Readers never cease to surprise me.
Every author I meet tends to believe that readers can be pegged into appropriate holes with ease, that appealing to them is a simple matter. Much like the intended inuendo, I don’t know that it’s quite true.
Though the common sense of the author community might teach me that writing some contemporary romance with a big strong man claiming a young woman (in a very psuedo-rapey-but-not-rapey way, of course! However you explain that) is the ticket to success, we’ve found our modicum of said success elsewhere. Where we shirk convention and write what we like — the dark story where there is no pretense of justification or moralization for the horrible act — that we found our readers.
It wasn’t the barely legal slut stories that really grabbed our readers, it was the gruelling story of a lonely female farmer, past her prime, being ravaged by a monstrous eight-limbed beast of the woods that did it. A rather gory and macabre tale, all told.
When we showed up as the keynote speakers for an expo earlier this year, and some of our fans actually showed up in the flesh, they weren’t who we would’ve expected. We encountered and made new fans, couples, older women, younger men, the reverse and more.
We’re a writer duo, Michelle and I. Almost nothing that we create is a solo-effort – in fact just two short stories so far make up our published solo works. One each written at the same time, because of course we had to pull that off in a sort of synchronous effort too.
About ourselves are some things that might surprise many. Firstly, many have assumed that the more bondage-y aspects of our writing come from me, secondly that the romance is fuelled by Michelle’s heart. If you thought the same I have to tell you: you’re wrong.
The young author-to-be that was me, was a lonely fellow. Bookish and in love with nature, I spent many countless days trekking through the woods, along rapidly shifting coastlines, exploring every nook and cranny, finding comfortable spots to sit and read. To write exploration logs. Craft maps. But most importantly to sit and fantasize.
My solo-expeditions were always missing something. At a very young age I knew what that was, and I always had a very romanticized view of a travel companion. A clever and daring girl to take my hand and pull me on when I faltered.
I was very driven, but my romantic fantasy girl was more so still. She was incredible.
At some point my fantasy girl became reality, and now nearly thirteen years after that she’s become a woman that surpassed my dreams.
If it sounds mushy and romantic, than that’s me. I’m caught. Guilty as charged. I’m a hopeless romantic. I’m never happier than when I’m cozy and close with my lover, partner and best friend.
Michelle, on the other hand, spent her time dreaming of a big, tall man to pin her down and do bad things to her.
I guess that’s my role, and I try my best to fill it, but I trust she forgives me for being less aggressive and more gingerly than she wishes. Hey, at least I got the tall part down.
So are readers are not who we expected them to be, and I guess neither are we the authors they expect us to be.
I’ve learned in life that it’s often better to not understand the entertainment you enjoy. That knowing your favourite author intended a totally different interpretation of events than you read into it might only siphon away your satisfaction. Judging by the reaction to Orson Scott Card after his acclaimed novel “Ender’s Game”, I suspect this is a feeling many other readers have shared recently.
Similarly, I’ve found I enjoy writing and get more out of it — emotionally and financially — when I stop trying to predict what our readers want. When I stop trying to peg them into a hole, and instead offer them some tempting ones and letting them go for what they will, the results are more interesting. More fruitful.
There are curious and unique folk out there, and enough of them across the world wide market of the web, for us to cater to them. We’re past the days of big publishers and advertisers going for the one big market. We can craft our work and set it adrift into the ocean of readers at little cost to ourselves thanks to the wonder of the ebook.
People can surprise you, if you let them.