Rachel Neumeier

Fantasy and Young Adult Fantasy Author

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Recent listening: Authors with multiple writing personas?

Okay, listen, if I didn’t know that Mira Grant and Seanan McGuire were the same person? I would never believe they were the same person. Let’s have a little compare and contrast moment:

EXHIBIT A

Feed

This book is beautifully written, with invisible prose and a compelling narrative voice. The overall plot has major believability issues and I had problems with aspects of the characterization, but the actual writing is very good indeed. The characters are driven forward by the action and act (mostly) in what seem to be believable, realistic ways. Well, realistic and believable if you discount the Massive Conspiracy and a few other important details — I did say I had believability issues with the plot. Also, FEED is ambitious in how it tries to combine current political and technological trends with the Zombie Apocalypse. I thought it deserved its Hugo nomination.

EXHIBIT B

Untitled-10

This book has writing which is often clunky. We frequently get things like “The question preying on their minds” when referring to a question that “they” learned about only 30 seconds ago. Does that phrase not mean what I think it means? The narrative voice — also, like FEED, a first-person voice — tries for snarky but comes across as both whiny and predictable. The characters do eyerollingly stupid things that make no sense at all, even in the world as established. The worldbuilding and plot also comes across as thoroughly predictable, derivative and boring.

What I don’t know is whether the difference in writing is as extreme as it seemed to me, because I read FEED, but I listened to the audio version of DISCOUNT ARMAGEDDON. Listening is slow, so maybe I noticed clunkiness that I would have read across in print? I didn’t care for the narrator’s voice, so maybe that is why I thought the protagonist seemed whiny?

I imagine the author wrote this UF to relax and have fun, but . . . the writing seemed so different! And nothing like as good. Plus, I stand by derivative and predictable. I swear, I don’t think there were more than ten words in the whole book that I didn’t see coming. Okay, the mice were cute. But basically everything about this story seemed completely predictable — and I’m hardly that well-read in UF in general.

Okay, now what I wonder is: Have you seen other authors who seem to have entirely different personalities and skill levels when they write in different series? Because I don’t think I’ve ever seen that before. I had no trouble recognizing that Barbara Hamilton was really Barbara Hambly. Her phrasing and characterization are so recognizable! I can tell CJ Cherryh at a glance, whether she’s writing her FOREIGNER series or high fantasy. But this time? This time I can’t believe these books were written by the same person, even though I know they were.

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6 Comments Recent listening: Authors with multiple writing personas?

  1. Heidi

    Lol, I’m actually listening to Feed now, but I’ve read a good number of her books as Seanan McGuire, including Discount Armageddon! I really like her McGuire work, while at the same time seeing why it really doesn’t work for some people. I read them when I want to relax and have fun and not think…they’re like trashy romance with scary things to me. I enjoy them thoroughly, but they don’t necessarily stay with me and I can bust through them quickly. It’s been almost too long since I read one to really contrast them with Feed, but you’re right, the listening vs. reading could make a difference–Feed is my first audio of her work! Really liking it so far, but it’s also not what I expected at all. I guess I expected more literary? Can’t quite put my finger on it. I guess I expected MORE different.

  2. Rachel

    Heidi, it’s funny that you expected MORE different than you’re getting! I’ll be interested in your take on FEED when you’ve listened to the whole thing. To me, Discount Armageddon is *too* trashy-romance, I guess.

  3. Craig

    The examples I could think of offhand weren’t different series, but auctorial powers declining with age (it would be unkind to cite examples) or, more happily, an author later finding his/her voice (Rex Stout wrote a few adventure novels in his youth, before coming back to writing with Nero Wolfe in his 40s. I’ve read one of them, and it’s terrible).

    Eventually I did think of an author with two different styles of probably equal skill: Donald Westlake, who has his “caper” voice and his “hard-boiled” voice. They are most famously expressed in two different series, the Dortmunder books written as Westlake and the Parker books written under his Richard Stark pseudonym.

  4. Elaine T

    For me Steven Brust qualifies, I’ve only ever been able to read his Taltos series, everything else I bounce hard with *boring* the dominant memory.

    I’ve heard Walter John Williams has many varied styles for his writing so different one can’t tell they’re written by the same guy, but I’ve not read but one of his so far.

    There’s someone else over in mystery… right! Ruth Rendell, and P.D. James. same person, different styles.
    And, I gather, lots in the broad romance field.

  5. Rachel

    Elaine, I liked a lot of Brust’s other books, but I admit I have never felt much of an impulse to re-read any of them. I hadn’t realized that before.

    I also hadn’t known Ruth Rendell and PD James were the same person! Interesting. Huh. I don’t really like books from either name and haven’t read that many, but now I’m almost tempted to read one by each name and see if I can tell it’s just one author.

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