several folks I've known over the years who has quit being a lawyer. Wassup with that? One is now an antique dealer. Another a sommelier. And they quit quite early in their lives, so it wasn't a matter of something they did after retirement, but as a career choice. You'd think after all the hard work and years of school they'd have pursued it, considering the potential.

  2. I had never read any erotic romance when I wrote my first novel (aside from the one Black Lace book that inspired my efforts). Nevertheless, I ended up creating a classic alpha hero. And now, I really rather dislike him!

    "Read in your genre" is good advice, I suppose, if you're trying to understand what sells, then produce books that have the same qualities. My feeling is that life is too short to read stuff you don't enjoy.

    So I'm glad you're doing that!

    1. Ugh. Slip of the mind there. I mean, I'm glad you are reading stuff you enjoy. Obviously.

  3. I loved Georgette Heyer's books, although I liked the earlier ones best. According to a biography of her, she really wanted to do serious, academic historical books, and wrote the romances for support while she worked on the book she considered her real masterpiece, My Lord John, a meticulously researched novel about John of Gaunt. But her publisher kept after her to keep on with the successful romances, and she had a hard time getting the more serious book published. It was published eventually, quite late in her life. I've read it, and even though I like well-researched historical novels, this one was, well, less than compelling.

    I wonder how many writers who find great success in a genre, especially romance, get to feeling trapped there, and long to be doing something weightier.

  4. "Right now I'm immersed in Julie Kagawa's books about the Iron Fey"

    These sound really cool! Thanks for introducing me to them! :)

  5. I haven't read a Georgette Heyer novel (blurbs only) but I know she more-or-less invented the "Regency romance" (set in the time of the Regency, written much later). Apparently there is a good, recent biography of her. The Romantical Groom sounds hilarious, and the Iron Fey sound intriguing. And I have the same question as Daddy X: why so many ex-lawyers who quit in their youth? (I know one too.) Well, I'm glad to know that legal knowledge comes in useful in other careers.

  6. So the question's been posed: why do so many attorneys leave the profession?

    Easy answer: because it sucks.

    The legal system, first, doesn't exist to provide justice. It exists to maintain order. So when a starry-eyed young attorney, newly graduated from law school bumps up against the realities of the legal system, well, that naivete doesn't last. Cynicism steps in, and if a sensitive person doesn't care for the way s/he is evolving as a person, s/he leaves.

    Also, the legal system is deliberately an adversarial system. The clash of opinions is supposed to lead to the truth. Maybe it does (sometimes) but it creates a conflict-ridden, extremely uncomfortable working environment in which people are always trying to get ahead of his or her colleagues, to the extent of backstabbing, legal chicanery and other nasty stuff.

    I should never have gone into that profession to begin with, and I couldn't wait to get the hell out.

    1. What you say rings true. My friends who quit the profession have said as much. I just wondered about your personal reasons.

      Another person I knew worked for a large firm. When he had parties including his colleagues, the ever-present topic was when they would become partner. No other conversations seemed to go anywhere.

  7. This doesn't sound surprising, Suz. The ex-lawyer I know has said similar things. And she has specifically commented on the way the law works in local culture. This region of Canada has a very large indigenous ("Indian") population that has been the object of systemic racism since the 1800s (debatably starting with the treaties, written in English by white administrators who favoured their own interests), and the law tends to work against them. I'm sure ex-lawyers in other places can give other specific examples of how the law "maintains order."

  8. I also know from experience how the adversarial system adds fuel to a smoldering fire during a divorce, even when the one thing the 2 parties can agree on is that they DON'T want to be married to each other any more. When "no-fault divorce" was introduced, someone wrote a sensible article (sorry I don't have a link handy) explaining that "no-fault" doesn't necessarily mean that no one sabotaged the marriage in any way, it just means that the husband & wife aren't set up to fight it out on the battlefield of a courtroom, & that they can quietly dissolve a contract that no longer works without more drama.


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