Finding a new favourite book is delicious. Finding a new favourite AUTHOR is doubly delicious. It’s about as fantastic as eating the last chocolate sandwich in the universe — only to find there are potentially more chocolate sandwiches out there. Potentially with added sprinkles. JOY DOES NOT DESCRIBE THE DISCOVERY.
But what happens when an author’s books all feel very similar? Is this a GOOD or a BAD thing?
Most authors have trademark voices or styles that you can expect. I mean, you can sniff a John Green book a mile away, right?! And no one would confuse a Rick Riordan book with a Rainbow Rowell, despite their names being alluringly alliterated. (Seriously they should co-write just because it’d look awesome on the front cover.) Most authors have a voice we come to expect and recognise. Although some are definitely more trademarked than others.
Also, authors tend to stick to one genre. NOT ALWAYS OF COURSE. (And I do whisper quietly to you, fiendish pineapples, that publishers often want authors to stay within one genre to build their brand. That’s why sometimes authors will write under a pseudonym when they switch genres. FUN TRIVA FROM CAIT MOMENT. Ahem.) But you usually pick up a book by a certain author and expect certain things. It’s logical!
Examples of Authorly Trademarks
- JOHN GREEN: Eloquent (pretentious?) spoken teens who like obscure things and have spontaneously BAD IDEAS ALL THE TIME. (Also everyone dies.) Themes often centre around thinking people are more than people…and this gets you into mega-big-trouble, so don’t do that, okay? Okay.
- MAGGIE STIEFVATER: Beautiful lyrical writing that you WANT TO STUFF IN YOUR MOUTH AND EAT. Complex characters. Slower moving plot. Expect magic and sarcasm…sometimes even magical sarcasm. And usually something really WEIRD: like searches for dead Welsh Kings or professional bagpipe playing. Also there will be cars.
- RICK RIORDAN: Dorky, sarcastic, and witty protagonists with a huge sidedish of mythology. Expect quests and monsters and prophecies. Intelligent girlfriends being 10000% done with their goofy boyfriends. Dialogue is the biggest awesome here. OH. And let’s not forget the random quirky craziness — like gods who watch soap operas or blue coke or magical hijabs.
- CASSANDRA CLARE: Angels and demons and stabby stabbing. Teens with epic hair and witty one-liners. And oh yeah…MASSIVELY HUGE WEAPON SIZED BOOKS. Plus obscure mythology references and biblical myths and prophecies.
I wouldn’t pick up a Louise O’Neill book and expect to laugh my head off. She writes about super tough topics and critiques society and discusses feminism. I wouldn’t pick up an Ally Carter book and expect to sob. She’s more for light-hearted fun actiony spy sequences.
….BUT. That all saying…
Does this mean we can assume author’s books are going to be similar to their previous works? SHOULD we want that? Are we going to critique their books if they’re too similar? Will we be blindsided if they’re too radically different???
HOW DO WE EVEN COPE WITH THIS? HOW. WHERE IS THE CAKE WE NEED HELP.
You know what we need right now?!
OBVIOUSLY A PROS AND CONS LIST FOR AUTHOR’S BOOKS BEING SIMILAR TO THEIR PREVIOUS WORKS.
P R O S
- YOU KNOW WHAT TO EXPECT. Lots of people like surprises, but come ooooon. There are TONS of pros to knowing what to expect! Time is precious. Most of us pick up books we want to enjoy. If I loved previous Awesome Author’s books…my excellent Sherlock skills deduce I’ll like the rest.
- IF YOU LOVE THE AUTHOR’S STYLE = YOU GET MORE OF IT! Where is the downside to this?! We often get mega-excited over books because we like the author’s style.
- IT CAN SATISFY A PARTICULARLY CRAVING. Which is handy for the mood readers.
- YOU GET TO EXPLORE A WORLD IN GREAT DETAIL. Because some authors do write massively within one universe which means you get to see moooooore of a world you might previously have fallen in love with and wish to marry at dawn.
C O N S
- THE BOOKS CAN SOUND TOO SAMEY SAMEY AFTER A WHILE. You get the deja vu moment of “Waaaaait, Bob, haven’t I read this before??????” and then you feel slightly cheated for waiting for an epic new story from Awesome Author only to feel like they’ve given you nothing new.
- IF YOU DON’T LIKE THE AUTHOR, IT BUGS YOU THAT THERE ARE 93839 MILLION BOOKS OF THEIRS EVERYWHERE. Okay! This is a kinda petty one!?? But it’s still an issue, right?! When you don’t like the author and they always right the same sort of stuff…there’s no point trying them again, right?! If they changed things up, maybe you’d be enticed to read. But as is? NOPITY NO.
- IF THEY STAY VERY CONSISTENT, YOU MIGHT GROW OUT OF THEIR WRITING. It’s sometimes a case of “Hey I grew up and you didn’t, Bob”. But it can be disappointing when the author’s writing/style doesn’t change and mature. Plus if they write things that are VERY much the same, you can get bored and decided to feed yourself to a squid for some variety in your life.
Personally? I really like knowing what to expect from an author.
I want their books to be different, OF COURSE, because I don’t want to re-read the same story. But I’m totally down for reoccurring themes and similar worlds and settings. I’m not going to throw down my chocolate sandwich in a rage because an author writes similar books. To me, it makes sense. We expect it from mortal-human-people-creatures right?! I know serious people and bubbly people — and while they have different moods and good days vs bad days…I still know WHO they are from how they act. Books are kind of like people in that way. Except less demanding for socialisation and easier to stuff into a bag and kidnap * if you like them a lot.
* What?!? You mean to tell me you’ve never kidnapped a book?! I have kidnapped books from my sister’s room and quietly never returned them. I’m like a really ninja sneaky BOOK THEIF within my own house.
Authors have to be mammothly talented to write copious amounts of books. Because they continually need NEW STUFF (especially if they want to make a career of it — and I say HUZZAH AND HURRAH to authors who are lucky enough to get multiple book deals and live off their passion!) and be NEW PEOPLE and imagine NEW SOCIETIES and put forth NEW ISSUES TO SOLVE. It’s kind of huge.
Obviously, too, we sometimes like ONE book by an author but then despise their sequel with the strength of 9 angry dragons. So there’s no “ONE ANSWER”. (Dangit. Why do all my discussions have 72 angles to view it from?? #help) But I do think it is perfectly acceptable for authors to write similar stories to their previous ones. They build a brand. They present their style. Not to say they can’t break out of the box, but I do so like to pick up a book and say “OH OH THIS DEFINITELY FEELS LIKE A BOOK BY [INSERT AWESOME AUTHOR HERE] AND I AM EXCITED FOR IT LIKE I AM EXCITED BY THE IDEA OF CHOCOLATE SANDWICHES”.
* FYI, I have never had a chocolate sandwich. Do such things exist???? Is the bread made from chocolate or is it chocolate between bread? And can I have one? Like now thanks?