Wednesday, March 29, 2006

A Map of Literature

Yesterday I posted a video book trailer for my upcoming book on my website. Since it's also up on the video production company's site, I decided to Google my name (something I usually avoid) and see if they showed up.

Well. . . I'd been planning to blog about an upcoming Authors at Sea cruise my publisher's sending me on this coming weekend and my realization that part of the reason I've been so stressed out about this is because I'd be forced to go 9 DAYS!! without writing. Something I haven't done since going to Italy two weeks after 9/11. Usually I write every day. That's what I've done for twenty three years and it's always worked for me, so I wasn't all that happy about changing patterns. (At least in Italy I got pasta, ice cream, wine, and Michaelangelo. Which I figured was a pretty fair trade-off.) Fortunately, I just realized that by having to take an additional carry-on, I can fit my laptop in, so I'm feeling much more secure about the trip.

But I digress...

What I stumbled across was this amazing thing called a Map of Literature. You can put in an author's name and it'll tell you what other authors readers of that first author read. I've no idea where they get their information, but my "if you like JoAnn Ross" list (and you know I couldn't resist checking) turned out to be Jayne Ann Krentz, Jayne Castle, Linda Lael Miller, Sherrilyn Kenyon, Suzanne Brockmann, Nora Roberts, Elizabeth Lowell, Christine Feehan, and Emilie Loring.

I have no idea what that means. Especially since I tend to write all over the place. But it started me thinking about my own reading habits, which are even more eclectic than my writing. I currently have books scattered all over the house and car waiting to be read ranging from "guy" fiction like James Lee Burke, Dennis Lehane (a mystery god, imo), and John Sanford to "women who write guy fiction" like Lisa Gardner and Tess Gerritson, romantic suspense, paranormals, horror, romance, erotic romance, and two books of "literary" short stories by Annie Proulx (who I've been reading since before the Brokeback Mountain movie), and speaking of a mountains, a TBR stack of non-fiction books for a new story I'm researching. I tend to pick them up to suit my mood and I'm often reading two or three at a time. I can't imagine all these names showing up on the same Map of Literature.

Which got me wondering. Knowing that romance readers are the most eclectic group of readers out there, would your own reader map show that you enjoy visiting one particular literary "country" in depth; or are you more of a "world traveler?"

And yes, Sue-Ellen and Allie -- I'm only guessing here, but I suspect your reading passports would be stamped Scotland most often. :D


JoAnn Ross said...

Actually I should've said I got Michaelangelo's ceiling and his David. Not the artist himself. Though I did read this really hot erotica story once, where David came alive to this American woman tourist, and. . .

But I digress. Yet again. :)

Allie Mackay said...


Oooh-ho, JoAnn ....

As you can see from the time, it is currently creeping into the small hours which means Sue-Ellen is busy at work.

She's a night owl and does her best writing about now.

But I am lounging on the sofa in her office as she pecks away at her deadlines, so I thought I'd just pop in to agree with you.

Yes, yes, yesss, a glimpse in any reading passport for Sue-Ellen (or yours truly) would reveal only one literary location.

And you guessed right: Scotland.

The day Sue-Ellen's Scottish medievals or my own Scottish-set paranormals no longer sell is the day we will both exit the stage.

We've no desire to set our books elsewhere.

I suppose we've learned enough craft skills and have enough sense to research and then write, say, a cowboy romance or a Navy Seal hero story or maybe even a glittering London-set Regency.

But our heart wouldn't be in it. And that would show.

Any such endeavor would fall flat. It would read like a paint-by-numbers book because the passion would be missing.

Those heroes and their settings just don't fuel our passions. Don't make our hearts fill with giddy excitement and joy.

But mention Scotland and oh-ho! Talk about a rush!

Sue-Ellen would swear there is no joy sweeter than peering out a plane window and catching that first sweet glimpse of Scotland through the clouds!

Oh man oh man oh man!!

That gets to her every time.

So, you betcha, our reading passport would look just like Sue-Ellen's real-life passport: it'd be filled with Scotland.

Now if I could just get her to get me a passport, too! Then I could pop over there while she works ....

Have a great time on that cruise, JoAnn. I doubt it'll be as nice as sailing through the Hebrides, but I'm sure you'll still have a splendid time.

(and say hello to Victoria A. - tell her Sue-Ellen still smiles about that gift basket)

Slainte all around!
Allie Mackay

gailbarrett said...

I know that I'm eclectic. I write contemporary series romance but love to read so many different things, especially humor and historicals! I also have a few mystery series I really enjoy. Favorite authors: Jennifer Crusie, Amanda Quick, Roderic Jeffries, Susan Conant (dog mysteries), Elizabeth Lowell, Kathleen Woodiwiss, Diane Perkins, Roxanne St. Claire.... How much space do I have left????

Milady Insanity said...

How could it be anything but eclectic?

:) I read all over the place, and I too have a taste for guy fiction and books by women who write guy fiction.

Have you read Barry Eisler, JoAnn? The Rain books are so so good!

Map Of Literature's a cool link, by the way.

Nancy Morse said...

My taste in reading is all over the map. Sometimes I'll even read two books at once, provided they're completely different. I read The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova at the same time that I read Absolute Friends by John le Carre (one of my favorite authors). I'm about to begin The Dogfather by Susan Conant in between readings of Team of Rivals by Doris Kearns Goodwin. I love big sweeping historicals like the kind James Michener used to write, but I'll read almost anything from romance (of course) to the classics. I recently re-read Wuthering Heights for something like the 5th time. There's something about that brooding hunk Heathcliff that keeps me coming back again and again. Maybe it's the fierceness with which he loves that makes him redeemable in my eyes.

helenb. said...

Hey JoAnn - I'd have to say my reader map is pretty global. In genre fiction, I like my heroes in leather, be they modern or ancient. ;-) I like my heroines sassy and bold, and too smart to die. I love the classics and literature, but cut my wisdom teeth on fantasy. What can I say? Those beasts came in late. I love paranormal. There are lots of British mysteries on my shelves, along with Wodehouse and Fowles, Galsworthy and John Ralston Saul. At this moment, tucked-in with the genre fiction in my TBR pile is David Suzuki's LIFE OF A TREE and Helen Fisher's WHY WE LOVE.

Colleen Thompson said...

I think I'd qualify not only as a world but a galactic traveler when it comes to reading. As I look around my bookshelves, I see everything from light romantic mystery to heavy duty suspense and literary fiction to memoirs, fantasies, science fiction, historical and scientific nonfiction -- you name it.

Can you tell I was a liberal arts major?

JoAnn Ross said...

Barry Eisler -- okay, a new name on my list.

Nancy -- I keep telling myself I have to read the team of rivals book. (As a lifelong Yankee fan whose grandfather was an investor in the NY Dodgers, I love Doris best when she's talking about Brooklyn and the Red Sox.)

Helen -- You've just named two books I've never heard of and must now check out.

And Colleen and Gail -- I hate to travel, but it sounds as if traveling with you would feel way familiar!

Can you tell I was a liberal arts major who changed majors 5 times? (Once, from English Lit to Urban geography ten minutes after registering for my final semester senior year. :D) One of the things I love about writing is I can change majors every book.

Allie -- I'd suggest there are other lovely countries one can visit. Such as Ireland. Wales. Italy. Mexico. The Alps. Even Brazil, if you can overlook rats the size of terriors that come out on Ipanema Beach every night.
But I know Sue-Ellen already knows that from her days in the airlines, and I doubt you'd care. LOL One question. . . do you really ONLY even READ about Scotland, as well?

Allie Mackay said...

Yeppers, JoAnn ...

Sue-Ellen knows all those places you named from her airline days. And she'd heartily agree that each one is worth a visit. She especially knows the Alps, having lived in Munich for fifteen years with the Alps more or less on her doorstep.

As for READING about Scotland ....

Ah, well, that, my friend, is a two-edged sword.

Sue-Ellen reads tons of nonfiction books about Scotland. Books on everything from Scotland's history to Highland folklore and tradition, medieval battles and sailing, you name it, she has a book on it if it is about Scotland. Her office is wall-to-wall reference books on Scotland-everything and those books make up her late-night pleasure reading.

As for Scottish-set romances - oh, dear! - nope, she does not read Scottish-set romances by other authors.

Her fiction pleasure reading usually sees her picking up something entirely different from her own books. Most often a cozy, British-set mystery. She's especially fond of Sharyn McCrumb's "Elizabeth MacPherson" series. But also her Appalachian books.

She also enjoys the more traditional Regencies written by personal friends who know England very well: Pat Cody (Sue-Ellen has spent many holidays exploring England and Wales with Pat) and Blair Bancroft and the late and oh-so-gifted Patricia Oliver.

But, no, she doesn't read Scottish-set romances. Doing so is too much like an architect studying a building he didn't design.

Uh-oh ... I can hear her heading this way so I'd better scoot!

Slainte all around,
Allie Mackay

Sue-Ellen Welfonder said...

Ah, well, JoAnn ...

Allie was right. I do know the places you mentioned. And you were right about her. While I'll admit other places are lovely, too, even though it is Scotland that holds my heart, Allie-girl would surely balk at any such possibility. For her, it's Scotland or nothing.

She was spot on about my reading tastes, too. I do avoid reading in my own subgenre. Simply because I tend to read Scottish-set books with an overly critical eye and that detracts from the enjoyment of a book.

Allie also neglected to mention that I have Blaze and Impulse tucked into my carry-on bag to read on my upcoming trip to you-know-where.

And she left out several authors I always enjoy. The great Nora, for one. I view her books as sublime treats and she is one of the few authors I can read and totally let go of that pesky critical eye mentioned above. So I love anything she writes.

For me to really love a book it must be steeped in atmosphere. I want to be transported to a book's setting. As a wonderful example, Nora's fabulous Born In trilogy comes to mind. Those books took me right to her enchanted Irish setting.

If an author can do that, transport me into the book's setting and make me feel as if I am there, I am a dedicated reader for life.

Three examples of older books I have cherished for this reason are: The Far Pavilions by M.M. Kaye, The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett, and Tolkein's Hobbit and Lord of the Rings trilogy. (the books - I have yet to see the films)

So that's me in a nutshell: give me atmosphere and take me there, and I am smitten.

And now I'd best slip into my own tome-in-progress. The dreadline clock is ticking on me ....

Sue-Ellen Welfonder