[LMB] (chat) Krentz/Quick/Castle

Lois McMaster Bujold lbujold at myinfmail.com
Tue Sep 25 21:01:38 BST 2007

[LMB] (chat) Krentz/Quick/Castle
sekhmet sekhmet42 at yahoo.com
Tue Sep 25 19:11:02 BST 2007

--- Lois McMaster Bujold <lbujold at myinfmail.com>

 >  Her  first futuristic, _Amaryllis_, from 1996, had
 > wince-worthy moments

Ah, you mean the way she tried to make everything
exotic by littering the scene with hyphenated words?
Pets are cat-dogs, people eat pear-apples, etc.

*** Yep.  A really bad case of "call a rabbit a smeerp", there.

Not that I don't understand the need to shorthand -- when you're trying 
to fit in a romance plot *and* a suspense plot *and* SFnal 
world-building, the page can get rather crowded.  (Normally, in SF, it's 
the romance plot that gets shortchanged.)  Which is possibly why my 
first attempt ran 217,000 words long.  But the compression needs not to 
be done with a tin ear.


 >2002's _After Dark_ -- the world-building here was
 > better

Yes, although still Seattle in space, with an abusive
overuse of the suffix/prefix "rez".

***  Not so much "Seattle in Space", here, I thought, as an amusing 
SF-nal pastiche of the sort of Egyptology-adventure tales that have 
undergone intermittent popularity from "The Mummy" to Amelia Peabody.

Agree on "rez", although at least it was more functional this time.  Her 
world-building is good in sections in this one, but often doesn't quite 
reach to the edge of the page, as it were.

That said, I will still be circling back for more.  It's easy to see 
what she's doing wrong; harder to see what she's doing right, but 
whatever it is, it's sold 25 million books, so I'd rather like to figure 
it out.  It's certainly working for me.  Partly the tone, I think, which 
in spite of the suspense plots is usually comic.

I get a giggle out of the running gags and commentary in the Quick books 
about 19th. C. popular "horrid" novels.  Iirc _Wait Until Midnight_ had 
the best take on that subject.  The heroine is the sort of writer who, 
like Dickens in the style of the times, sends in a chapter a week to be 
published in a newspaper (which rather blocks revision.)  The hero is 
taken aback to discover she's based her latest villain on him, and, 
despite his scorn for the genre, finds himself buying installments to 
anxiously follow the fate of "his" character...

After Dark, After
Glow and Ghost Hunter are keeping the earlier books
company on my romance shelf. The characters are a
little more complex: some have divided loyalties, most
are smart and capable, and men and women annoy and
exasperate each other, but they're not inherently
jerks. I admit I skip the sex scenes, but I do in most
romance novels.

*** I, on the other hand, have taken to reading them with great 
interest, not all of it meta.  When deciding when a sex scene "belongs" 
in a book, it's a bit like asking when does a dinner scene "belong"?  
The answer there is more obviously, "When some important change to the 
plot or characters happens during it."  A character may eat a hundred 
routine dinners off stage, but you will need to show the one where he 
has a melt-down argument with his boss and gets fired, for example.  The 
predilection for showing the first-time sex scene, therefore, is that it 
always marks this huge change in the relationship between the two 
characters, after which nothing else can be the same, so those tend to 
be nearly mandatory.  Ditto the time when they finally "get it right" 
emotionally and physically, if there were problems before.

I do wonder about how the writers feel after book x and sex scene 3x, as 
they have to keep finding new ways of showing much the same thing.  
Early work may betray sightly more youthful enthusiasm.   It seems to me 
Krentz's recent writing style has become pared down and more efficient 
compared to her stuff that dates from the early 90's a little like the 
way Pratchett's style has become leaner compared to his earlier work.  
But that may just be the effect of comparing an historical with a 

It's also interesting to compare Quick with Julia Quinn.  The latter has 
an 8-book Regency series with one romance for each of the 8 siblings in 
a large family; each emotional plot is entirely distinct from all the 
others, even though the books share background, setting, and many 
characters.  The two writers have almost inversions of approach.

(more snips)

 > one can see [Krentz] trying out her ideas in several
 > variations over several  books, as if each were a
first draft for the
 > next.

Yes, with her it's not what she's writing, because
it's almost the same each time, it's how well she got
it to work this time. Nonetheless, of the 20 or so
non-Heyer romances on my shelves, I think 8 or 9 are
by Krentz or Castle.


*** I actually see why.

Ta, L.

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