Who’s your favorite author?
I get that question a lot. As a writer and editor of fiction, it’s a fair question. Novels are literally my work and pleasure. I spend my days and nights reading, writing, and studying both. Picking a favorite author, however, isn’t something I’ve ever been capable of. Here’s why:
My tastes change. After 12 years of marriage, I don’t enjoy reading the same types of books that I used to enjoy. I’ve changed significantly since getting married; I want to read about characters who also experience change. I have a deeper, more intimate understanding of what it really takes to make a relationship work, so I’m less inclined to read shallow, romance-driven stories. I want better-developed characters with deeper plots that include romance, not revolve around it.
For example, Janet Evanovich’s Stephanie Plum series. Her books gave me hope that someday I would be able to write make-them-laugh-out-loud stories. However, after 15 novels, I expected something to happen with the main characters. They continued to get sucked into ridiculous, humorous situations, but nothing developed – people didn’t advance in their careers, relationships didn’t develop. Everyone just existed. While she was one of my favorite authors for a while, these days I’m looking for something more (though I do still recommend her!).
Authors get famous. I hate to say this, but I’ve noticed a trend in literature – I discover a new author and fall in love with her style. I recommend her as “the” one to read in her genre. Then, without fail, after about a dozen novels, my opinion changes, and that’s usually because the writing style has changed.
I’ll be honest. I’m not sure if it’s the writing or editing style that changes, but there’s a distinct difference between most authors’ first novels and their tenth, fifteenth, twentieth books. By then, I usually start to see repeated characters (not literally, but they have the same traits) and plots. Descriptions aren’t as clear. I find myself skimming some of the details. That’s usually when I’ll stop spending $10 on a new book and wait to find it at the library.
Publishers merge/cut back. This is purely speculation, but I suspect that changes at publishing houses may contribute to the quality changes in an author’s work. I know for certain that publishers have cut back on the amount of editing they can do for an author. For new authors, that means they may not get published (because the manuscript is not clean and they don’t have anyone on staff to work with the author). For established authors, I suspect that means some of their manuscripts are being published without having gone through as many rounds of edits as their previous books.
The overall affect is that authors I used to love become authors I enjoy. Instead of passing along books that moved me, I find myself asking people for recommendations of new authors.
So whose books do I recommend? I recommend first books. Find the first few novels that an author wrote – the ones they spent years creating and perfecting.
What do you think? Who are your favorite authors? Have you noticed anything different about their books?