Sunday, September 26, 2010

Twilight - The Kiss Of Death For Authors

So you're looking for something new to read and you head over to Goodreads or Amazon to start scrolling through all the different books there. Lots of pretty covers and fantastic blurbs and finally you find the book you've been looking for. Your heart starts pounding, palms are sweaty as a goofy grin covers your face. Yep, this is the book you want and out of curiosity you scroll further down to check out the reviews. People are loving it and you move the mouse to click on the purchase button until something catches your eye. Your stomach plummets and the book you were just moments ago going to buy is tossed aside, forgotten. I hear you ask "What happened?" I've been in this exact situation so I can sum it up for you in just one word - Twilight.
(click on title for more)

So I guess the first thing I should do before I start this mini rant is to offer up the disclaimer that this is in NO way me saying that Twilight is the root of all evil. It isn't. It's a four book series that's incredibly popular and personally, I've enjoyed reading it. What this rant IS about is something I've been noticing for awhile but only now just realized how damaging it can be - for not just the reader but also for the authors it affects. This rant is about the use of the term "It's just too TWILIGHTY"

Talk about the kiss of death to an author and their book right? Think about it. How many times have we (and I say we because I've been guilty of this myself) not read a book solely because someone told us that it was too "Twilight"? Despite how phenomenal the book sounds, we look at it with that word bouncing around in our head and decide to pass on it. Or how many times when we're talking to others and sharing what we've heard about certain books, find ourselves repeating "Oh yeah, I heard it was real Twilighty"?  It's such an easy trap to fall into and I'm worried that it cuts us off from books that could very well be our new favorite book or series.

 I cringe now whenever I hear that word and my heart breaks because seriously, what is Twilight that it holds such power in deciding what books we read? Yes, it's a series that's enjoying megastardom right now, with the movies catapulting it to CRAZY success. I remember a recent trip to the bookstore and being dumbfounded by all the merchandise and memorabilia surrounding it. I get it - it's HUGE but does it really own the market when it comes to YA paranormal? Is it really the yardstick to compare each and every book that comes out after it? Obviously it must be because it seems to me, any book that has anything remotely close to a vampire/girl love interest in it is beaten with that yardstick.

I want to share an experience I had a month or so ago that really made me stop and think. I'm the local book supplier where I live and have friends calling/texting me wanting to borrow books. They ask for recommendations etc and I hook them up with some good reads. I lent one of my favorite YA paranormal series to someone, with a rave about how great they were and honestly thought she would also love them. Seriously, I haven't heard a single bad comment or review on this series and so I was pretty confident. A week or two later, she returns with a frown on her face. She just couldn't get into the books because in her words "They were just too much like Twilight" You need to know I was FLOORED. Why? Do you want to know what the ONLY similarity between this book and Twilight was? It had a high school setting. That's it. Huge wake up call.

Another wake up call was just recently when I went to read a book I later reviewed. I'd heard that it was "Twilighty" and really hesitated in buying it. Now that I've read it, all I want to do shake my head because again the only "Twilightly" thing I could see was it was a human girl and a vampire love interest. Really? That's the reasoning? And here's where I get a little ranty. Does this mean that the House Of Night series is "Twilightly"? How about the Mortal Instruments series? I know they're not in highschool but hey isn't there a vampire and werewolf in that one? How about the Blue Blood series? No werewolves that I remember but hey vampires and high school so that fits the criteria? Ok here's where I get a little hysterical... Why stop there even? How about any book where the guy has messy hair? The girl is socially awkward? The girl drives a truck? The guy, I don't know, wears shoes? *takes a deep breath* Ok I know.. I know a little crazy and extreme but its a sore point. Two more points and I'll get off my soap box.

Just as an FYI and something that made me chuckle HARD but what about those books that came out BEFORE Twilight? Could Twilight actually be "rip offs" of them? I may be the only person who sees it but read the first book of Vampire Diaries. Does anyone else see similarities between VD and Twilight? I know I did and seeing VD was written in 1991, we could very well call Twilight a little too "VDish" Who knows?

I was talking with an author friend of mine one day and we were kicking around ideas for possible story lines. Gotta love the creative process when you're knee deep in brilliance and you've got goosebumps from your imagination going crazy. She spat out this idea that was AMAZING and I gushed all over the place about it. Want to know what her next words were? "Belinda, I'm just too worried that if I write that, readers are just going to say it's too Twilighty and not read it" NO JOKE!! A brilliant story that I honestly believe everyone would have been falling over themselves to read may never see the light of day. Let's take a quick walk over to the world of EXTREMES for a moment but can you image what life would be if suddenly authors everywhere simply stopped writing paranormal for the same reasons? The likelihood is very slim, rest assured we'll be reading this genre until we're old and grey but what if? What if?

I think that after all is said and done, we see what we want to see. We can make any leaps and bounds if that's what we're looking for. My challenge is that hopefully instead of comparing whatever similiarities we think there are, judge the book as it stands. Alone. Review it according to it's own merits. Read it simply because it interests you and you love the genre. Twilight doesn't own the market for YA paranormal. It may have brought more attention to the genre and for that we should be grateful but not to the exclusion of all else that follows.  *end rant here*


Another Book Junkie said...

Oh I know what you mean!! I complain about this in my circle of friends all the time. While I once loved Twilight, I cringe at anything related to it, anymore. Which is sad, because I really, really liked it. But there comes a point when you've seen "rip-off of Twilight" far too many times. Especially when you've read said book, and it's NOTHING like Twilight, aside from it being a YA paranormal. I commend Stephenie Meyer for her ability to capture such an audience, but to credit her for the likes of vampires, werewolves/shifters, and love triangles, is a bit absurd.

And I too saw similarities between Vampire Diaries and Twilight. And people online still make comments about Vampire Diaries being a Twilight rip-off. You would think by now, everyone would know which was released first.

And I guess I'll end my little rant there too. Lol.

Amber Skye said...

What an awesome post! I can't tell you how many times I've thought these exact same things. I'm a lover of Twilight and all paranormal romance stories, but I've learned that every book deserves to be judged by itself. You can't compare every book you read to Twilight. It's not fair to the novel or the author. Thanks for voicing the thoughts that I'm sure MANY book bloggers agree with.

Marg K. said...

Very entertaining and though-provoking post. I had a good chortle just now. Anyways, I know what you mean because I have experienced this sort of thing myself.

I never read the entire Twilight series. I tried to give the first book a try, but just could not get into it at all. The premise was not that interesting and the execution was poor (imo). I didn't like Meyer's writing and wasn't fond of the characters. For me, Twilight is an example of a book that I most definitely would not want to read (for the reasons just mentioned). So, I'll be honest and admit that when someone uses Twilight as a comparison to another book, I cringe a bit and have second thoughts about picking up that book.

It's not really fair. But, then again, I make comparisons between other books all the time. For example, if someone was to tell me that a UF series is similar to the Kate Daniels series by Ilona Andrews, I'd be all over it in a split second.

I think the reason Twilight is used so much for comparison purposes is because it is one of those books that produces really strong feelings of either fangirl adoration or critical aversion.

Jennifer (An Abundance of Books) said...

Interesting post, I liked it. I hadn't really thought about it but I've also been avoiding things listed as "Twilighty". I'll have to work on that.

Jessica said...

I know the feeling. I've read and loved vampire books long before Twilight was even an idea in Stephanie's head. So usually when talking to people I have to say, no, not a Twilight fan. I read those books out of curiosity. I like vampires and werewolves and a TON of other creatures.

But yeah, now everything is Twilight. Twilight has made vampires and werewolves so popular and honestly I don't like that as much. It's good, but it's like the HOT new thang! Spelled that wrong on purpose! But yeah, now my friends who use to tease me because I was reading "vampire books"--had to argue again, that I read more than just "vampire books" are all getting into Twilight. Now the hype has worn down for some of them though.

And I did get my one friend hooked on some NON-Twilight books. But yeah, really worn out with Twilight now and having to explain to new people that I read and loved "vampire books" along with all the other creatures for many years before Twilight and am not even a Twilight fan.

It's exhausting!

Autumn said...

I think it's possible to write paranormal YA and avoid the Twilight lookalike. Shiver and Linger didn't make me think Twilight really. I have read books lately though that had scenes that I felt like were lifted right out of Twilight. That might be one of those things that the author might want to add to the list of things that their editors look for. Spelling, punctuation and anything that looks remotely like Twilight LOL

TheBookishSnob said...

Thank you guys so much for commenting :) I really think there is so many different ways to look at something like this and it's never as clear cut as we want it. There's always the "Yeah ... but"'s I guessmy main gripe/disappointment whatever came recently when I almsot didn't read that book. My stomach sunk because "Twilight" similar or not, I'm pretty sure I've missed some great reads.

Another Book Junkie,

Shocked the heck out of me seeing those similarities and made me want to stand on the rooftop and show it to the world. Lol yeah I can be a wee bit dramatic LOL

Amber Skye,

See that was my thought exactly. An author slaves over their writing, puts their heart and soul into only to have to pushed aside because readers see Twilight themes even if they're subtle. Their stories, I think, deserve to be read on their own and then you review it as you will. I know I'm going to try harder to make sure any judgment I have comes after I've read the book.

Marg K,

You're right with the Kate Daniels example. When someone recommends a book similar to one I love, I'm the first one in line to buy it. (Gotta love Curran) I just feel bad for the books that don't get read for a negative suggestions. I've been highly recommended books that STUNK and so I can only assume that there are "Twilighty" books out there that are FABULOUS. Pity we can't always tell.


I did it alot to and I have to still catch that thought. I wish that I could remember some of those books now because I'd like to go back and read them. Some of them may very well have been lifted straight out of Twilight but I'm pretty sure some weren't.


Your last comment cracked me up. My mind went straight ito an extremes rant with avoiding anything Twilighty. Is it even possible to avoid? LOL

Thanks again guys for commenting. You've definitely given me some food for thought :)

Lucie said...

Everything you say is completely correct! These days I read books and all I can think about is how much people say that it's like Twilight. I mean, even Vampire Diaries which is older than Twilight is called Twilighty. I mean, jeez!

I'm really tired of books being pigeon-holed as Twilight-like, because you're right, just because a book is set in a high school or has vampires in no way means it's Twilight!

Svea ~Muse in the Fog said...

Yeah I completely agree. Anything that has to do with paranormal beings automatically makes a person think of Twilight! Hmm, how long will Twilight have its effect?

Chrystal said...

Great post. I am a strong believer of giving each book a fair chance and not comparing it to another book until I have actually read it for myself.

The Norwegian BookGirl said...

I loved this post :)! You bring up some interesting themes.

Sometimes it seems that I am one of the few that did not fall head over heels in love with Twilight. I thought that some of the books were boring, the relationship between Edward and Bella somewhat unhealthy etc. And I do not understand what it is with these books that have propelled them into such huge success.

Yes, they were somewhat responsible for getting me into the YA - universe because I wanted to read more books about vampires, and since I have wondered about their sucess because they are not wellwritten. I have come across so many great books and series that deserves Twilights sucess ten times over.

The one great thing I can say about them is the one thing I have already mentioned: They have showned the way into other books and series for many people.

Fiction Spark said...

I love your post. I hope other people who are still comparing Twilight with other books could read this.
Actually, Twilight was my first ride in the fictional world. Through it I had my navigation in my journey in the fictional plane. On my journey, I've known different YA books and different genres under this category and I find what really interest me and I enjoyed. I also come to know other interesting books. Books are like people, they have different personalities and qualities. It's inappropriate to dislike one person or like a person because he's just like a certain person. Each book has it's own magic that attracts each reader. Each characters have different personalities and attitudes that plays a huge role in developing the plot.
We can expect that mostly the setting of the books under YA is in high school and some of them has a vampire or werewolf characters in it and in love with a mortal. C'mon that's a lame excuse to call a certain book Twilighty. The characters in those books were not the clone of Bella and Edward and the plot of those books are different from Twilight. Let's just enjoy each book we read and appreciate them and STOP comparing them to Twilight. Right?

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