Jenna Black's Blog Experiment

Wherein romance author Jenna Black plunges into the terrifying new territory of blogging . . .


Thursday, February 23, 2006

The Magic of Books

I've often thought that writing is as close to magic as it's possible to get in the real world. And I don't just mean because authors create strange new worlds and people. It's the way books can suck you in and create emotions in you. To me, that's like a kind of magic, like a spell has been cast on me. And boy, do I ever love it.

My most recent experience with book magic was reading the Weather Warden series by Rachel Caine. I'd just gone through a dry spell, where I'd tried to read several books on my TBR pile and just couldn't get into them. They were all books that had gotten great buzz, and I was very enthused about reading them. But each one left me flat, that magic spark missing.

Then I picked up Ill Wind, the first book of the Weather Warden series. And by the first sentence, I was hooked. The first sentence is "Well, thank God this is about to be over, I thought as I drove--well, blew--past the sign that marked the Westchester, Connecticut, city limits." Now, this isn't one of those hook sentences that drew me in because it in itself was so extraordinary, strange, or exciting. It does have interest to it, because you immediately want to know what's about to be over, but I, at least, didn't feel the great imperative to keep reading because of a burning desire to answer that question. What got me from that first sentence was the writer's voice and the narrator's tone. I knew from that first sentence that I was really going to enjoy this book.

That to me is magic. I blew through the book, and as soon as I finished it, I put it on the shelf where I keep the books I read over and over again. As a writer, I should probably analyze what it was about that book that so totally engrossed me and made me put it on my keeper shelf. As a reader, I don't want to look too closely because I don't want to spoil the magic.

I've continued to read the series since then. I read all three of the others last week, while I was on a business trip to Topeka, KS. They're all wonderful. These are urban fantasies, not romances, but there's a strong romantic element running through them. Here's the thing that struck me when I read the fourth (and, so far, last) book: much as I love this author, this series, and these characters, the magic is going to end for me eventually, and it's because of the romance.

In order for the tension and drama to continue, the heroine and her lover must be kept apart. However, eventually, that separation is going to become too frustrating for me as a reader. I'm so involved with those characters that I'm desperate for them to get together and live happily ever after. But for that to happen, the series as it is has to come to an end. What a conundrum, huh? I want more books, I want to be continually swept away, but I want to have my satisfying ending, too.

I think series are the most difficult magic to pull off. They're popular with readers because when you love one book in the series, you're hoping that the other books will affect you in exactly the same way. It's not that you want the same story over and over, it's that you want the same reading experience. But for me, at least, that kind of series strength is very hard to maintain. Eventually, they start to get repetitive, or the flavor changes, or something (like the romance) gets frustrating. But man, when the magic has you by the throat, it's a glorious thing!

I hope my Guardians of the Night series can cast that kind of magic spell on my readers. That's the single most important reason I write--to try to give to readers what other writers have given to me over the years. Only time will tell if I'll succeed.


At 2:53 PM, Blogger Jeanne said...

Jenna, I so agree with you regarding series. I absolutely love them and write them (well, at least a trilogy with an open ending for more stories to come). But they are still I think, among the greatest draw for readers to return to an author.
I am eagerly awaiting your first book.
Best of luck.


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