Author Intrusion – and How to Avoid It

Wow – welcome to September everyone!

(And how the hell did THAT happen, anyway??)

I have to give a little shout-out to friend and CP Carolyn Crane, whose book Head Rush is out in paperback today. This is kind of significant because the ebook version came out in 2011, but this particular publisher (Samhain) takes a long time to get their print versions out. In this case, it was too bad for hard-copy readers, because Head Rush is book 3 in the Disillusionists trilogy and book 2, Double Cross, ends on this heart-wrenching cliffhanger. It’s a totally earned cliffhanger (which I rarely think is true), as the title suggests. (If you haven’t read this trilogy, start with book 1, Mind Games – you’ll be glad you did.) At any rate, I feel for those hard copy readers, because I finished book 2 on my Kindle and IMMEDIATELY downloaded book 3. (I may have been chanting something to myself like “no, no, no – it can’t be true.”)

(Apparently I’m feeling parenthetical and all-cappy today – sorry!)

And then it was SUCH a good book. You know how some trilogies peter out by book 3, like there’s just not that much to say anymore? But in others, book 3 is the capstone, the final arch that brings the pillars of books 1 and 2 together into a magnificent edifice. (The other one that springs to mind is Kushiel’s Avatar by Jacqueline Carey, which brilliantly tied up the heroine’s entire journey.) I love how Carolyn handled Head Rush, exploring the nature of memory and reality. Deft and wonderful.

Now, you might be sitting there thinking, oh yeah, of course she says these things because Carolyn is her friend and crit partner. She’s totally biased. She HAS to say these things. While it’s certainly true that writers support their friends, the thing is – Carolyn became my friend AFTER I read these books. I read them on Sullivan McPig’s recommendation. (She does a terrific review blog here.) And then I was so impressed by these books that I twitter-stalked her and made her be my friend.  Mostly so we could talk about her hero Sterling and how much I liked him. And so I could complain that I felt CHEATED of certain moments with him.

Carolyn, being who she is, let me bitch and we ended up having a great conversation and the rest is, proverbially, history.

This is an important point, because I *do* have one here. I reached out to this author to talk about her hero and the story and she responded to me. This is something readers do a lot – they take possession, particularly of the hero (some of the bloggers call them “book boyfriends”) and want to communicate with his handler (as the bloggers also say).

Carolyn recently suggested I read another series because she thought I’d enjoy the hero – and she was absolutely spot on. I read the books, tweeted about them, and another gal I tweet with quite a bit responded that she loved this hero, too. We riffed about him and she looped in the author, who I hadn’t met before. The author replied (good) and then started telling us about the hero in her NEXT book and he’s EVEN MORE ALPHA.

And well, hmpf.

Totally defizzled my fizz, if you know what I mean.

Now, I can see why she did what she did. Here are fangirls of her books and she wants us to be fans of not just these books that we already bought, but of her upcoming books. I totally understand this kind of marketing impulse. She’s likely thinking, please don’t be fans of just that one hero.

But I think it was a mistake. She diverted us from talking about something we were really enjoying, killing our buzz. Also, by telling us the next hero would be even more something, she subtly made us think less of the one we’d liked so much. (Who, btw, I hadn’t thought of as particularly alpha, so that sort of impinged on my fun, too.) I think the other reader felt this way, too, because this ended the conversation. We had nothing left to say.

I’m not sure what caution I’m offering here. It’s easy to obsess about social media, to be afraid of missteps. That one little mistake will be a fatal one. But I think the message is to be always wary of letting that marketing urge overtake the social one. Readers and writers love to talk about books and that love leads to sales, which is a good and organic thing. Careful though, if the “leading to sales” bit gets stronger than the “loving to talk about it” bit.

And, on that note, you should totally go buy Carolyn Crane’s Disillusionsts Trilogy. 😀

(Okay, I really just laughed and laughed at myself.)