Wednesday, July 06, 2011

What Else to Read

I've had a reader question that wasn't directly about the Enchanted, Inc. series but that I'll address here (in the absence of other questions). The reader asked what I'd recommend for fans of the series who want something else like that.

It's hard for me to answer this question because so far I haven't found anything else that perfectly fills that precise niche for me. That's why I had to write the series. That doesn't mean there aren't other books like mine, just that they don't work for me for the reasons I write this series. I've seen my books compared to a lot of the sexy vampire and chick lit style paranormal romance/urban fantasy series, but I don't like vampires in general and a lot of these other books are too sexy, too edgy, too romancey, too witchy or otherwise aren't quite what I want. That doesn't mean these books are bad or that my readers might not like them, but I can't recommend something that doesn't work for me, for whatever reason. That's where readers come in. If you can recommend something you think other fans will like, then please do so.

The books that do work for me aren't necessarily similar to my series, but there's some essence to them that gives me a similar mental/emotional reward that I get from my books.

I have to start with the Harry Potter series. Yeah, people are far more likely to have read these than to have read my books, but you never know. There are still people who haven't read them, for whatever reason, whether because they're too popular (I've never understood that reasoning -- what do other people's opinions have to do with whether or not you'll like something?) or because of the impression that they're for kids. But this was what sparked my idea because I hadn't yet run across fantasy like that when I read them. I'd read the first three books when I got my idea, and those earlier books were more focused on the whimsical blend of the real world and the magical world, with Harry still a bit of an outsider who was continuing to learn about the magical world. But the thing that really struck me and that started the thinking that led to my idea was the fact that I didn't recall ever reading a fantasy novel where I could relate so closely to the characters. I could be sympathetic to them, but it wasn't like they were going through things I'd experienced. In these books, though, the "human" part of the story, the school stuff, was so familiar. I had been there and gone through things very much like that. That made me want something that did that with adult things -- a fantasy where the characters were dealing with real-world things I could relate to, like work, friends and dating. I remain amazed that publishers have focused their "find the next Harry Potter" efforts strictly on the young adult and children's market and haven't tried to go after the adult readership with something that's like that, but for grown-ups.

Then there's Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman. I read this after I had the first germs of my idea and was looking for something like that (and not finding anything). That was before urban fantasy became a thing, so any fantasy in a contemporary setting was pretty rare. This book is a lot darker and grittier than my series, but it still was one of the first adult books I found that mixed a magical world and the real modern world. In spite of the darkness, this book is still very funny in places, there is a touch of whimsy, and there's the ordinary guy hero who gets thrown into the magical world and has to rise to the occasion. I think I like this book more each time I re-read it. One thing that impresses me is that it uses the folklore about the fairy world without drawing attention to it. London Below seems to draw a lot on the British fairy lore, but there's never anything that outright says "this is what fairies are doing in the modern world!" I didn't even notice this the first time I read it, but then re-read it after doing a lot of reading on fairy lore and it added a layer to the story.

It's science fiction rather than fantasy, but To Say Nothing of the Dog by Connie Willis gives me the same feeling I wanted from my series. It's got that screwball comedy feel, there's lots of wit, a fish-out-of-water hero, and a touch of slowly developing romance. This is probably my all-time favorite book, one I can re-read over and over, and I still want to crawl inside it. I'd also recommend her Bellwether, which might be considered chick lit built around science. It's got all the work, crazy co-workers, friends and romance, but it uses all that to explore chaos theory. A lot of her short stories also give me the same feeling. I just wish I could write like that.

This one is a bit more of a stretch because there really aren't any similarities between it and my books, but I do get a lot of the same reading sensations from it as I get from my books, so I'll go ahead and include the Rogue Agent series by KE Mills. They get a lot darker than I go, but there's still a lot of whimsy and the ordinary guy hero. The one that's closest to my books would be the second in the series, Witches Incorporated, which is how I found the series in the first place, since that title caught my eye, for obvious reasons. Now that I think about it, this may be a degrees of separation connection to my books. This may be the closest equivalent to the Harry Potter series for adults that I've found. There's the unassuming hero who's a bit of an outsider, and then there's his close-knit group of friends who team up to fight the bad guys in sometimes unorthodox ways. Our unassuming hero goes through all kinds of hell in each book and often feels like he's got the whole world against him. So I guess I could say that if you like the Harry Potter books you might like my books and you might like these books rather than there being a direct connection that if you like my books you'll like these books.

There are also a few chick lit books that give me the kind of thing I'm looking for in the human side of the story but that don't have the fantasy elements, but those are mostly out of print and difficult to find these days, and I get the impression that it's the fantasy elements that are most important to most of my readers.

1 comment:

Angie said...

Here is a suggestion for readers who enjoyed Enchanged, Inc. - Don't Expect Magic by Kathy McCullough. I felt it had the same fun mix of magic & real life that Enchanted, Inc. did.