Robin McKinley and Patricia McKillip

Sally Odgers sodgers at
Fri Jan 14 11:13:09 EST 2000

>My theory is that they
> >both had an idea of what kind of stories they wanted to write, and as
> >wrote more books they came closer to that goal.  

This is one I can comment on from a fantasy writer's perspective. It's
quite right that writers have a "goal" book in mind. Sometimes it happens
for us, sometimes it doesn't. And sometimes, as we mine away at our
material and build our castles we move further into our own worlds. 

I kept on writing the books I wanted to write during my teens and 20s. The
editors kept on rejecting them. Meanwhile, alongside, I wrote the things
they seemed to want, and these were published. Finally, in the early 90s,
as I went into my 30s, I managed to find an editor who gave me enough rope
to hang myself. I produced my first "proper" fantasy. The first that got
published, I mean! Since then, I've produced about 12 more books that were
what I wanted, or almost. Some of them have been published, some have not.
I hope I haven't lost my audience with these books; but it is disheartening
to find that shops and libraries are more likely to stock my lighter, less
(to me) interesting stuff instead or, or more than, "my" books.   

But in approaching their
> >Beasts of Eld_, a nearly and well-loved book.  I'm sure there are other
> >authors like this, many of whom may be unfairly criticized for getting
> >as writers when what's really happening is the writer's and reader's
> >diverging.

This is sometimes the case, but it's also just as likely that the author is
tied up on a treadmill of trying to please editors and reviewers. I know
one writer who produced 4 novels. Each one reviewed better and sold worse
than the previous one... she was trying to please reviewers and editors
(who wanted angst) and lost her audience (who wanted adventures) along the

Non-writers have no idea how much power editors have over the average
writer! (Note, I say "average writer". I know the Big Names are a different
matter.) An editor can reject a book at any time. A one-off book can
probably be sold elsewhere (though editors often ask suspiciously why "your
usual publisher" didn't take it. If the book is part of a series, it will
be very difficult to sell elsewhere. Again, the implication is that if it
had been any good, the "usual publisher" would have taken it.

As for pleasing the readers, I know from sad experience that the readers
come a long way down the line of people that must be pleased. The editor
has to be pleased. Then the editorial committee members have to be pleased.
Then the money-folk have to be pleased. The reps have to be pleased, and so
do the booksellers and librarians. If children are the audience, then you
can put teachers and parents in the queue as well. Then, the reviewers must
be pleased, and also, if possible, the judges of any competition that's
going. You see, if any one layer of the foregoing is *not* pleased, the
chances of the book winding up in the hands of the reader are pretty low. 

Having waffled on to such an extent I'll add that I do believe the time and
circumstances of a first reading of an author can have enormous impact on a
reader. here are books that I continue to associate with summer days or
certain places or people because of when and where I first encountered


Beautiful, beautiful Celadon, a young old world that was setting for the
nightmare... (Rosanna Hopestill; TRANSLATIONS IN CELADON.)

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