By Lonnie Cruse
Sandra Parshall recently blogged here about whether or not people enjoy reading the really graphic stuff. She also posted about it on a list or two of readers/writers, and she got quite a bit of discussion going. Coincidentally, members of the board of Sisters In Crime met with representatives of some well-known publishers to discuss what’s hot and what’s not. Apparently thrillers are, cozies aren’t. Okay, before you burn your completed cozy manuscript and rush to your computer to write a thriller, let’s talk about this.
During the discussion about these findings, one opinion posted online that struck a chord with me (paraphrasing here) was that popular trend or not, no publishing house or bookstore was going to force that person to buy and/or read something she didn’t want to simply because it was being touted as the latest trend. To which I quickly responded “Amen, Sister!”
Let’s face it, fashion designers have been pushing trends on us ever since fig leaves went out, and heaven help anyone caught wearing something that’s gone out of style. Or heaven forbid, white shoes after Labor Day. My darling sister-in-law takes great delight in reminding me of that rule every fall, and though I love her dearly, I take just as great delight in flaunting my white shoes in front of her. But really, haven’t we all learned to hang onto our out-of-fashion clothing, so we won’t have to buy them again when the trend swings back around? Lucky those among us who held onto their pedal pushers ages ago because now they are called Capri’s. Anyone trying to buy a Poodle skirt NOW is in for sticker shock. And who would’a though some fool would have brought the color chartreuse back into style? Hated the color way back when, still hate it now. But mostly I’m waiting for Nehru jackets to come back in style for men.
Fashion trends come and go at the drop of a hat (you’ll pardon the pun?) mostly because the industry needs something new every few minutes to be sure the rest of us are busy emptying our pocketbooks (does anyone call them pocketbooks anymore?) to buy something new and keep up with the latest trend.
And so it is in publishing. Nothing can stay static, new trends must emerge quickly so the buying/reading public will buy/read what’s hot. What they have not taken into account is that most of us have minds of our own. Therefore, we refuse to wear the latest style IF it doesn’t suit our bodies or dollars and we refuse to read what’s hot if it doesn’t match our reading tastes. So while thrillers might be “in” those who read cozies will stick to cozies and those who like thrills will still read thrillers when the current trend swings the other way. And most likely, never the twain shall meet.
I’ve always been a fan of vampire lit, and no one sets my little heart to beating like Bella Lugosi. I was reading vampire lit long before it became the latest trend. I’m still reading it, and I’ll be reading it when it goes “out.” Which could happen by the time I post this, given it’s been a trend for more than five minutes. Maybe you should grab one to read now, assuming you’re interested?
My point, which I’m sure you’ve gotten by now, is NEVER write to a trend. By the time you finish typing 200-300 pages, had it critiqued/edited, sent it to the rounds of agents and publishers, you’ll get letters back stating that the trend is over and you need to write to the newest trend. The White Sock Killer Trend? (Does she wear them or kill them? You decide.) Or perhaps the, um, er, ah, frankly I can’t think of any other subject beyond white socks that has NOT been covered in mystery, try as I might. If you have an idea for a new trend, go for it.
But mostly you should write what you know and more important what you love. It may have been done, and done, and overdone again. It may be out of style. But if you love it and know it, you’ll most likely do it well, and if you’re lucky, better than anyone else. And someone will buy it. And read it. And you’ll have started yet another “new” trend. I’m saying do your own thing. Don’t try to do someone else’s. Have fun with it. And don’t forget to create a character who wears Nehru jackets. Trust me, it will sell. And trust your own instincts as to what you should write. (Pictured right, Nehru jackets worn by two rather famous models.)