BOOK & BLOG
July 25, 2011
Books of the Week:
Kitty Norville, werewolf, is one of my favorite characters in urban fantasy. Kitty not only adjusts to being a werewolf after she's bitten, she goes on the radio to talk about it. As she builds her life, she gradually accumulates new friends and a mate and her own pack. If that's not making lemonade out of lemons . . . but of course, it's not that easy, as Carrie Vaughn makes abundantly plain in her entertaining books. Kitty has become convinced that William Tecumseh Sherman – yes, General Sherman – was a werewolf, and she's going to great lengths to prove it. This is not my absolute favorite in the series, maybe because in my neck of the woods we would gladly believe anything about Gen. Sherman, but maybe also because this book didn't seem quite as focused as other entries in the Kitty chronicles. But Kitty's Big Trouble is essential reading for fans of the series, and I'm at the head of the line.
This was my second time reading A Breath of Snow and Ashes, one of Diana Gabaldon's wonderful Outlander books. If you haven't read this series, run to your bookstore and buy the first one (Outlander) right now. If I could sit down with Gabaldon (whom I've met only once) I would have questions to ask her about the rape episode in this book; but otherwise, this is a flawless novel. I'm in awe of Gabaldon's ability to handle a huge cast and make the time period sound absolutely authentic.
Chloe Neill's books – Some Girls Bite, Friday Night Bites, Twice Bitten, Hard Bitten – are the adventures of Merit, who is bitten by a rogue vampire and then completely changed by Ethan, master of the Cadogan vampire clan in Chicago. Ethan has green eyes and is super sexy, but there are at least two other green-eyed guys in the Neill's books, which may or may not be important later on. Merit is quickly perceived to be a remarkably powerful vampire, and she adjusts fairly well to her new life-challenged status. She doesn't miss her loathsome family, but she does regret losing her chance to finish grad school. I was lukewarm about reading these books since they sounded kind of same-old, same-old, but a Penguin staffer is an ardent fan and persuaded me to give them a shot. I was really glad I did. Neill is not afraid to make drastic choices, and the fourth book ends with a real shocker. I'll be anxious to see what happens when the fifth book, Drink Deep, comes out Nov. 1.
I don't know why I always finish books in such a desperate scramble. Like the old proverb of a horse running when it smells its own barn, I'm always dashing toward the finish line. I always seem to be about two weeks behind schedule (usually, I tell myself, due to travelling). And there's always a good reason I want to have the book finished by a definite date – a vacation, a wedding, another project that has to be finished, or whatever.
I'm in the usual rush to conclude Sookie 12. This is the longest one of my books has gone without a title, and I'm not happy about that, but it was hard to determine the theme of the book. There are generic titles with "dead" in them I could use for almost any book, but I do like the title to be relevant. The rose just hasn't bloomed; but I'll bet it will in the next two weeks.
While I know where I want to be at the end of each book, I don't always know how I'm getting there. Sometimes I surprise myself. Last night, Sookie got kidnapped, and I'm going to see how that shakes out. A character I thought was dead is probably alive, and I'm real happy for him. Then again, if the work doesn't go so well today, he may be dead again. This is the fun (and the panic) of being a writer. Every day brings decisions, and I have the power of life and death and procreation over all these people I've invented.
It's both fun and an awesome (and awful) responsibility. When I was writing by myself, before we all connected on the web and in so many personal appearances, it was easy to go my own way. Now my attention has been drawn to the fact that lots of people are waiting on my way to be picked. Scary!
My first responsibility is to my characters and to my own vision as a writer. There, my path is clearly marked.
Running neck and neck with that is my responsibility to write the best book I can. I always try. Sometimes, it works. Sometimes, the work falls short of my intention. That's the way it goes in any endeavor.
How readers react to the book is not my responsibility. There, I can only hope.
It took me some years and a lot of both joy and anguish to figure all this out.
And now, back to the computer screen, and a guy who may or may not be dead.
© 2011 Charlaine Harris