Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Call Me Stubborn…..

By R.J. Harlick

"Have you ever tried to incorporate a popular trend (such as zombies or vampires) into your own work? Have you ever felt pressure to do so to increase sales/circulation?"

A book signing immediately comes to mind. I can’t recall which Meg Harris mystery I was promoting, but it was a few years ago, when vampires and the like were the rage. Maybe they still are.

I was sitting up front in a local bookstore waiting for the clamouring hoards to approach, surrounded by tables of the latest vampire best seller. A woman came up to me and asked if I had vampires in my book.

It was one of those questions you aren’t sure how to answer. Do I obfuscate and hint that teeth dripping in blood and innocent white necks lurk somewhere in the story or do I just tell the truth and lose the sale? She by the way was the first customer to approach since I had taken up my station.

I let honesty prevail. “No,” I said and waited for the fallout.

“Good,” she replied. “I’ll buy it. I can’t stand vampires.”

She pretty well summed up my feelings about vampires and other popular trends. I’m afraid I’m a bit of a rebel and tend to shy away from the latest and greatest.

Along a similar vein, I have also never been persuaded to change the setting of my books. The push is very real and very strong for Canadian crime writers to set their books anywhere other than in our country. Publishers and agents have deemed Canadian settings not sexy enough to bring in the big bucks. As a result few Canadian crime writers actually set their books in the country where they live. I’ve known many a writer who was forced to change a Canadian setting in order to sell their manuscript to one of the big international publishers.

Fortunately for those of us stubborn enough to stick with our Canadian settings, there are good independent Canadian publishers who are very happy to publish books about Canada. My own publisher, Dundurn, is one of them. A terrific publisher, by the way.

To say I have not been tempted would be a lie. I have dallied around the idea of setting my mysteries elsewhere, but invariably I come back to the fact that I want to write about the country where I was born, grew up and have spent my entire life. We have fabulous settings, exciting stories. I want to tell them. So, I won’t make the big bucks. I don’t care. I am writing about what I want to write about. And hope my readers want to read about them too.


Meredith Cole said...

I'm so glad you're sticking with a Canadian setting, R.J.! I love reading books set around the world, and it makes me mad when someone writes incorrectly about a place I've lived (and know well) like New York City or Washington, DC, just because their publisher wants them to set the book somewhere salable or well known.

RJ Harlick said...

Thanks, Meredith. And a big thank you to Alan for posting this blog. My satellite internet provider was having technical difficulties this morning. While I could email I couldn't access the net. As you can see I am reconnected... thankfully. I was beginning to go through withdrawal.