I've been very pleasantly surprised lately by some of the things people have been saying about my writing ... and I swear I didn't do most of it on purpose!
When I write a story, I have one goal in mind. That's to entertain.What form that entertainment takes varies depending on the genre, but all I ever really want to do is tell a good story in the best way I can. I'm the kind of writer who takes an idea for a plot and bashes the words out quickly and by following my instincts. I don't do detailed outlines or obsess over every word. I take an idea, follow my gut, and run with it. Eventually, if I'm lucky, I end up with a finished short story or novel and somebody wants to publish it. The the readers get it and I hope they enjoy it. That's all there is on my end of the process. I don't try to do anything more than make those readers happy and keep them interested for the time it takes to read from Page 1 to "The End."
But my last few releases have been getting comments that have shocked me, in a good way.
I wrote my spy novel NOBODY DIES FOR FREE with the intention of telling a story that thrilled readers the way I've always been thrilled by things like James Bond movies or Tom Clancy books. Based on what readers have said in response to the book, I seem to have accomplished that and I'm glad I have. But there's been more than that. I've had people say they've been amazed by the depth of character I've given to the protagonist, Richard Monroe, or been surprised by the twists of the plot. A writer I greatly respect, Trent Zelazny, went so far as to say that the writing is "mind boggling, slick and with a high polish, yet dripping with humanity and often poetry." I literally had tears in my eyes as I read that review. Good tears, because I seem to have accomplished what I set out to do and then more.
I also recently released my second vampire novel, ACROSS THE MIDNIGHT SEA (sequel to 100,000 MIDNIGHTS). My goal there was the same as it always is, to entertain. Now those books contain an element of romance and some sex scenes. The sex is there because it's part of the story, not for any other reason. To be honest, I'm not very comfortable writing about sex. It feels clumsy to me, slightly embarrassing, maybe too personal to be sharing with the world, even if it's the characters having the sex and, obviously, not me. I don't get too graphic with my literary depictions of sex. I tend to use metaphors and hints. It's certainly not outright erotica. So imagine my surprise recently when a reader reported being aroused by those scenes! I'll take the compliment, gladly, but it's not what I expected to hear.
Getting comments like those from readers and reviewers has caught me off guard and I take it as a sign that I'm doing something right, becoming a better writer. I won't try to duplicate those successes, but will continue to do what I've always done, which is write by instinct, put down the words that seem to tell the story best. If those words have deeper effects than I anticipated, good!
The lesson I've learned: trust myself, write what feels right. Experience, guided by instinct, and a hell of a lot of practice seems to be paying off.
As I said earlier, I swear I didn't do it on purpose!