I’m not one to post negative opinions on social media. Don’t believe me? I challenge you to search. I say this to give my opinion on Sherrilyn Kenyon’s book Dragonmark credence. As an author myself, I prefer to keep quiet and let others do what they do. We aren’t any of us perfect and our work could always use improvement.
Knowing this, I still couldn’t keep quiet about SK’s book. Admittedly, I haven’t sold 14 million copies of my novels in 14 languages. Heck, I haven’t even sold 1400 in one language, so who am I to judge?
I’m a reader and a struggling author, that’s who. I work a regular job (40-60 hours a week) to pay my bills. The other hours of the week I spend writing, marketing, and taking classes to hone my craft. I read, too, in order to analyze and dissect how successful authors write their stories. I learn from them.
What did I learn from SK? That once an author has established her brand, she and her publishing team can pump out a book-load of pap with no thought or care to how her readers will receive it.
How frustrating is that?
Books in the paranormal romance genre are what is called formulaic. Readers expect A and B to equal a Happily Ever After. The tools an author uses to achieve this are POV, Characterization, Tension, Setting–to name but a few. There is an entire world of construct that goes into a book.
Most readers aren’t aware of the bones beneath a good story. They don’t have to be. But, they KNOW when they’ve read one. And they most certainly KNOW when the pieces of a story’s framework are missing.
As they were in Dragonmark. Obviously, SK and her publishing team have decided her fans aren’t worth the effort it takes to construct a quality story. The first bone to break in SK’s book? Point Of View: there were so many shifts in POV, I wasn’t just head-popping. I was body-jumping from one briefly introduced character to another, viewing the scene for a few sentences, then catapulting back into the protagonist’s head without warning, only to be launched into another without the escort of a good segue. The disorientation was bad enough, but it came with a side of Who-gives-a-shit.
Which is why Characterization is so important. We readers have to care about our characters in order to stay engaged in the story. Good authors know this captivation is what drives the bus. With a cast of a hundred characters in Dragonmark, and each with their own POV changing faster than the lights at a dance club, I was reeling. I’ve read other reviews of Dragonmark, and the consensus from SK fans is that she cut and pasted from other books without bothering to groom the passages to fit, hence the many shifts in POV.
This discombobulation didn’t leave me with a good feeling. Not as a reader, and certainly not as a fellow author. While my brain bounced around, my stomach executed a slow roll into nausea. Without any kind of story arc or Tension, all the scene-hopping and time-leaping left me feeling like I’d just stepped off a carnival ride–AFTER eating three cones of cotton candy and a greasy sausage roll.
In a phrase, SK’s Dragonmark left me feeling sick. Writers who are trying to “make it” are held to a strict measure. There aren’t just guidelines to story-writing, but rules we are forced to follow if we want even a chance to make it in the big leagues. Our stories must be engaging from the first sentence to the back cover AND present a clear destination for both the events and the characters in the stories.
SK has broken every rule we are held accountable to. A strong thing to say. It’s not easy to be a writer, even if you’re highly successful. Writing is hard work, and things aren’t always in your control. I’ve learned this in my small pond, and I imagine it’s worse in the bigger lake. I should cut SK some slack.
Except I can’t. Struggling authors look up to those like her who pave the way. But when those great writers blow a hole in the road to success big enough to drop a train in and the industry lets it happen? How can our little selves compete when an author’s brand is so bright it no longer matters how well they tell their stories?
Our only hope is to keep slogging along, writing and marketing to a virtual empty room and building our readership one hard-fought-for fan at a time.
I’d like to end this negative tirade with a salute in the positive. I’d like to congratulate all those struggling authors out there like myself, who still write and market after working another full-time job and come home tired; who still have families to care for and demands on their time. Hats off to those who carve out a chunk of quiet in the pre-dawn darkness to write the stories in their hearts, or respond to readers’ comments while the rest of the world sleeps. We are devotees to our craft and take pride in our published work, knowing we are accountable for every word we write.
As I’m doing now. I own my scathing critique of Sherrilyn Kenyon and her deplorable book, Dragonmark. I even welcome your comments, good and bad. If I’m going to slap someone down, a fellow author especially, then I expect to be hit back. After all, it’s what makes a fair–and entertaining–fight.
S.C. Dane is the author of Lover in Stone; A Darkest Kynd novel and several other paranormal romance books. The second of her Darkest Kynd series, Lover in Darkness, will be released June 2017.