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Can the Same-Old, Same-Old Be Great?
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Lynda X



Joined: 05 Apr 2007
Posts: 1455

PostPosted: Thu Sep 13, 2012 5:23 pm    Post subject: Can the Same-Old, Same-Old Be Great? Reply with quote

Jean has written an interesting review of Jo Goodman's book, THE LAST RENEGADE. She ends by saying she couldn't give it a DIK (desert island keeper) status because Jo Goodman has repeated herself in this book like her previous ones, and that you can't be great unless you stretch yourself.

Unfortunately, I think she's on to something. As a former teacher, I knew that some of my lessons were great: I enjoyed them, the kids did too, and most importantly, I could tell that they learned something. However, if I repeated these lessons, something I could so easily do, they continued to succeed, but I got bored. I know that if the audience had not changed every year, it REALLY would have been deadly. Fortunately, teaching offers a constant challenge, but I suspect that anything you are really good at leads to boredom, if repeated too often. I am bored by my chocolate chip cookies, and I suspect if I made them for dessert all the time, so would all my guests.

But to get back to romance books, I have fallen deeply in love lots of times with authors, but unfortunately, I ALWAYS fall out of love. I cannot think of even one author that I have read with pleasure for, say, ten years. Or probably even two, if I can get her back list. Some authors have only one story, one set of characters, regardless of setting. Some have lots of different stories and authors, but their quirks become too irritating. When you notice that the heroine always says, "I'm sorry" to people when things go wrong, or the hero--cowboy, former Regency cad or were-dragon--at some time leaves the heroine "for her own good," the author is on her way out.

Right now, my author of choice is Courtney Milan, but her last two books (novellas, really) have fallen short of my esteem. I'll definitely buy the one coming out next month and maybe one of two after that, but I fear I see the writing on the wall.

Are you as fickle as I am? Or is it that just as in the past, really great writers who produce work after astounding work are very rare?
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dick



Joined: 22 Mar 2007
Posts: 2505

PostPosted: Thu Sep 13, 2012 8:38 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I don't know, but I think that, in the case of romance, the same-old/same-old is exactly what people are looking for. A great number of posters state that they have comfort reads that they return to many times. Just recently, for example, Mark wrote in a post that he had read the same books dozens of times. Surely that suggests that same-old/same-old has a power all its own. Even the formulaic patterns of genre fiction suggest that familiarity is exactly what readers want.

And, in other things, too, we often find greatness of a kind in certain products and return to them exactly because they never fail to repeat the sameness.

The reviewer saw the book as lacking greatness because it didn't, in her judgement, stretch beyond the author's usual output, even though I assume from what you wrote that she found it a satisfying read. Another reader/reviewer might read the same book and find it great exactly because the author did well what she always did well--met expectations.

So I guess I do think same-old/same-old has a kind of greatness to it.
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Mark



Joined: 22 Mar 2007
Posts: 1374

PostPosted: Thu Sep 13, 2012 10:26 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Quite easily. As I have said many times (e.g., in "Genre Labels" on the WWW board), how much we enjoy anything depends on our expectations before the event. This is why good books can still receive poll votes as "most disappointing" if the reader read them after too much hype. It is also why I can enjoy a book more on a rereading than on the first reading--my expectations are more accurate. (And in stories with heavy world-building, the world is familiar on a reread.)
I have been enjoying books by JAK ever since I started reading romances, and I can still count on her for new stories I will enjoy. I notice some patterns and repetitions, but none that prevent enjoying the books.
All of these authors have more than one book with my highest humor rating:
holbrook, cindy
evanovich, janet
quinn, julia
macalister, katie
alexander, victoria
lansdowne, judith a.
nelson, judith
These authors have one book with my highest humor rating and more than one with my next highest rating:
michaels, kasey
leclaire, day
crusie, jennifer
laurenston, shelly
davidson, maryjanice
krentz, jayne ann
quick, amanda
smythe, sheridon
garwood, julie
thompson, vicki lewis
phillips, susan elizabeth
jensen, trish
joy, dara
jensen, emma
Several of these authors repeat elements in their works, but I'm still quite ready to read the next book I get from any of them.
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erika



Joined: 26 Mar 2007
Posts: 502

PostPosted: Thu Sep 13, 2012 11:30 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I don't mind the same old same old if its compelling can't put down reads.
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Tee



Joined: 22 Mar 2007
Posts: 4225
Location: Detroit Metro

PostPosted: Fri Sep 14, 2012 7:12 am    Post subject: Re: Can the Same-Old, Same-Old Be Great? Reply with quote

Lynda X wrote:
I cannot think of even one author that I have read with pleasure for, say, ten years.

That's interesting, Linda; because, even though like you, I've fallen away from some authors and their books, I've also held on to quite a few for 10 years or more. For instance (in no particular order):

Debbie Macomber
Mary Balogh
Candace Camp (and her alternates)
Robyn Carr
Sandra Brown
Jayne Krentz
Linda Howard
Nora Roberts
Susan Elizabeth Phillips
Karen Robards
Lisa Kleypas
Jennifer Crusie
Dorothy Garlock
JoAnn Ross
Linda Castillo
Claire Cook
Tess Gerritsen
Lisa Gardner (and her alternates)

I have read the books of these authors for many years; and with few exceptions, had no lull in them. I continue to read them today and look forward to their new issues.
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jaime



Joined: 23 Sep 2011
Posts: 521

PostPosted: Fri Sep 14, 2012 6:45 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Anything will get old, tedious, or just too much if you are exposed to too much of it. Example: As a teen I worked the summer in a chocolate factory in Germany. Loving chocolate I thought at first I was in summer job paradise. Well, at the end of the summer I couldn't even stand the sight of chocolate and it was a good long time before I wanted to eat chocolate again.

I have loved reading since I was a little one but I have learned that I better vary my reading and don't read too many books in the same genre and/or by the same author in a row or I'll burn out on the genre and the author. This becomes quite tricky when I discover an author and have the urge to glom everything they have written - then it's a conflict between "gobble, gobble!" and "uh, better put the breaks on".

I have found that all the big names in romance have their own stick that they are usually ...erm... sticking with and if one reads too many of one writer it can get pretty repetitive.

As for Jo Goodman in particular - good writer but every single romance I read by her has a heroine who has an abusive past, usually sexual abuse. It really kind of makes me ponder what Goodman is working out in her romance writing.
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NoirFemme



Joined: 22 Mar 2007
Posts: 1480
Location: America

PostPosted: Sat Sep 15, 2012 1:44 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I've just read the review for Victoria Dahl's latest and have come to the conclusion that comfort reads in romance--or genre fiction, in general--doesn't necessarily mean desiring the same thing from an author in every book.

To use the Dahl review for example, though I loved the four books I've read in her catalog, the well-worn groove in Dahl's writing--namely, the H/H deciding to have no-strings attached sex on their path to HEA--doesn't attract me when this situation is fostered between characters as prickly and damaged as Cole and Grace. I can be attracted to an author for their voice and talent in making particular elements fresh time and time again, but if those particular elements are mixed with something I'm not crazy about, it's quite easy for me to nix reading the book.

The same goes for re-reads--it's a testament to the author's skill that I can read a book ten, fifteen, twenty times over the years and it still feels like the first time I discovered it. Yet, this doesn't mean I find every book in the author's catalog re-read or keeper-shelf material. It's that delicate alchemy that no one has been able to distill.
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LordRose



Joined: 25 Mar 2012
Posts: 87

PostPosted: Sat Sep 15, 2012 3:25 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I'm relatively new to romance novels, having only been reading them for the past few years, but I've certainly found that an author, although very good, can easily get repetitive. I read Mary Balogh's entire backlist all at once a year or two ago, and since then I have had difficulties reading her new books without thinking that such and such part is just like her other books. Since then, I have learned my lesson, and try to refrain from reading too many books by the same author in a row.
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dick



Joined: 22 Mar 2007
Posts: 2505

PostPosted: Sat Sep 15, 2012 11:52 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

That an author's repetitions of material eventually bore the reader, are not, it seems to me related to whether that repetitiousness has elements of greatness in it. Greatness in a particular book should reside in whether the first reading of it makes a reader say to self, "I'll want to repeat the experience I just had." If the reader then re-reads the same book many times, or reads another of the author's books to find the repetition of that experience because h/she expects a repetition of the experience, it seems to me the book has some greatness in it. Even if the reader never repeats the experience again, that the book aroused the desire suggests that something about it was great. I don't think, either, that it has to be the same book for all readers, and that seems especially so for readers of romance fiction.

The original question was whether repetition in itself could create a "great" book. I think most of the evidence suggests that it can, even if the greatness is discovered by only a single reader.
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Eliza



Joined: 21 Aug 2011
Posts: 1160

PostPosted: Mon Sep 17, 2012 9:57 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

There have been authors that I've tired of, definitely. On the other hand, there are authors I have been able to glom without having to take a break because I feel like I'm seeing more of the author's worldview through each of her books. A similar style or some familiar themes don't bother me if the author has done her job and caught my attention in a new or different way--or angle. I guess the risk is how much the author has to say. It's wonderful to see new things or see an author spreading her wings, but kinda sad when an author has only one or notes to play.
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JudyZ6666



Joined: 07 Jul 2011
Posts: 192
Location: Connecticut, USA

PostPosted: Tue Sep 18, 2012 9:50 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

>>but I've certainly found that an author, although very good, can easily get repetitive. I read Mary Balogh's entire backlist all at once a year or two ago, and since then I have had difficulties reading her new books without thinking that such and such part is just like her other books. Since then, I have learned my lesson, and try to refrain from reading too many books by the same author in a row.<<

I've found this to be true. I loved Mary Balogh for years--since the early 90's when she was doing Signet Regencies. I glommed her backlist last year (some I'd read way back when; others I hadn't) and this is the first year in a while that I haven't pulled all of her Simply novels off the shelf and reread them.

I was really wanting to make a chart counting the number of silver-eyed Dukes by the time I was done. Smile Not that I still don't love her, but I think the things we like about an author--and like again when we revisit every year or so--and the things that make them comfort reads are the very things that become annoying when you read too much at once. You know, like the chocolates. Smile

Judy
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Lynda X



Joined: 05 Apr 2007
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PostPosted: Wed Sep 19, 2012 4:17 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

It's funny. I can still love a particular book by an author whom I no longer read because of repetition or for any number of reasons. A comfort read is different, IMO, from your still liking everything by an author. Is that your experience too?
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JudyZ6666



Joined: 07 Jul 2011
Posts: 192
Location: Connecticut, USA

PostPosted: Wed Sep 19, 2012 7:16 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Lynda X wrote:
It's funny. I can still love a particular book by an author whom I no longer read because of repetition or for any number of reasons. A comfort read is different, IMO, from your still liking everything by an author. Is that your experience too?


Yep. And not liking an author's newer books has nothing to do with annual revisitations of that same author's backlist.

My "long term" authors are Mary Balogh, Johanna Lindsay, Julie Garwood, and Amanda Quick (I hadn't read any JAK until she did the Arcane books, but now I've read some of her older ones, and like them, too). I started reading them all in the early 90's.

I can't say that I'm drooling any more about their new releases. But, I'll still read them eventually (the library is a wonderful thing), and I still have piles of analog books that I pull out once a year or so and read again.

Judy
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Maggie AAR
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Joined: 23 Mar 2007
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PostPosted: Thu Sep 20, 2012 8:08 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

There is repetition and then there is recycling. To me, if an author has a certain type of story she tells and she tells it well, that works. For example, Suzanne Brockmann told the story of the military hero coming in to save the day very well. Every one of her guys was strong, brave and true. They excelled at what they did. I loved the comradery the guys shared and how they were just so tough until it came to their ladies. I stopped reading her when she began to try new things. I wasn't interested in the new stuff, I'm interested in the same old, same old. And could she still score a DIK hit for me when she delivered a well written same old same old? Yes.

What doesn't work for me is complete recycling where we have the same characters in the same story with maybe a change of location. This doesn't even have to be done by the same author. So for example, if I read one book about a Regency miss who defies convention and is supported in doing so by her socially acceptable friend who is fabulously wealthy and therefore beyond societal censure and there is a kooky elderly character and then another and another with the same elements there is no greatness in the book. This is cooking by the recipe or painting by the numbers. It defines the word average to me. Can an author shake that up and somehow still deliver a DIK? Yes, she can reach deep and really define the characters and make them memorable. But for the most part that isn't what happens.

maggie b.

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Lynda X



Joined: 05 Apr 2007
Posts: 1455

PostPosted: Thu Sep 20, 2012 5:24 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

You said it perfectly, Maggie B.
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