Sunday, March 13, 2011

Help me understand. Please.

Can someone educate me, please? I don’t understand something and I desperately want to. I am sick and tired of being obscure. I want to be popular but I don’t understand public taste. I can understand why some folks like horror even though I don’t. I can understand why some women like romance novels even though I generally don’t find them to my liking. This is not what I’m talking about. I want to understand some popular trends. Someone please explain the following “hot” subjects that sell books:

1) Vampire horror

2) Bonnet romance (Amish, Puritan, prairie, whatever)

3) Dragon fantasy

Let’s start with the last category, because this illustrates my dilemma the best. I read fantasy. I write fantasy. I like some of the other fantasy offered for sale. I love the Harry Potter series, for example. I even like some of the books that include dragons, my favorites being Melanie Rawn’s Dragon Prince series. But I don’t understand why dragons by themselves are so hot (pun intended). I mean, why will people seek out dragon fantasy above all others? What is so darned attractive about dragons? I just don’t get it. For me, I can pretty much take or leave a dragon being in a story. I care no more than whether the detective in a mystery has a cat or not. But there is no denying that dragons are hot and dragons sell books, so someone please explain WHY. Is it about flying? Could I duplicate dragon success with a large avian species? Bats and pterodactyls have similar wings to what I see depicted on dragons. Could that be the secret: leathery wings? Big teeth? The ability to swallow a human whole? WHAT?

Same for vampires. Now I don’t particularly like the horror genre, but I have read at least one vampire story I liked (would I have let my daughter pose for the cover if I didn't like the book?) but it was in spite of it having a vampire main character, and not because of it. I’m not asking to be converted to horror, because I “get”, in general, why horror is attractive. I’m asking what it is about vampires in particular that make folks go gaga. It doesn’t seem to matter if the vampires are truly frightening beasts or sparkly high school students. Write a vampire book and you have an automatic leg up that you didn’t have if you just wrote some other monster story.

Bonnet romances: once again, I plead ignorance. I can understand why women read romance. (Do any men read straight romance, or do they just tolerate a romantic sideline in an action adventure story?) Some have told me that they feel my first novel has strong romantic overtones, and while they are not accidental, I hesitate to label it romance because as a genre, Romance is very rigid in its expectations and my stories do not fit the mold.

But even though straight romance is not my cup of tea, I “get” it. I understand the attraction (am I on a roll with these wordplays?). I understand why it sells UNTIL we narrow the genre to those books whose covers have the heroine wearing a bonnet. If it were only one or two of these out there, I’d say it was just an anomoly. When you’re looking to be different/fresh/unique, you look outside the box and Amish women are foreign enough that they give an exotic taste I would expect to be used once or twice the same as I would expect someone else has probably already written a Romance novel set in Spain. But it’s not just one or two. They’re EVERYWHERE. Dozens and dozens of them. What the heck is up with that? Why are bonnet romances (as a distinct subset of the whole genre) so darned popular? I mean, can I just change the hat on the heroine and still be trendy? Is a hijab just as alluring? How about a lace mantilla? I know it sounds like I’m poking fun, but I’m trying to illustrate just how little sense this makes to me. I. Don’t. Get. It.

If you do understand even one of these popular literary trends, please do enlighten me. PLEASE.


  1. I don't understand it either, but I'm also probably the only person with an English degree who doesn't like Shakespeare. . .

    As for the bonnet romances/Amish romance -- I think they became popular so all these other writers jumped on board the horse and buggy and decided it was an easy way to get readers. I wish I had Sue Dent's courage to just say exactly what I'm thinking, but this is the tame version =)

    I've read one, maybe two (one was an advance copy from the woman who made them famous --can't think of her name and I interviewed her for a story! isn't that sad??? -- and it was good, I liked the characters and the plot, but I don't want to read any more.

    I'm not much a fantasy person, either, dragons or otherwise. Your books were the exception, I think I burned dinner because I was trying to read and cook at the same time one day =)

  2. Dragons--I love them. Why? They're not real, so there's the whole mythical thing--yet, they are in SO many cultures--maybe they really DID exist at some time ;). They just look. so. cool. The wings, the scales, the magic (usually), the fire-breathing. They're mysterious and beautiful, powerful but usually have one key weakness. I'm not sure. Maybe it's the combo of beauty and power the most. Unicorns are beautiful, but let's face it, they're white horses with horns :P. Other mythical creatures just don't quite measure up. And, to answer your other question, you could pull off the same thing with another cool creature, I think.

    Vampires--it's the immortality thing. And let's face it, these days vampires are portrayed as hot. It's the sexy thing. They weren't such for a long time--they were monsters. Then Keifer Sutherland came along with his cool trench coat. And someone turned Bram Stoker's Dracula into a borderline porn flick. (I am, of course, taking this from the secular side. I've only read one Christian vampire story, and it was a bit different, although the vamps in that were all portrayed as really good looking and "tempting" as well.)

    For both dragons and vamps it's probably a combination of beauty, power, and a desire to either tame the evil beast or destroy it.

    Bonnet romance--I'm clueless. I don't read romance at all for the most part. I've read one series by a personal friend, which I loved, because it was realistic and wasn't focused on sex, or like Christian romance focused on avoiding sex :P. And I've read a couple secular romances that were cross-genre with fantasy or sci-fi and I skipped all the romance/sex scenes. Other than that, I have no idea. I'm thinking the appeal of the bonnets in particular relate to a desire to escape from modern society for something simpler. I guess the bonnet itself is a visual clue to the reader that the book is like that? Who knows.

    Hope this helped a little.

  3. Susan, LOL at the English major who doesn't like Shakespeare!

    Thanks, Kat. Yes, it did help a little. So people are drawn to powerful, mystical, beautiful, and immortal. And some people evidently think dragons look cool. Gosh, I am at such a loss. I mean, I think bugs look cool, but I wouldn't want to ride one, nor read book after book after book about others who ride them. I don't discount that someone could write ONE bug-riding book that I could like, but as a major selling point equal to having Harrison Ford star in a movie?

    Maybe I should just accept that I am not going to be good at the trendy thing. There's just something inside of me that's not wired the same as normal people. They'd probably see me for a fraud if I just slapped dragons (or giant immortal bugs) into a world to try to sell books.

    It's kind of depressing, being so weird. I don't march to the beat of a different drummer. I can't hear any drums at all and the bagpipes are playing a dirge.

  4. New reader to your blog...I think the appeal of dragons come from the coolness factor. Just like Kat alluded to, the fact that dragons (fire-breathing dinosaurs from a Biblical worldview) is a fascinating subject to explore, the drawing effect is there.

    Vampires...I loathe them with a passion and would root for the destroyers of vampires than the characters (even if they were 'good.') The appeal? Hollywood's portrayal of hot guys and hot girls are vamps was essentially exploded by Twilight.

    Bonnet fiction/Amish: Like you, I was dumbfounded when I went to and found A LOT of the bestsellers under this category. Maybe the readers of this type of fiction is, of course, the Amish ladies who long for the romance the books portray.

    All in all, Caprice, I would say stay true to what God wants you to write and don't seek to be popular...instead seek to be authentic.

  5. Hi EJ! Thanks for stopping by my blog!

    I can tell you're one of the ones who likes dragons because you say "because of the coolness factor" like everyone should just recognize that dragons are cool. It's probably patently obvious to you, but I'm coolness impaired and I never really thought they were all that cool. I mean, sure, I'd like to have a pet that could fly with me on its back, but I'd be just as happy to have a giant bird or bat. I kinda like the big dumb rhino bug from Bug's Life too.

    I have to LOL at your last statement. I'm nothing if not authentic, but I'm afraid that just translates to the vast majority and "whacked-out weird". I'd kind of like to sell books so I could justify all this time I spend writing. It's a business, like anything else. So I've either got to figure out WHERE the people are who like what I already write (and I have been looking a very long time with very little luck) or I have to figure out what the people like and try to provide the product they want.