I spent three hours on the telephone last night/this morning talking with a friend about books. We got caught up in a tangent about backlists.
I recently searched a favorite author to see if her latest release was available. It wasn’t, but a lot of old titles I’d never heard of—or even seen—were available at really low prices. Backlist! Stuff from her very beginnings.
I downloaded three books to plow through in order: her very first three titles. It was fascinating reading.
They were awful.
(See why I didn’t mention the author’s name?)
They really were awful. But they were also incredibly interesting and very educational. Looking at those first three books I learned a great deal about the writer, or at least her journey. Because these days she is a very reliable auto-buy. She has been for quite some time. I know (and obviously love) her voice.
It’s nice to know she had to develop it carefully and through a great deal of hard work… it gives me hope! Those first three I read had moments, here and there, of absolute genius. It was buried pretty deep. Overly precious descriptions, meandering plot movement, attachment to phrases that were weighty and vague-- none of that exists in her novels today. It positively strangled her early work.
Oh, how she has grown! It’s not the first time I have gone back to older titles of my favorite authors to find they had become very, very different writers. Almost every change has been for the better, I must say. The muscle gets stronger with exercise.
My friend Maria noted, too, how some of our favorite authors wrote toward trend in their earliest days. Many (at least it seemed so to us) who were publishing in the late seventies and eighties included forced seduction or rape scenes that practically jumped off the page screaming “I hate this, but it’s required.” We both wondered if writers in that time were being pushed that way, or assumed they were expected to include force. A few novels have been re-released with softened scenes or, in a few cases, omissions. Makes one wonder. Who wanted it in? Who wanted it out?
Backlists… many titles are very inexpensive in digital form. I encourage writers to take a gander. You’d be surprised how much you learn.