Just got back from a two-week jaunt around Switzerland. We took in Zurich (for an hour), Interlaken, Zermatt and then Zurich again (for two days). After about a week, I came down with a serious case of scenery fatigue, which happens when you’re surrounded constantly by such awesome landscapes. You start to believe that the country’s background has somehow been … painted on.
See what I mean? Very odd.
And then of course, there was the occasional bout of altitude sickness . . .
So I took a short break from hiking, and, being the self-obsessed individual I am, started to think – mostly about me and the kind of writer I was trying to be.
I’ve had some really encouraging feedback for the Quisling Orchid, from my editor, the book’s currently being copy-edited, and I now have to face the prospect of coming up with ideas for the front cover.
And this is where things get a little bit tricky.
The novel is a literary piece set during the early years of the Norwegian invasion – and the last months of the 1960s. It’s characters are hard to hate and hard to love: the good are not always good, and the evil are not always beyond redemption. It’s an erotic tale of same-sex love, a spy thriller and a massacre mystery.
That’s quite a lot to reflect on a front cover, but the cover may not be my biggest problem.
Over the past few weeks, I’ve read a lot of eBooks: a bit of erotica, an occasional thriller, one or two action novels. And while I was reading them, one particular thought kept coming back to me:
How am I getting through this so quickly?
Well, one answer was pretty obvious: All the books were very short; perhaps a hundred pages at most (some were a bit longer). The other reason was was the books are very much genre-focussed: the thrillers contained a lot of action; the erotica novels contained a lot of sex. In many cases, the plot – if there was one – took a backseat, acting as a very loose thread binding the scenes together. And at first, I thought that the characters were not particularly well-developed – and in some cases so clichéd I could guess what they looked like, long before they found their way to a mirror to muse on their rugged good looks or goddess-like bone structure.
And I first I thought this was just bad writing
. . . but on the other hand, I was really enjoying the books.
So perhaps the real problem is that these authors understand the eBook market better than I do.
Here’s the thing. If the book is short then the reader doesn’t have to commit too much time to reading it. People are very busy these days, and there are lots of other forms of entertainment competing for our leisure time. Moreover, a shorter book is often ( though not always) quicker to write, which means the novelist can get to his next piece within a couple of months, rather than a couple of years.
The ‘template’ characters saves time and effort. The reader has come across the same characters in other books, so pretty much knows what to expect without having to focus too deeply on their mannerisms, dialogue and actions to gauge what kind of person they’re dealing with.
So are today’s eBooks deliberately designed to be fast, entertaining reads, without worrying too much about being too literary, or thought-provoking?
And in today’s world of fast, easily accessible entertainment, is ‘literary and thought-provoking’ now just a euphemism – in the eBook world – for ‘slow and time-consuming’?
Is this why so many Old Adults read Young Adult fiction?