Thursday, May 27, 2010

The ecstasy of being wrong (thanks, Ms. Crusie!)

You probably think my highest point this past February was the call from my agent saying Sourcebooks was offering us a three-book deal for my romantic comedies.

You’d be mostly right, but that wasn’t the only swoon-worthy news I got that week.

Bestselling author Jennifer Crusie – the queen of romantic comedy, my total freakin’ IDOL – held a contest on her blog a couple days before my book deal came through. Her publisher, St. Martin’s Press, wanted reader quotes to share with booksellers about her upcoming release. They decided to give away 35 uncorrected manuscripts of MAYBE THIS TIME, (a book that hits shelves August 31).

The way it played out in my fantasy is that Jennifer Crusie invited me to lunch, and over a lovely spinach salad, asked if I’d take a peek at her new book. Then we hugged and braided each other’s hair and spent an hour complimenting each other’s writing skills.

OK, that wasn’t how it happened, though skill was involved. I had to type my name really fast in the entry form.

But suffice it to say, I got the book. I was stoked.

And I was nervous.

You see, I adore Jennifer Crusie’s writing with the same childish passion I once had for potato bugs. But I also knew what the book was about. (click here for a blurb)

There are two things I don’t typically like in romance novels – children and paranormal elements.

This book has both. I was terrified I wouldn’t like it.

But I set aside my prejudices and read. And read. And read. And read.

And you know what? I really did adore it. The characters were quirky and fun. The love story left me panting. The ghost story – the paranormal part I was worried about – kept me on the edge of my seat. Even the kids were entertaining.

In the end, I sent my gushing reader quotes to the folks at St. Martin’s and built a tasteful shrine placed the book alongside all the other Crusie titles on my bookshelf.

It was a good reminder to me that it pays to keep an open mind as a reader. Every time I find myself saying, “I don’t like books with THAT in them,” I try to find a book with THAT to see if I’m wrong. Sometimes I’m not, but many times I’m forced to eat my words.

I want to be wrong. I’ve found a lot of great books that way, from Stephenie Meyer’s TWILIGHT to Diana Gabaldon’s OUTLANDER, and now Jennifer Crusie’s MAYBE THIS TIME – all books I was pleasantly surprised to discover I loved.

Am I the only one who does this? Is there something you think you don’t like in books, on your dinner plate, or in life in general? Do you ever try to prove yourself wrong? Please share in the comments.

Oh, and if you’re interested, I got the OK from St. Martin’s to post a more thorough review of the book a little closer to the release date. Stay tuned this August for more details.

And be prepared to have your socks knocked off by MAYBE THIS TIME.


Linda G. said...

Okay, so does this mean you might not hate my paranormal mystery when you read it, and that I won't have to change "needles" to "daisies" before you do?

Personally, I avoid books with spiders. Never could get through Charlotte's Web. ;)

Angela Ackerman said...

I think an open mind leads to many great things, and not only new reads. Sometimes we're closed to a genre or a POV or style to emulate in our writing, but by taking a risk, come up with something completely and unexpectedly wonderful!

Glad you liked the book! Sorry you never got to braid each other's hair while eating spinach salad, but maybe next time, right?

Angela @ The Bookshelf Muse

Karla Nellenbach said...

So lucky! I too love Jennifer Crusie--I also LOVE paranormal--and cannot wait for MAYBE THIS TIME.

I know exactly what you mean about not thinking I'll like something and then being pleasantly surprised. Stephenie Meyer's THE HOST is a great example. I hate sci-fi but that has to be the best book! :)

Patty Blount said...

Absolutely! I think this falls under the "don't judge a book by its cover" thing...

For me, I don't like books that are bleak and hopeless. I'm a romantic; I want my happy ending, damn it!

Books like The Road are not happy.
Jeff Somers' Avery Cates books are not happy, but they were still such fun reads for me. (I want to start a Jeff Somers Fan Club and really, really want an Avery Cates T-shirt.)

I'm not well-traveled and led a fairly sheltered life (happens when you get married at 19), so reading lets me discover things I didn't know I liked.

You'll appreciate this story. I recently started reading Laurell K. Hamilton's Meredith Gentry series. I came home from the library with books 3 through 5 and almost didn't read past the first one. It was filled with lengthy orgie-type sex scenes that frankly, shocked me and the Puritan sensibilities I had before I found you (kidding, kidding).

But I hate to leave a book unread and I'm glad I gave "Merry" another chance. The sex scenes, once I had the proper context, weren't gratuitous at all. They've since become a favorite series of mine.

I think this you've made an important point, Tawna. Well done!

Jen Stayrook said...

I mean it when I say, "I will read anything." If someone recommends a book to me, 99% of the time I give it the old "college try." I think as writers sometimes we feel restricted to read only the genres in which we write, or similar styles, etc. But with me, that isn't the case at all. In fact, I welcome the change. It keeps me from getting too bored or thinking, "Haven't I read this?"

I'm sorry too you didn't get to braid each other's hair, but if it's any consolation, the next time I'm on the west coast, I'll have a spinach salad with you. My name being Jen is kinda the same thing as having lunch with Jennifer Crusie right? Right?!

LR said...

I really like Jennifer Crusie's essays for writers on her blog. Great advice at a good time (for me). Was glad you included her link (a few posts ago, before the alpacas). :)

Elizabeth Ryann said...

Haha, awesome! I'm still waiting on that really great book with a "fiery" heroine that doesn't make me want to shove her to the bottom of the ocean.

But I AM always pleasantly surprised when authors include kids and I actually like them. It's pretty rare, but kind of refreshingly awesome when it happens.

Dawn said...

It took me forever to try paranormal romance, and I was dead set against werewolves. But then I discovered Kelley Armstrong and her book Bitten. And now I'm hooked. Loved Outlander, btw. And even Twilight, despite its shortcomings :-)

danicaavet said...

I'd feel the same way if I was given the chance to comment on J.R. Ward, or Kresley Cole's books...and I can't braid hair worth a crap, but I'd at least attempt it.

For years (at least 10 years), I was adamant about not reading anything but historical romance, or paranormal romance. You couldn't get me to look at a straight up contemporary romance.

Then, my friend introduced me to this book called "Faking It" and I was hooked. From there I began reading Susan Elizabeth Philips, Christina Dodd's contemporaries, Cathy Linz, Lucy Monroe, etc. and I enjoy them all. So now, when I see a book that seems interesting, I don't knock it until I've read it.

Tawna Fenske said...

Linda G, I'll still hate your needles, but I have a feeling I'd love your paranormal mystery! I avoid CHARLOTTE'S WEB, too, but only because it makes me cry when she dies.

Angela, I've found some of my favorite books when I step outside my comfort zone and get over myself and my misguided ideas about what I do and don't like to read!

Karla, I haven't read THE HOST, but was really surprised at how much I loved TWILIGHT considering the whole vampire idea was one I was certain I would hate.

Patty, funny, I've got Jeff Sommers in my to-be-read pile right now!

Jen, I'm certain you would be a lovely stand-in for Ms. Crusie. Will you promise to tell me how much my writing amuses you?

LR, aren't her tips and essays the best? I love authors who go above and beyond to share what they've learned with others.

Elizabeth, LOL, I'd forgotten about you and your "fiery" heroines! My critique partner has actually written a couple books with kids in them, and though I'll admit I'm rather fond of anything she writes, she always does a great job with it.

Dawn, I remember the first time someone in my book club suggested OUTLANDER and I thought, "Time travel? Historical romance? Kill me now." That book now has a solid spot in my top five favorite books of all times.

danicaavet, allow me to swoon with you over FAKING IT. Have you read WELCOME TO TEMPTATION? That's my favorite Crusie title!

Thanks for reading, guys!

danicaavet said...

Welcome to Temptation was great as well. Did she ever write a book for the 3rd sibling? I can't remember ever seeing one, but she needs to...cause I want to know what happens to her and the cop. Next time you're braiding her hair, ask her for me!

Xuxana said...

Oh, I love paranormal books. Are those the kind Crusie always writes? I should start reading her books in that case.

I recently did the opposite of you and read a book that wasn't a paranormal or supernatural and I actually enjoyed it. Blogged about it here:

Delia said...

I take the same approach to reading as I do to music. A good song is a good song. And a good story is a good story. Limiting myself by genre (or topic) only makes me miss out on all the great stuff that's out there. I read everything.

I'm kinda bummed that my name isn't even close to being Jennifer. I had seven Jennifers in my HS graduating class, does that count? Because, I'll tell ya, I really love a nice spinach salad. Especially if it has some strawberries and walnuts, a nice strawberry vinaigrette, and perhaps a sharp cheese for a little salt. Damn. Now I'm hungry. I'll refrain from choosing a wine to go with it.

Neurotic Workaholic said...

I'm not big on kids in books either, because even though I think some of them are adorable, I don't necessarily want to read about them (or give birth to one). But then again some of my favorite books have included kids as part of the plot, like how the main character in Claire Cook's Must Love Dogs is a kindergarten teacher.

Jeffe Kennedy said...

have you ever noticed how often you mention touching other women's hair? Just sayin'...

Sydnee said...

I don't like children in romances either! Their presence totally sucks out the dreamy lovey-dovey feeling for me - instead of feeling hot and bothered or full of tender emotions, "this is what happens when you don't use birth control" flashes through my head and I feel dead inside.

Patrick Alan said...

You know, if your mind wasn't so open, it probably wouldn't get so dirty.

Elizabeth Flora Ross said...

I don't care so much about genre and things like that when it comes to books I read. For me, it is all about characters. I have to care about them. Deeply. I need to care about what happens to them, and want to keep turning the pages to find out. Not all writers create those characters for me. So while I try very hard not to have pre-conceived notions or limit myself as to what I will read, I will give up on a book if it doesn't meet that need.

Tawna Fenske said...

danicaavet, I might be totally imagining this, but I think I remember something Crusie wrote once about not wanting to write Amy's story because she already made it clear in FAKING IT that she ended up marrying the cop. I'm with you though, I'd love to read it!

Xuxana, nope, Crusie is normally strait romantic comedy, so the paranormal is a new thing. You'd probably like MAYBE THIS TIME a lot, but if you want to try her typical fare, my favorites are WELCOME TO TEMPTATION and FAKING IT, though CRAZY FOR YOU and BET ME are also terrific. I'll be sure to check out your book review, thanks for the link!

Delia, thank you for giving me a ridiculously intense craving for spinach salad.

Neurotic Workaholic, you know, I've never read that book -- I've only seen the movie (which is odd, since I don't watch a lot of movies). I'll have to check it out.

Jeffe, interesting. Add this to the list of things I should probably see therapy for.

Sydnee, LOL! Couldn't have said it better myself :)

Patrick, wouldn't that pretty much kill my career as a romance author?

Elizabeth, I'm with you on loving character-drive stories (heavy emphasis on the characters). Yet another area in which Crusie is the master.

Thanks for reading, guys!


Simon C. Larter said...

I do try to keep an open mind while reading just about anything. That said, I've never read a romance novel more modern than Jane Eyre. *shrugs*

Who knows but that you might convince me, good lady?

Adventures in Children's Publishing said...

I LOVE Jenny Crusie. Plus paranormal. Plus (duh, YA writer) kids. YAY! I can't wait for August. Love the post. You made me laugh out loud.


Lani Woodland said...

It's good to step outside our usual preferences sometimes, isn't it? I'm so glad you like it. I love paranormal. I have a hard time with non-fiction books.

Claire Dawn said...

I just read and loved Jodi Piccoult's "The Pact" a week after I decided I was done with grown-up fiction unless it was humourous chick lit. lol.

Jeannie Moon said...

There are some things I don't like in books, but I'm a librarian and I have to keep an open mind. So I read everything.

Have I been pleasantly surprised? Yes.(I didn't think I'd like The Hunger Games when it came out.) Have I been disappointed by books in genres I usually love? Yes again.

The point never know. I never read historical romance, but this summer I found some that I absolutely love. If I didn't have an open mind, I'd have missed out.

I think that philosophy applies to life, too.