In Write Away, Elizabeth George, one of my favorite writers, calls John Fowles the “incomparable” because he “was always out there, never writing the same book twice. He took big risks. Sometimes they paid off, and sometimes they didn’t.” (201)
I totally share her admiration for John Fowles and can say the same thing about Colum McCann, whose prose is breathtakingly beautiful, and whose novels (Let the Great World Spin, Zoli, and Dancer that I’ve read) differ greatly from one another.
Unless they create series, I admire writers who try different genres or, at least, avoid formulaic plots. In short, I don’t like cookie-cutters, and I’m quite surprised at some gifted writers who are hung up on them, for whatever reason. Maybe because it’s easier? Or it’s less time-consuming to whip them up, because they’re on a writing treadmill—a book a year? Some choose similar characters in every novel (a plain, lonely woman in her 30’s-40’s, searching for love) or a predictable plot (great love ending in the death of one lover), and such.
I feel sad about discovering an exciting author, falling in love with his/her prose, wanting to read all of his/her books, only to be disappointed after reading another two because they’re so similar to the previous one. In fact, they’re so similar that all three (or four!) blend in my mind into one. (Like all those movies with Jennifer Aniston, who always plays herself, not even bothering to change her hairstyle.) Huh? I think, and stop reading that author’s work. Done. Not interested. Which is the saddest thing not only for me, but for those writers too because they lose an avid reader.
Needless to say that I, as an author, don’t want to create cookie-cutters. So far, my three novels are different in genre and narration. Disengaged, coauthored with my friend, is a romantic suspense, written in epistolary form. Without Thinking Twice is a romance, narrated by four protagonists (two women and two men). A Measure of Guilt, a mystery, is written from the third person point of view. My fourth one, which I’m working on now, is a thriller, a sequel to my third one, narrated by two protagonists, alternatively. Even though the two characters are from the previous novel, they are now the narrators, which makes this book different, even if slightly. I do hope it’ll sound and feel different for my readers.