Eight Was Enough

June 22nd, 2005 · 3 Comments
by Booksquare

Such is our cynicism that when we saw a New York Times profile of Evanovich, Inc., we immediately thought, “Hmm, there must be a new Stephanie Plum novel out.” Lo and behold, our powers of prediction are undulled by the lack of caffeine. Which reminds us. . .would the intern in charge of coffee please report to HQ?

Since running out of, uh, positions, Janet Evanovich has revamped her career (alas, to the point where we have lost interest in her hapless heroine and hunky heroes, but that’s another post for another day). This profile, by our darling Edward Wyatt, offers a rare candid look into the machinery behind a bestselling author. For those of you who still fantasize about slaving away in dark, damp attics with only rats for company, this article is not for you. The romance is gone. Pun intended.

Also featured is an interesting lament by one of Evanovich’s publishers:

But while her relentless self-promotion has attracted more fans, it has also created some tensions. Michael Morrison, the president of HarperMorrow, the HarperCollins division that published “Metro Girl,” said the interplay of multiple publishers and product lines is not ideal. “I’m a believer that a publisher and an author should have one primary relationship,” he said. The sales of “Metro Girl” did not match Ms. Evanovich’s previous best sellers, but Mr. Morrison said that over all he was pleased with her work.

“It’s much easier to work with an author and orchestrate a publishing career if you have all of the books under one house,” he said.

Though it should go without saying (but won’t), we then proceeded to spend the next several column inches waiting for someone — anyone — to elaborate on this comment. Especially since it was our vague understanding that the publishers were all excited about working together in new and different ways. Yes, we know, stop reading press releases. Why is consolidating all effort with one house so critical? How would a single house approach have improved sales of Metro Girl. Other than by having the editor suggest to the author that she’s spread herself a little thin? Readers didn’t warm to the new series for reasons alluded to, but not explored, here:

The critics have sometimes been less than enthusiastic. Writing in The New York Times, Janet Maslin said Ms. Evanovich’s works were “the mystery-novel equivalent of comfort food.” And more than once, her writing has been called formulaic.

Ms. Evanovich does not deny that; she simply wonders what is wrong with it.

“I’m a writer, but this is a business,” she said. “You have to look at it in the way you would look at any business. You have to have honesty to the product. You have to meet consumer expectations. You give them value for their money and give them a product that they need. I don’t see anything wrong with all these things. And I don’t think it’s a bad thing to meet consumers’ expectations.”

And here we would agree — except that the formula, as far as Stephanie Plum is concerned, was old by Book Six (Stephanie gets in over her head, Stephanie has man troubles, Stephanie overeats and can’t fit into her jeans, Stephanie blows up her car). We quit at Book Eight, fell off the wagon for Book Nine, and went cold turkey at Book Ten. As it turns out, we have incredible willpower; it just takes a few years to find it. Formula should serve as a novel’s structure not as a series of checkpoints on a list. Grandma Mazur goes to a viewing, check.

File Under: Books/Mags/Blogs

3 responses so far ↓

  • jmfausti // Jun 22, 2005 at 8:32 am

    The Stephanie Plum books are absolutely my guilty pleasure, comfort reading. I own everyone in hard back and I listen to the audio books on road trips. In my defense, I read 82 books last year. This year I’ve read Twain, Rand, Joyce, Huxley, Murakami, Nabokov, etc. I still get all excited knowing that a new Stephanie Plum book is coming out. There are very few authors who still make me feel that way about their books. They are like old friends that I look forward to seeing again.

    Evanovich has never made any bones about what she’s providing with the Plum books. Grandma Mazur will remain the same, just like we want her. Rex will never die and Stephanie will always be 30 years old and have an amped up version of everygirl’s life. She’s got two attractive and exciting men to have to choose between, career and financial woes, but with an edge, and a family that is in turns embarrassing, funny, unbalanced and totally supportive.

    I don’t think Metro Girl was as good as the Stephanie Plum series. But, it is far better book than the Full ____ series and her old romance books which are being reissued due to her popularity. Plenty of authors write multiple series and do it well. John Sandford and Lawrence Block are both good examples of this. James Patterson, on the other hand, has spread himself so thin, that his books are now little more than barely interesting outlines.

  • Susan Gable // Jun 22, 2005 at 11:28 am

    I got really cranky when, after teasing us with the possibility of Ranger sex for several BOOKS for goodness’ sake, we only got a lousy paragraph or so of Ranger sex. We deserved MORE by then! (VBG) Her writing roots are in romance, for goodness’ sake. She should have known we’d feel ripped off after all that teasing! I was outraged. (g) It might have been good for Stephanie, but it wasn’t good for me. 😉

    I got crankier after spending $6.99 for the Christmas Stephanie Plum paperback. It was a NOVELLA, for crying out loud. Not only that, but it had extra blank sheets between chapters, and the whole back of the book was the first chapter of One for the Money. What a rip-off! Now, had they only charged me $4-5 for it, I might not have gotten so mad. But to charge me the price of a full novel for THAT – well, I got so ticked I didn’t buy the next new Stephanie book, I borrowed it from the library. Refused to spend money on my own copy. That may continue.

    That’s a shame, because I enjoy the books. Even though Stephanie has shown no growth whatsoever, and that’s kind of sad. She should get a grip already. Do some growing. Maybe one of the men should die. (g) That ought to throw a monkey wrench into the works. lol. We already know where they’d have the wake and funeral. (g)

    There’s a comfort to seeing familiar characters and behavior patterns. And being a former Jersey Girl myself, (Janet and I share the same alma mater – Douglass College – though different years!) I “get” all the Jersey jokes. lol.

    I liked Metro Girl – hadn’t realized until this article that it was published with another publisher. (That should tell the publishers SOMETHING if they think readers are checking out the spines to see who pubbed the book.) Hey, given the way things go in this business, I think writers diversifying is a GOOD thing, although I didn’t realize that even someone as “big” as Janet Evonovitch would feel the need for it.

  • Booksquare // Jun 23, 2005 at 5:26 pm

    I did so love the Plum books, but even I, with my amazing capacity to suspend disbelief and to reread the same thing over and over, reached my limit. Sometimes even the best ideas run their course!

    And, yeah, I wanted hotter sex. But Stephanie’s always been a close-the-door kind of narrator.