10 February 2008

Official Introduction and Frankenstein

Hey all!
Today is my first 'official' post, even though I snatched up the empty Thursday 13 slot last week. I'm a YA Fantasy author, and my first SP book, THE CROWN OF ZEUS, is scheduled for release on Feb. 19 (just nine days away!). I'm pretty excited about other people FINALLY being able to read the book, since I actually completed it in 2006. It was one of three books I started in 2005, when I was laid up with a badly broken leg. One of the others, THE ANKH OF ISIS, will make its debut in July.

Anyway, I was thinking about what I wanted to say today. I had no topic at all, and then my second online English course (at UMUC) began. Critical Approaches to Literature. In other words, how to break down what you've read, in order to understand it better. I HAVE to take this course. It sounds like it's as much fun as watching paint dry, right?

But then I got the first assisgnment. Read FRANKENSTEIN. Wow. A female paranormal/speculative fiction writer's dream come true, right? I mean, Mary Shelley is sort of the mother of spec fic. I've also started reading some critical essays about the novel, and it's gotten me thinking - do all people really look at the books they read this way?

Personally I like the historical/biographical approach. What was going on in the author's world when the book was written? What part or parts of the novel reflect the author's personal life or values?

There are a whole bunch of other schools of criticism, like the feminists or the Marxists. I don't see how Frankenstein is a manifesto for the feminist movement, or how it's about class struggle (well, maybe a little), but people try and cram the book into whatever little box they're standing on, apparently.

Do we do this with the novels we read now? I've heard all kinds of theories about Harry Potter, what it REALLY means under all the magic, and I'm not sure I buy it. I mean, having written four books, I really just wanted to tell a story. I think things appear in the book by accident, things the author never planned for, and if you asked them they're surprised you discovered it at all. I don't have a statement to make, other than the universal lessons that come from the books - friendship, belief in yourself, love conquers all, whatever - and I certainly don't think Harry Potter has any kind of political statement.

As far as FRANKENSTEIN goes, she's given the story of how the novel came to be. She was challenged to write a ghost story by her husband and Lord Byron, after they read a collection of German ghost stories. Did she sit down to make some grand statement about society, or was it just a good tale, meant to scare the pants of the men who had challenged her to write it?

I wish I could ask.

What do you think?


Carolan Ivey said...

I've had people draw things from my books that I had no idea were there! I think any one person's take on a book is as unique as the individual reading it.

I heard Jennifer Crusie talk once about one of her early books...I think it was "Getting Rid of Bradley". A friend of hers read it and said, "It's about your divorce." Jenny replied, "No, it isn't, it's just a story." But she went back and read it and discovered, deep down, it was about her divorce! :)

When I wrote Abhainn's Kiss, I didn't realize until later that the hero is my husband. LOL

bettie said...

I don't think any story can help but be about the society and era in which it was written. It isn't mere coincidence that in this age of fear, propaganda and terrorism, Harry Potter's enemies use fear, propaganda, and charges of criminal behavior (terrorism) as weapons against him. But I'm also convinced any story that isn't written with the primary intent of "telling a good story" will fail as both a story and a message.

When Laura Vivanco mentioned my free ebook Ember in a post on the Cinderella motif at the Teach Me Tonight blog, she noted more elements than I'd known I'd included, but I don't disagree with any of them. If we put anything of who we are into the things we write, it's only natural that our stories will contain messages about how we see the world.