Have you ever been reading a pretty decent book, one where you find yourself liking the characters and the universe and the plot…only to come to the end and realize the author has chosen to leave you on a cliffhanger?
When this happened to me very recently, I told myself it was all right that the writer had chosen to break the cardinal rule of writing a series (which is, you can leave them wanting more, but give them some resolution), because I didn’t discover the book until seven years after it was first published, and the sequel was already out, just waiting for me.
So, I purchased the second book on my e-reader, but as I started into it, I realized that there were an awful lot of typos and grammar issues. I trudged on, determined to finish and find out what would happen to these characters to which I’d given my time and money, only to come to the end of the second book and discover…SPOILER ALERT!!…the author killed off the heroine.
Now, I am a fairly forgiving reader. I understood why JK Rowling had Harry Potter end up with Ginny Weasley even though he and Hermione were destined for each other. I was okay when Suzanne Collins killed off Primrose Evergreen. I even forgave Stephenie Meyers when she gave everyone in the Twilight universe a happy freaking ending, except for her punching bag, Leah Clearwater.
But the one thing I apparently cannot let slide is the eleventh hour murder of the main romantic heroine. After reading the heroine’s finale, how her beloved husband sliced her belly open to release their child, leaving her to bleed to death after he lied to her and told her she managed to give him a son (it was really a girl), I set my Kindle down in mild disgust.
Was this appropriate for the setting and the time period? Sure, it was set in feudal Japan and the hero was a samurai lord, a daimyo; stuff like that happened. But was it an appropriate ending for a two-volume, thousand-plus page romantic saga which cost a combined twelve dollars of my hard-earned money?
No freaking way.
It all made sense to me, though, when I looked back at the beginning of the second volume and realized that unlike the first volume, it was self-published.
This is not going to be a diatribe against self-publishing. I belong to LARA, the LA chapter of the Romance Writers of America, and we are the chapter that created the Self-Published Authors network, or SPA. I voted for its creation. I think self-publishing is here to stay. But I also think that books like the ones I described above are the reason why traditional publishing will never go the way of the dodo.
Sometimes you need a really good editor to tell you that it might not be the best idea ever to kill off the character your readers have grown to love. Even if you think it’s the greatest sacrifice a woman can make for her child and her husband, and that this was always the vision you had in your head…guess what? You could be wrong! A writer’s instincts are not always correct.
I realize it might be blasphemous to say this, but it’s true. Take a look at Smashwords and tell me that some of those SP titles, covers, and story ideas are all fantastic gems straight from the writer’s amazing little brain and shouldn’t be altered or tweaked or even questioned. Now do you get what I’m trying to say? Even self-published authors owe it to themselves and their books to find a good, reliable outside source to look over their work, not just to check for typos, but to make sure that the best story possible is being put forth into the world for consumption.
I have to wonder if the writer of the series I mentioned above had to self-publish book two because her editor wanted to change the ending and she just couldn’t do it. If that was true, on the one hand I would want to congratulate her for standing up for her artistic vision, but on the other I would just have to shake my head at her decision. She did her readers a great disservice. And if I ever come across another one of her books, I would not buy it. I have no confidence in her ability to tell a story that will satisfy me.
But I can only speak for myself. I’m sure someone was thrilled that she had the balls to kill off a romantic lead. I’m not that person, though, and I suspect there are lot more out there who would be more pissed than pleased to encounter that sort of ending over the HEA that is THE unbreakable cornerstone of the romance genre.
Thoughts? Feelings? Are you a traditionalist or a rebel? Do you think that self-publishing is the proper place for rogue storytelling or do the conventions of a genre still apply?