Hallooo everyone!!! I'm SO glad to be back in the lair, you have NO idea!
I missed all the banditas and honorary banditas like crazy, but that's not the only reason I'm glad to be back. Sorry to say that the last few weeks have been the holiday from hell. And no, it's not just because I was forced to leave my laptop behind.
Despite the week at the beach when it rained non-stop and the proposed holiday to an island off the coast of Australia (above, left) where our flight was delayed 6 times over 4 days due to gale force winds, my husband and I were moderately optimistic when we flew down to Victoria (a southern state of Australia), to travel the Great Ocean Road (right).
The sunshine was a good start, as was the lovely country town of Port Fairy (below left and right) and the wineries at Coonawarra (right).
A few dozen bottles of wine later...
We thought we'd left our troubles behind us, but the straw that broke the camel's back was yet to come. We'd booked (as we thought) a charming cottage in a semi-rural setting, where the boys could play outside and see cows and sheep and we could fossick around wineries and olive groves and sight-see at will. When we called the owner to ask about checking in, she said we had to stay at a different property from the one we'd booked.
It was after 7pm, we'd been on the road for around 9 hours and our boys were screaming tired. We thought it a bit strange to be told to go to a different location when we'd spoken to the owner only days before and confirmed the booking, but when she said someone else was already staying in the charming cottage, we had no choice but to drive to the address we'd been given.
Nothing rural or charming about this place. It was a suburban house near a bay but with no view of the water and the only garden it had was a gravel yard with a tin shed out the back.
When we complained, we were told the property had been given the same starred rating as the rural cottage we'd expected, so we shouldn't be upset about the change. But we were upset, and when we tried to explain why, we realized it was because we'd been expecting one thing--looking forward to it very much, in fact--and received something altogether different. Item for item, the facilities in these two places were the same, but the experience each would give us would be poles apart.
And it occurred to me today how similar our disappointment was to the disappointment some readers express about romance novels when an established author tries something different. Readers come to expect a particular experience from a particular author. If that author fails to deliver that experience each time, devoted fans might well end up feeling cheated, even if, judged objectively, the book is just as good as other books by that author. It's not that readers want the same story over and over, it's the similar feeling of triumph over adversity, or light, flippant entertainment or dark, angsty emotion that you want each time you pick up that author's books.
So what do we, the writers, do about that? In some ways, there's no escaping your own voice. If it's a strong one, it shows through no matter what you write and your readers might well follow you up hill and down dale just to get more of your unique voice. Jenny Crusie could probably write a computer manual and I'd read it. But on the whole, I'd say that kind of following is pretty rare. As authors, do we have a duty to write the same but different every time, or should we be free to wander where the muse (or the girls in the basement) takes us?
I'm not sure I know the answer to this question, but after our holiday, I can certainly see both points of view.
What do you think? If you're a reader, do you want your favorite authors to write similar (but different) books each time? If you're a writer, do you feel constrained by this perceived expectation? And anyone else, what's your worst holiday story? One reader will win a copy of SCANDAL'S DAUGHTER and a postcard from my ill-fated holiday!