Breaking New Ground   4 comments

It should come as no surprise that mega-author J.K. Rowling is taking her literary talents into a new direction. Particularly since it has been the buzz of the internet after she made the announcement just a couple of days ago. What is interesting is Ms. Rowling’s statement that the success of the Harry Potter series has given her the freedom to move into other areas of story telling, aka; writing an “adult” novel.

Now, as far as I knew, one of the appeals of Harry Potter happened to be that nearly as many adults read the books as children did. Probably just as many, if you could get the adults who read it in the broom closet to come out and say so. The reason for this cross-age phenomenon is pretty easy to see. Ms. Rowling is a very gifted storyteller, and writer. She knows how to put a story together and make it work, regardless of the age group it is target towards.

But, I digress. Her statement about literary freedom is what intrigued me the most. It implies that Ms. Rowling was feeling somewhat trapped, and a bit stereotyped by the genre which made her a household name. She isn’t the first author to feel this way, or to be saddled with typecasting. It has happened to numerous famous authors, and the only recourse in the past was to write under a pen name. Think Steven King and Richard Bachman. Isn’t it amazing that the Bachman books started climbing in sales once it was revealed that poor Richard was none other than Steve King?

Let’s face it, most of us are in this business with the desire to make a living doing something we love. Those of us still struggling for a bit of recognition know writing a story is anything but a “get-rich-quick” prospect. It’s hard work, both mentally and physically. (If you don’t believe that last part, you try sitting in the same position for hours on end, day after day, and tell me how your back feels in a month.) But, the prospect of paying our bills, feeding out families, and loving the job we earned to do it with keeps us going.

Most of us are also guilty of pigeonholing authors who have “made it” into neat little genres. We think of Isaac Asimov as a science fiction writer, we think of Steven King as a horror writer, (even after he has proven us wrong with such great stories as The Green Mile, and The Body/Stand By Me), we think of Louis L’Amour as a western writer. It seems to be a natural instinct of human kind to stick everyone, and everything, into little boxes and try to keep them there. A habit that has ruined more than one career in the entertainment world, although the symptom is more prevalent in Hollywood and television.

Fortunately, this is a habit that is beginning to show its age, and is slowly being out modded. Good actors are no longer being typecast as the persona that made them famous, and it appears that good authors are breaking out of their “molds’ as well. That is encouraging for those of us who haven’t broken into the business yet. While I adore Speculative Fiction, and can’t see writing anything else in the future, I would hate to think that I could end up chained to the title of fantasy author, and incapable of writing a good science fiction, or horror story.

Heck, I love Wild Berry Skittles, too, but I’m also certain that a diet of nothing else would soon have me despising them.

Old habits are hard to lay in their graves, and I’m fairly certain that it will be a long time before the art of typecasting will be ready for its own funeral. The symptoms of its, hopefully, terminal disease are beginning to show, and when it finally does expire I’ll be one of the first to lay flowers on the mound and bid it adieu.

Until then, our best wishes for Ms. Rowling, and our thanks for pounding another nail into typecasting’s coffin.

Later, Gang.


4 responses to “Breaking New Ground

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  1. I may not even leave flowers at typecasting’s gravesite. Branding seems like a scary, scary thing to me. One of the things I love about being a complete unknown is that I have the freedom to write whatever the heck I want. No expectations. I also found what JK said about having “freedom” really interesting, and eye-opening – it’s probably really tough for authors who get bogged down in the midlist to try and break out of their established genre. Eek.

    • I heard that, Riley.

      It seems there are only two kinds of writers who can work whatever story they please; complete unknowns, or total successes.

      Fortunately, this is something that is starting to wear thin.

      Still there is something to be said for branding. It does build a faithful readership, and readers aren’t as stodgy as they were. I think they actually like to see their authors do something different. Just so we can give them something else read. King has done it, and now Ms Rowling. Once we have our fans, they seem to care more about the storyteller, than the story.

      And it is a nice thing to be loved by the people paying your bills. 😉

  2. Im glad shes still writing after the success… hopefully her new book would be as good.

    • I’m sure it will be. Of all the popular writers I’ve read, Ms. Rowling is by far the most talented, IMHO.

      She weaves some of the best plots, and subplots, then ties them all together in one neat, and entertaining bundle. and that doesn’t even begin to touch her acute sense of character development. (I is O-fish-aly jealous.) 😉

      I honestly believe she can tell any tale she wants with the same power she poured into the Harry Potter series.

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