Saturday, April 25, 2009

Trend, Schmend

Posted by: Lisa Hendrix
Currently working on:  IMMORTAL CHAMPION
Mood: Waxing philosophical (because it's better than waxing the floor)

Trend-setting in fashion has never been my thing. For that matter, neither has trend-following, at least not in a timely manner. Back in my HS and college days, if I started wearing something, you could be pretty sure the trend was already over. I was fortunate enough to make a friend or two along the way who could point me in the right direction 
and keep me from looking like a total dufus, but through most of my life I've avoided the whole problem by keeping to classic styles: blazers, skirt or pants, turtlenecks or oxford shirts. Toss in the occasional tailored dress—when I can find one with a waist that falls somewhere near mine instead of 5 inches too high—and you've got my closet.  [Wishing I look like The Hepburn...]

And yet in books, I've too often found myself trend-watching. I think the tendency comes out of my first sale. I was finishing up a medieval just as the bottom fell out of the medieval market. Then I had a chance at an editor appointment. The house had just launched a new line of western-set historicals, and I realized that the idea I had for a second medieval would work just as well in the American west. So I pitched that one and ended up selling it to that editor. I wrote another western, then faded away just as that particular trend (and my editor) did.

When I came back, my new editor was looking for contemporaries and paranormals. I had a couple of ideas floating around in the back of my head, so I wrote one of the latter (paranormal light, really) and then a couple of the former. And then I had family issues that took me away from writing again.

And came back to another new editor.

This time, I had an idea—a dream, really— that had nothing to do with what anyone was looking for. I LOVED this idea and the even bigger idea that grew out of it, and that's what I pitched, and the stars or the Muses or something were with me—or perhaps it was just my clear enthusiasm—and my editor loved it too.  As it happens, the idea touched on a trend that was current (paranormal) and on one that was due to come back and now has actually started to burgeon (historicals/medievals) to come 
up with a "paranormal historical romance." And for once I was out ahead of a trend.  Not setting it, perhaps, but not tagging along like your little sister, either.  At any rate, I wasn't trend-hunting, 'cause if I had been, I would undoubtedly have been the last onboard, just as I was the last girl in high school to put on hot pants. (Stop snickering, ladies.  I only weighed 120 pounds back then...)  [Anyone recognize Jo Ann Pflug, aka Lt. Dish from *M*A*S*H*?]

So what do you take away from this?  I don't know.  It wouldn't be "Write to trend." That first sale (Hostage Heart) came from an idea that I already had, and I merely tailored it to the trend. And it's not like a forced myself to write something I didn't like. I read westerns and still do, and the next one came to me easily (Drifter's Moon). 

But it also wouldn't be "Never write to trend." I generated the ideas for the next books (Razzle Dazzle, To Marry an Irish Rogue, and Runaway Bay) specifically because my editor was looking for those kinds of book. That doesn't mean I didn't enjoy writing them.  Those ideas came to me just as easily and flowed with just as much joy as that very first unsold medieval.  I always have a dozen or more sets of characters rolling around in my skull anyway, so it's easy to coax one or two up to the front to meet a need. Right now, I could easily drift off course on my Immortal Brotherhood series and write something utterly different. But I won't.

I guess the message is "Write the book you WANT to write." If your idea is unique and "weird" and a "tough sell" but you love it and can't imagine writing anything else, write it.  You probably have equal shots at being the one to set the trend or nose diving into the tank of anonymity. That's the risk you take. On the other hand, if you have a a couple of ideas that are equally attractive and one just happens to suit the trending market and you want to have a better chance at selling...well, why not write that one?  Just don't write a book you have no desire to write solely because it's a trend.  Unless, of course, you need the money and already have the sure sale.  Or if... 

Oh, what the heck.  Be bold. Write what you want, for whatever reason you want. Plenty of people have supported their families by writing a combination of books of the moment and books of their heart.  Just ask Charles Dickens and Mark Twain.

It's your life and your business. You get to run it how you want. Don't let anyone tell you otherwise.

[Think these Harajuku Girls worry about trends? Or do they just want to have fun?]

—————

BTW, the result of that dream I mentioned is The Immortal Brotherhood series, Book 2 of which, IMMORTAL OUTLAW, is coming out in about 5 weeks.  Excerpt goes up today at lisahendrix.com. Pop on over for a peek.



2 comments:

Laurel said...

You really speak to the heart of the matter here. If it really calls to you as you write then it will call to someone else too. Readers want a story that really comes to life and offers escape from the mundane world. Your enthusiasm for the story as well as for your craft is what makes the sale and will continue to draw readers to your stories.

Jessa Slade said...

Love the pix. They're a great reminder that being yourself is its own statement.