In her post of yesterday, Becky Miller asked a frightening question:
Can a writer get locked into a world, a series, or a genre because of reader expectation? Or will readers trust an author they love and follow her as she ventures into other lands, with other characters? For example, can J. K. Rowling ever write anything besides Harry Potter?
Are we as readers so demanding and narrow-minded that we would actually lock an author into a category and refuse to let him out? Maybe we are. Robin McKinley has written things besides fairy-tale adaptations, but I can’t really be bothered to read them. J.R.R. Tolkien wrote a book about Father Christmas, but what Middle-earth fans want to read that? I can be totally riveted to a series by a contemporary author and really not give a hoot when he tweets about some other book he’s working on.
I am eclectic sort f person with an eclectic lot of story ideas, so frankly, this whole concept is scary to me. But then I thought, you know, maybe it’s a compliment when a reader doesn’t want to let you out. When, if you want to write in some other genre, you have to do it under a pen name.
Because the best books, and the best characters, and the best worlds, take on lives of their own. They’re not about the author at all anymore.
It’s just possible that nobody cares what J.K. Rowling writes if she doesn’t write about Harry Potter because she has faded so far back into the woodwork that readers don’t even think about her; they just think about Harry. And really, that’s an amazing compliment. Someone she cobbled together out of ink and imagination has become so truly alive to readers that he eclipses her. As for J.R.R. Tolkien–shoot, everyone knows that Middle-earth is real.
The best authors write book after book and series after series, and they all take on their own lives. Eventually, they work magic so many times that we say we love the author, but of course, we don’t even know them. We love their work for its own sake.
So maybe it’s not really about demanding readers. Maybe it’s about good writing–really, really good writing–and its power to transport and transform readers until they don’t want to leave the lands and people they love.