Saturday, July 2, 2011

Ladies First...

We’re kicking off my “Top 10 Writers List” with J.K. Rowling, author of the famed Harry Potter series.

I have to admit, when Harry Potter mania first hit the U.S. I totally dismissed it. I was 21 and had a baby,  Harry was 11 and had a wand and, despite my love of fantasy, I just didn’t think it would appeal to me.
Still, it wasn’t long before I saw the first film which led to reading the first book (Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone) which led to the second book (Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets) which led to the third book (Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban) which led to true love. :)

Don’t get me wrong, I love the entire series, but Azkaban is when it became something personal for me as a writer. I still remember reading it for the first time and being in pure awe of it. It sounds cheesy, I know, but it’s true.

So what exactly is it that makes this book stand out for me?

The details. I love details and this book is bursting with them! By details I don’t mean adjectives, but the way everything connects, the way everything serves a purpose and falls perfectly into place to reveal the whole picture. This may seem obvious…after all, isn’t that what writing is? Putting together pieces to form a whole? Yes, but it is rare to find it done with this level of care and ability. This is the type of writing that I strive for, that I read and think… “this, this is what I want to do.”

Warning: This is something you will see me touch on quite a bit in these posts because, in my opinion, it is those kind of details that make a good writer great. 

Rowling’s books create an active reader. You are not just reading the story you are discovering it. There are so many “Ah-ha!” moments in this book that it truly makes you feel a part of something special. Passages that occur in the first few chapters have taken on a whole new meaning by the end of the book…small things that were touched on in the first two books, such as the “Whomping Willow” and Ron’s pet rat, are suddenly major plot points…you can’t take any character or even scene at face value because there is a history there that hides more and while that could have led to a book full of cheap twists, the pay-off here is strong and feels completely natural. 

The love that Rowling has for her characters and this story line really shines through here. You can’t just sit down and write something like this, it doesn’t work that way. It takes time and planning and dedication to do it right. She has a personal investment in these books and not just because they have made her richer than the Queen of England. In fact, it’s not about money at all, it’s about something inside her that was driving her to tell this story. It was a deep connection to these characters, an exploration of their world and who they are and that, at its heart, is what writing is about!

Out of the ten writers on my list only two of them are women, but it is important to note that this is not due to a lack of strong female writers (they are out there!). It is because this list is about more than talent. It is not only Rowling’s work, but also her diligence which has inspired me. I can’t tell you how many times that voice of doubt has crept into my head. That voice that says I’m too old to be putting my energy into this, that I should be pursuing something more stable, that I need a 9-5 job where I know I will receive something for all my efforts, but J.K. Rowling has basically made all of that blabber null and void. How can I allow myself to stop when she has already proven it is possible. She was an unemployed, single-mother who became a published author just before her 32nd birthday and all because she didn’t allow herself to quit.

Sure, she may be the exception to the rule and I certainly don’t expect myself to ever reach her height of popularity, but that’s fine. I don’t need to become rich and famous, I only need to know it’s possible to get my words out there. That as small as I may feel sometimes there may be someone out there, even just one single person, who needs my stories as much as I needed Harry Potter and that is enough to keep me more more more page.


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  2. Excellent post. I agree with you entirely about Prisoner of Azkaban (which is also my favorite book in the series) and what it represented to the series as a whole. It was the first book in the series that truly surprised me. I didn't expect the ending to be anything even close to that!

    One thing worth mentioning is that you're never really too old to start a career as a novelist. It's probably the only form of entertainment where youth is irrelevant, and many would actually say it's a handicap since experience fuels creativity and depth, and experience comes with age. I've known people who were in their 70s when they wrote their first novel. As long as your mind's sharp, you're never too old