We have all heard it said, “Don’t write what is popular; write what you love to read.”
Let’s take a look at two authors from the past twenty years who have shot to the top of the charts even though they dance to the beat of their own drums.
Outlander Series by Diana Gabaldon
Publishing houses at the time did not care for books written in first person instead of third person, but that didn't keep Diana from writing hers in first person. She was a University professor with scientific computing and database expertise. She wrote her first novel while still employed, and only quit her day job after she’d finished writing the second book in 1992 at around the age of 40.
According to Wikipedia, Diana started to write Outlander as a ‘practice’ novel in 1988 (it was called Cross Stitch). Since she was a research professor she decided a historical would be easy to research, but she had no time period in mind. By chance she saw a rerun of a Dr. Who episode – The War Games. A seventeen year old Scotsman named Jamie was Dr. Who’s companion, and the year was 1745. This inspired Diana's time frame, place, and the main male character in her novel – James (Jamie) Fraser. She is quoted as having said she initially wanted an Englishwoman to interact with the kilted men, but the female took over the story, told it herself and made witty modern comments about things. Diana solved the problem of explaining how the woman was so modern in her self-expression by using time travel.
Author inspiration comes from many places, and it is fascinating to see how the initial framework of Diana's first book evolved from a chance encounter with a TV show rerun.
Her books have been published in 27 countries and in 24 languages. They have received countless awards and achieved bestseller status on numerous lists. The first book is now showing as 16 episodes on the Starz channel, with more episodes likely to follow in 2015 and beyond.
While Outlander takes place in Scotland…
The Harry Potter Series – J.K. ‘Joanne’ ROWLING
Harry Potter was written in Scotland. J.K. Rowling wrote seven tomes in the series that total nearly 4,200 pages, and her brand is now valued at approximately $15 billion. She, too, built an entire career around one series. Over 400 million of her books are in print and have been translated into 65 languages so far. Much of her wealth comes from movies and merchandise from the licensing of the Harry Potter brand. She has donated hundreds of millions of dollars to charities.
Although she later wrote other books using pseudonyms, Harry Potter is her greatest claim to fame and fortune.
The inspiration for Harry Potter came to her ‘fully formed’ in 1990 while sitting on a train that was delayed four hours. The next seven years were rough, with job loss, divorce, and poverty challenges. She wrote three chapters of Harry Potter before moving to Edinburgh to be near her sister in late 1993. As a young single mother surviving on welfare, she wrote the rest of the first book in coffee shops. She got an agent, but Harry Potter was rejected by the first twelve publishers who saw it.
One of the greatest accomplishments of the Harry Potter books is that they have inspired children worldwide to love reading, and to think nothing of sitting down to read a 500+ page book.Although the series is written for children, adults have also enjoyed reading it worldwide. Some religious critics accused her of writing about witchcraft, and considered her influence over young people to be questionable for that reason. Most people, however, see the books as magical fantasy adventures.
Here are a few words of wisdom based on the careers of these two amazing authors...
If you want to write in first person, do so… if you want to concentrate on one series that spans your entire career, do so… if you believe in your storyline and characters, but others don’t, keep writing… if you are depressed by life and feel things can’t get much worse, persevere… if you have plot problems – like mouthy modern people showing up in ancient places – improvise… if you write massive tomes, people will read them… if you get a spark of inspiration while sitting on a stalled train or watching an old rerun on TV one night, take notes immediately.
Indie publishing and small presses make it so much easier for authors to write whatever we please, and readers will find us on internet e-publishing platforms. Be true to yourself and your voice, have fun, and remember – authors have the best job in the world.
GEMMA JULIANA is a multi-published author who lives in an enchanted cottage in north Texas with her handsome hero, teen son and a comical dog. She loves making new friends and hearing from readers. Exotic coffee and chocolate fuel her creativity. You can buy Gemma’s books on Amazon.
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