OK, Thriller Guy needs to discuss some of the comments that have come in over the last few entries since he can't convince most readers to actually click on the comments button. TG made the point in the last entry that he is getting mighty sick of the same old plots, characters -- both heroic and evil – situations, geographic venues and motivations, again, both heroic and evil. Syd, from over at Scene of the Crime, comments “Problem here is lack of contact with your product area; if readers don't read a lot, they don't know they're being a copycat.” My point exactly, Syd, except I think you meant to write "writers" rather than "readers." I find this to be particularly true of our European cousins across the pond who produce thrillers that are pale imitations of American books that came out years before theirs. TG always advises that anyone who writes thrillers should read deeply in the genre if they are not intimately familiar with those who have gone before. The International Thriller Writers have a good book titled Thrillers: 100 Must Reads that anyone wanting to work the genre should study, and yes, they should read all 100 thrillers recommended therein. Patrick Anderson, the Thriller reviewer for the Washington Post has an excellent book, The Triumph of the Thriller: How Cops, Crooks and Cannibals Captured Popular Fiction that gives a solid history of the backlist with many examples that should be read. It would seem that anyone with a modicum of intelligence would understand that this sort of research would be just as important as making sure you get the caliber of the weapon correct, but TG has to say that this is, sadly, not the case. And, in fact, he's going to go out on a limb here (one of his favorite places to be) and say that it seems like these European writers seem to take a particular satisfaction in being uninformed. That they somehow feel as if they are so good they don't need to bother with what the provincials have done. Not the British writers, but those on the continent. So keep it up, fellows, and you'll keep on receiving those reviews from TG that point out your utter lack of originality.
On this same topic, Anonymous comments on this entry as well: “The bigger question is: why do publishers pay authors to write this stuff? We know that good writing seems to pass the publishers by – is the “sameness” and “familiarity” you describe required to sell a book these days? Are there any publishers reading your blog who'd care to comment?” Anyone who's been in this business very long quickly notes that most publishers are terrified to try something new and vastly prefer to crank out copies of a winning formula. The Day of the Jackal, The Silence of the Lambs and The Da Vinci Code are just three examples of books that spawned sub genres that are still selling strong today. Publishers and movie folk still like to hear their pitches refer to these sorts of progenitors, as in...”You're going to love this C.J. the show's a cross between The Da Vinci Code and Glee.” They love it because the examples are known even to them as popular hits that have made money. And making money is what they're all about. So, Anonymous, to answer your question, yes, familiarity can be a big factor in selling a book these days. Always remember that most publishers are craven, greedy corporate whores who are interested only in their bottom line. Not all of them, but most of the big ones. Though even in the big ones TG has worked with many decent, courageous editors and others who struggle against the machine to put out good, original books. Lucky is the hard-working writer who has found his or her way to one of these angels. But for the most part, they are no longer interested in a quality product, only how much money they can make. And you know what? They're probably right. TG has read many a book that is so bad that he would be ashamed to have his name anywhere near it, and these same books shoot to the top of the bestseller lists. Why? Thats a subject for another blog.
Any of you publishing professionals out there who want to take TG up on this? We'd love to hear your side.
Time for one more comment: Joel writes: “You ever think, perhaps, that you are reading too much of other people's crap and it's wreaking havoc with your own creative process?” Curiously, Joel, I don't think that is the case. The problem is that I read so much of other people's crap it discourages me to the point of giving it all up. But we've already been through that, haven't we?