Friday, 15 March 2013

More of the Same

There is a real attraction in writing novels that are ‘more of the same’. Think of Catherine Cookson and you know exactly what you are going to get. It’s good for the publisher and good for the writer because they know there is a market ready to be exploited. And the reader can be sure of what she/he is buying. In short, it’s good marketing practice.

But it’s also like setting up a cafe in which every item on the menu is just like every other. There’s no variety. The customer can order any meal at all and it will look and taste very similar. That might suit some diners, but not all.

I wrote three books which I call my Hampton Warlock trilogy. The main characters in each novel live in the same small Dorset village. (see But the stories differ from one another in almost every aspect. That was deliberate. I don’t want people to think of me as a one-genre writer. I want my readers to experience different emotions within the trilogy:  sometimes thrilling excitement, sometimes compassion, sometimes romantic joy, sometimes anger at the behaviour of the villains. My key characters differ radically:  the girl searching for her ancestry, the priest who left the church, the husband whose wife holds a terrible secret. Their only link is the village they call home. And the plots differ. One is centred on the history of conflict between England and Ireland. Another tells the tale of a child given up for adoption. The third explores the Second World War and its lasting effects through the experiences of one family.

So, which do you opt for? More of the same, or variety? In my view, there is room for both policies, but I prefer a touch of variety. Maybe I’ve been lucky in that none of my publishers have asked me for more of the same.

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