I’m an author with a distinct tastes in books. I’ve tried to read things like Wuthering Heights, Jane Eyre, Moby Dick, and Lord of the Flies. But I couldn’t. They didn’t catch my attention, they didn’t hold my attention, and I didn’t enjoy them. That’s not to say that they’re not great books, I just didn’t like them.
But does that make me less qualified to be an author? Are there rules that stipulate that in order to get the masses to read what I’ve written, that I must read these books that are considered “the classics”? I honestly don’t think so, but there are many that would disagree with me.
I read romance novels when I was in late elementary and early junior high school. Maybe I don’t like them very much now because then I didn’t truly understand what the books were about. To me phrases like “throbbing member” confused me. I couldn’t ask my mom about it, I’d snitched the books off of her shelves in the first place. She didn’t know that I was systematically going through the books that she was passing between her and her fellow nurse friends. I was rather sneaky with it all.
But who’s to say that Jack Kerouac is so much better than Nora Roberts? Where are the rules that state that’s the case? Apparently, someone forgot to tell me that there’s a Mount Olympus of Books on high that throws down books of import that we must read or be shunned by the book reading community. “Thou shalt not read this book, thou shalt read that book instead.” Yeah, the human mind and tastes don’t work that way.
My husband and father-in-law love science fiction. Personally, science fiction bores me to tears! I get a couple of pages in (sometimes only a couple of paragraphs in) and I toss the book aside for something that grabs my attention. Now you know my secret shame. I read what I like to read, not what’s expected of me to read.
Does this make me unworthy to be an author? Personally, I don’t think so. Books are a highly subjective medium. Just like music and television. If we all liked the same books, movies, music, and television we’d only have one radio station, television station, one movie theater, and one book. Honestly, that feels a lot like A Wrinkle in Time (OK, so there was a sort of science fiction book that I loved enough to read more than one time and has stuck with me for many years). We’d all be bouncing balls in a strange rhythm out in front of our homes and be utterly BORING.
This brings me back to where do the literary police come in? How is it that something I read makes me better or worse at what I do?
I’d read something in a blog written by a horror writing teacher about how literary fiction is trying to drown out popular fiction. I believe that’s not entirely true. Yes, creative writing courses are trying to beat the imagination out of writers. If their writing shows too much creativity they tend to get a bit bristly. They tend to lean toward what might win awards. The next Wuthering Heights or Jane Eyre. But how is it what sells is wrong?
Romance novels have been nicknamed “trashy”, erotica has been nicknamed “smut”. What makes a romance or erotica novel any less worthy than a historical fiction? I think what eats up creative writing teachers is the fact that 55% of book sales are romance or erotica novels. They’re stewing in their literary genius trying to stop what’s popular. After all, how could something they deem “trashy” or “smut” worthy of their time? They would have us all believe that if we read such stuff that we ourselves are not worthy of their time. Why is this? To make us beneath them?
Sure, romance novels and erotica aren’t my cup of tea. But that doesn’t mean that I would choose to denigrate someone for choosing to read such a book. My secret shame is that I own the Fifty Shades of Grey trilogy. I haven’t cracked any of them open yet. I’ve been torn. They’re so incredibly popular that I am curious about the hullabaloo, but I’m not hugely interested in erotica. But yes, that hubbub that’d been created certainly has me wondering. What has made them so popular? My hand has twitched near them a few times, but I still haven’t built up the courage to read them. Does that make me an unintelligent person?
This leap to judgment based on tastes makes me wonder. Is there a great Mount Olympus of Books out there? Is there a set of Commandments stating what books are and are not appropriate for us to read? It’s a lot like there’s a chute of literary values that are trying to herd us in a direction. Eh, it’s not a new thing. This has been around for a while. I don’t anticipate this trend to go away. I’m not going to try to be that one voice fighting against the machine. That’s a fight I don’t want anything to do with.
Nope, I just want everyone to keep reading. Read anything that you get your hands on. Read what you enjoy! Just keep reading! It doesn’t matter if it’s the nutrition information off of the side of a cereal box. Reading keeps our brains active, keeps our imaginations flowing, and gives us an escapism that movies or television can’t give us.
Keep reading, keep reading, keep reading. I can’t say that enough. Oh, and don’t let anyone shame you for what you’re reading. It’s your imagination don’t let anyone else take it from you. Fight to keep your reading what you want to read. It’s what I do.
Monica-Marie Vincent writes Young Adult novels about troubled teens and even more troubled parents. She currently lives in Sacramento, CA although she would rather be in her home town of San Francisco. Thanks to her very put upon husband Monica-Marie is always well stocked with coffee, Diet Coke, and Cheddar Jalapeno Cheetos, so she wouldn’t have to move away from her writerly lair to do mundane things like shopping.
Roses are Red…Violet is Dead by Monica-Marie Vincent
Violet Sumner has a stalker.
Between her largely dysfunctional family of two and the friends she doesn’t feel particularly close to, Violet thinks he’s the least of her problems. What she fails to understand is that the guy is no prankster and soon people turn up dead or missing. Because of her.
Things change when Violet’s best friend disappears and realization sinks in that the stalker means business. Denial put aside, Violet has no other option but to accept the help of police Sergeant Willard Kelley and his rather sweet protégé, to come to terms with the seriousness of the situation.
Yet nothing could’ve prepared her for her close up with the psycho.
Who will survive in this tale of obsession and misplaced devotion?
Releasing March 24, 2015. Add Roses are Red…Violet is Dead to your Goodreads shelf.