I've been doing a lot of interviews/general talking as the Spirit War's release date gets closer (SO EXCITED!), and the question of "what are your favorite books?" has come up a lot, as it does. For the record, my favorite book changes all the time, but perennial favorites include The Last Unicorn, Dune, The Deed of Paksenarrion, 1984, The World Without Us, and Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind.
As I was answering all these questions, though, I began to think why I choose the books I do and more, why there are certain books I can't seem to enjoy no matter how hard I try or how good I know they are. For example, confession time, I can not get into Game of Thrones. I have tried four times in the last ten years to read the first book and I've never made it past the first hundred pages.
This infuriates me, because I know I'm missing out. All my friends love the series, but I just can't get into it. Same with The Night Circus (Erin Morgenstern). I've heard nothing but amazing things about this book, and while I got a good half way through, I just never really cared enough to finish it.
I actually have a very long and impressive list of books other people loved but I could never get into, including several genre classics I feel I should read as a writer. But no matter how hard I try, I just can't make myself finish them.
I think this is in part because Rachel the Writer and Rachel the Reader approach books differently. Rachel the Reader is far, far crueler than Rachel the Writer. When I'm reading, my tolerance for slow starts or gentle build up is next to zero. Sometimes I just hate characters, other time there's something in the book that I find distasteful to the point where I don't want to read any more about them. And sometimes I just don't care enough to keep going.
This incredibly picky, irrational way of judging books horrifies Rachel the Writer, most of all because it's so arbitrary. Like, I can see as a writer that something is good, but the reader part of me just does not care. It's one thing to understand that not everyone will like every book and quite another to see it in yourself, especially when it's so easy to start seeing reasons a reader could hate my work. Undermining doesn't even begin to describe it.
Some writers talk about their internal editor. Me? I fear my internal reader. I'm constantly scared the bitch will zero in on something and that will be that. I've actually put down whole, perfectly good novels because the reader half of me wasn't on board, and while that's probably a good thing, I still can't tell you why the book didn't work. As someone who likes to be scientific and specific, it drives me NUTS.
So, have you ever had a novel you knew you should have love but didn't? Do you let fear of reader expectations cloud your writing? Do you notice a difference between your writer mind and your reader mind? I'm really curious!