Last To Know

Last week, one of my Twitter followers mentioned that of my books Changer was the one she was most likely to re-read.  However, she went on to say that Child of a Rainless Year had had a “profound ongoing effect” on her worldview.  Later, she clarified that she had first encountered Child when studying the sacred nature of liminal spaces.  My novel intersected with other events in her life at just the right time, and thereby benefited from the resonance.

Jane's Fan

Jane’s Fan

Here’s a great mystery for you…

The author is the last to know why a particular book (or series) hits a chord with readers while another does not.  This confusing state of affairs is complicated by the fact that one reader’s absolute “love until death” book is another reader’s “meh.”

Same book.  Different reader.  That’s the only difference.

I’m certainly not the only author who has discovered that my “fan base” is really something more like “fans” base.  When I’d go to signings with Roger Zelazny, he might as well have been two different authors.  There were those fans who’d come up clutching a digest magazine or one of his collections of short stories.  They’d almost always start by talking about how a certain story – most often “A Rose for Ecclesiastes” – had grabbed them when it first came out and how they had devotedly followed his work since.

The other fan base was solidly anchored in the Amber novels.  These two groups of fans intersected on some of Roger’s novels.  Even then, though, there would be a slight split.  Fans of Roger’s short work tended to veer toward novels such as Lord of Light or Creatures of Light and Darkness.  Amber fans would more likely have read Jack of Shadows or Changeling.

Of course there were true “Zelazny fans,” who read everything, long and short, that he had written, but these were far rarer than you might think.

At the point in my life when I was going to Roger’s signings, my publications consisted of only one novel and a handful of short stories.  However, as my own body of work branched out from my early standalone novels into series, I began to see similar patterns.

There are those readers who met my work with my first novel, Brother to Dragons, Companion to OwlsChanger and its sequel, Changer’s Daughter (aka Legends Walking) are another starting point.  The third starting point are the “Firekeeper Saga” novels (first book, Through Wolf’s Eyes).  As I saw with Roger’s fans, my readership does cross, but where a reader first encountered my work definitely shapes expectations of what a “Jane Lindskold” novel is and should be.

Since someone is sure to ask, where do my collaborative novels fit into this picture?  Has having written with greats like Roger Zelazny and David Weber affected my readership?  Yes and no.  I certainly have readers who first found my work because they liked Donnerjack and/or Lord Demon, who enjoyed the various Honorverse pieces they read and so decided to sample this new (to them) author.  However, to become fans of my work, they then had to find something they liked in my solo work.

Anyhow, here’s the strangest thing about being an author…  Readers may have their favorites, and they expect me to share their preferences.   I don’t.  I wrote all twenty-five or so novels, all seventy or so short stories because they took me somewhere I wanted to go, resonated with some part of my life and interests.

It’s lots of fun to find out how and when and why someone decided to pick up one of my stories, gratifying when that person has decided to keep reading.  But still, after all these years, after all those books, I have no better sense of what a “Jane Lindskold” reader is than I did at the start.

4 Responses to “Last To Know”

  1. Peter Says:

    I guess I’m a doubly rara avis, being both a fan of Zelazny’s entire oeuvre (I started with Lord of Light and some of his short stories, worked my way out from there) and having discovered you initially through Donnerjack (I’ll admit, I was very dubious about picking it up when I first saw it.)

    When I discovered just how good it was, I decided to look for some of your solo work. I can’t remember if I picked up Brother to Dragons… or The Pipes of Orpheus first (it was definitely one of those two), and I’ve been hooked since.

    • Jane Lindskold Says:

      Thanks, Peter. I’m glad DONNERJACK worked for you. Living up to someone who I admired that much professionally and doing right by someone I loved that much personally was a real challenge.

  2. chadmerkley Says:

    Jane, your works are very, very diverse. Some of them I’ve absolutely loved at first sight, some have had to grow on me, and a couple I’ve really disliked, and there are one or two I haven’t read. An example of one that had to grow on me is THE BURIED PYRAMID, where I was reading it as a straight historical novel, and then got really thrown by the fantasy elements (I had similar reaction to David Weber’s IN FURY BORN). There are definitely some authors who stick with similar settings, themes, etc, but I think I’ve learned to expect something different from you each time.

    Speaking of which, do you have anything new coming out soon?

    • Jane Lindskold Says:

      Nothing new at novel length coming out for a while, but don’t give up hope!

      I’ve several short stories in the pipeline but only one scheduled — “Choice of Weapons” sometime this autumn.

      So, a slow time on the publishing side, but I’m writing. I find I need to keep the two elements separated or my creativity suffers.

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