I recently finished Meredith Duran’s April 27 release, Wicked Becomes You. After three stellar novels (The Duke of Shadows, Bound By Your Touch and Written On Your Skin), Duran went on my insta-buy list, and I think that’s often a precarious position to put an author in…because you build your expectations up. You get the book in your hot little hands, slaver over it like Gollum and his Precious, and hope it’s the best thing since sliced bread.
Sounds like I’m working up to a slam here, doesn’t it? But I’m not. I think I expected Wicked Becomes You to knock me on my ass, and it wasn’t really ass-knocking. It was technically well-constructed, well-written — although I felt like it could’ve been a little longer, or at least paced better — and the protagonists, Gwen and Alex were likable and rootworthy. It was enjoyable, a nice diversion. I liked it, but I didn’t connect to it as passionately as I did her previous works. Is it a failure on my part as a reader, or a commentary on the writing? Good question. I have no idea!
I think it’s why I’m finding the prospect of becoming a published author myself daunting. Obviously what’s good is in the eye of the beholder, but I can’t imagine anything more disheartening than being the subject of Laurell K. Hamilton-like scrutiny, where readers are constantly pointing out that she “used to be great.” Ouch. There’s a tacit pressure to knock it out of the park every time. I encounter that often in my day job, writing my weekly critical column The Soapbox, penning Q&A interviews and writing short, narrative news pieces. I want all these works to always be awesome and, well, sometimes that’s just not possible. Deadlines loom, writer’s block kicks in, etc. It’s impossible to be perfect. And any time you’re in the public eye in any sense, you’re opening yourself up to criticism.
Duran is part of the new wave of kick-ass historical romance writers, and she’s definitely set the bar. But what happens when you stop reaching the bar? Or when your readers re-set the bar too high?