Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Tess Gerritsen's Blog

Not that she needs my help, but if you haven't checked out Tess's blog lately, she's finally entered the 21st Century and upgraded to a new look that allows readers to post comments.

Visit her at http://www.tessgerritsen.com/blog and say hello. Link to her too. Tess is a rarity in this profession: A bestseller who is gracious, generous, not the least bit conceited, and actually takes the time to interact with her fans.

And remember: No one tell her that she's entered a black hole that will absorb hours and hours of her writing time. Mum's the word.

Copycatting

I have a dirty confession to make.

When my agent was shopping my first Jack Daniels book around to publishers, she compared it to Janet Evanovich. When Hyperion bought the series, they compared it to Janet Evanovich. I also began comparing my books to Evanovich's, because hers had a female lead and were funny, as were mine, and many people told me they were similar. Reviewers mentioned it. Blurbers mentioned it. My publisher thought enough of the comparison to make my book covers brightly colored, easily mistaken at a distance for those of the Divine Miss E.

I'd always intended to read Evanovich. Really. But as my career took off, I spent all my time reading for blurbs, or to help newbies, or the books of my friends, and I never got around to reading any Janet. Even though I continued to compare my books to hers.

I recently had an offer from Benbella books to write an essay about Janet Evanovich for an upcoming book. I like Benbella (they are releasing a collection of James Bond essays this summer, which includes a funny one by me) so I said yes.

In order to write this essay, I thought it prudent to read the Stephanie Plum series. Which I've been doing. And it has shocked me. Why?

Because my writing is awfully similar to Janet Evanovich's.

If someone reads Janet's books, and then my books, they could easily think I was imitating her. But I'm not. It would be a neat trick, copying someone I've never read.

Still, some of the similarities are eerie. Stephanie's screwed-up life is similar to Jack's, her Grandma Mazur is similar to Jack's Mom, her partner Lula is similar to Jack's partner Herb, Ranger is similar to Phin, and the goofy characters and the dialog strike similar chords.

I wondered how this could be. First I considered evolution, and common ancestors.

When I was younger, I read Robert B. Parker, and Ed McBain, and John D. MacDonald, and Rob Kantner, and Dave Barry, and Lawrence Block. If I was imitating any writing styles when I first started out, it was their styles. Perhaps it was the same for Ms. Evanovich. If she's a Spenser fan, that could be the link; we both imitate Parker. What's strange is that when you read Parker's Sunny Randall books, they seem like much more of a rip-off of Evanovich than my books, but in reality they are just a female version of Spenser.

Perhaps there are only so many ways to create likeable series characters. They should be flawed, somewhat neurotic, have goofy larger-than-life sidekicks, and the same goals and dreams that all people have. It is possible, even likely, that similar books can arise independent of one another.

The Jack books have some Robert Parker type wisecracks in them. They also have some Thomas Harris scares and some Richard Stark noir. But ultimately, they are Konrath. At this point in my career, my style is my own, and I like to think it's pretty distinguishable. And, hopefully, some new writer is reading my stuff and imitating the hell out of it.

As for Janet---the first nine books in the series are a lot of fun. If you like Jack, check them out.