Friday, 9 September 2011

Guest Post: Realizations of a former short story and novella avoider by Carolyn Crane + Giveaway

Today I have the pleasure of ceding the blog to Carolyn Crane, the amazing author of the Disillusionist trilogy (you might remember that Mind Games was one of my favourite reads of 2010, so you can bet I am a die hard fan ;-p)!

While we have to wait for the release of Book #3 (just recently titled Head Rush) Carolyn was kind enough to grace us with a novella so as to make the wait a bit easier on us. Her story Kitten-tiger & The Monk is part of the Wild & Steamy anthology alongside Jill Myles and Meljean Brook's novellas.

Please give a warm welcome to Carolyn, read on to discover what was/is her take on novellas and if you haven't read the Disillusionist series yet: what are you waiting for? read it, trust me, you don't want to miss out on such awesomeness! Ok, enough of me, I'll now let Carolyn take over. (oh and there's also a giveaway waiting for you at the end, just saying ;-)

Once upon a time I was a novella and short story avoider. I avoided reading them, and I avoided writing them. I was a novel gal all the way!

But then, last year, I was asked to contribute a short story to an anthology (out next summer) and was very flattered by that. And I started reading them and thinking about them, and after that, Wild & Steamy started getting cooked up, and I got even more into shorts. And guess what? I tried them and I liked them. Who knew! I’m talking about novellas below, but much of this can be applied to short stories.

Six Pleasures of the novella I’ve discovered, as a reader and a writer:

The pleasure of depth

A novel (not to mention a series!) has to ramble widely across a large canvas, and it has subplots and all kinds of business going on. If a novel was a juggler, it would have seven balls in the air, but a novella only has one, maybe two.

Some of my favorite novellas I’ve read really work those two balls, going deeper into smaller scenarios, into characters, finding more treasure inside. They don’t have places to go, things to do. They can drill and drill. This is a gift for me as a reader of novellas, because I like depth in small places. It’s also nice for the writer.

The pleasure of risk

A novel—and especially a series—is a major commitment. Most writers won’t base a long book or series on somebody obsessed with pickled pigs’ knuckles, or a kind of random encounter, etc. But the novella or short story can totally go there.

It’s a wonderful, freeing feeling as a writer to not have to worry about sustaining things over the long haul - it means you can try something more risky, or at least to explore and play without a lot of pressure. As a reader, I enjoy seeing what writers do with the slightly more random subject matter or plot set-ups they come up with.

The pleasure of secrets

Having written one disillusionists spin-off novella, and now working on a second (Simon’s story) I find that I make up little explanations and spill little fun secrets about the world that I don’t spill in the more formal novels. They’re the kind of secrets you don’t need to know to read the main books, but still. Also, I learn more things about my world, because of all the deep drilling I do. All writing is a kind of discovery for the author.

That’s a reason I enjoy reading novellas attached to series I’m following—I like to feel like I’m discovering new secrets about the world.

The pleasure of character dimension

You usually don’t have to read a spin-off novella to appreciate the series, or read the series to appreciate the spin-off novella, but they do add interesting dimension. Sort of like when you know somebody and you finally see their apartment or meet their family.

Men of the Otherworld: A Collection of Otherworld Tales (Women of the Otherworld)I definitely had that feeling with Meljean’s “Blushing Bounder” Iron Seas story from Wild & Steamy--I got several characters from interesting new angles. Or, Kelley Armstrong’s novella “Savage” from Men of the Otherworld, told from the point of view of Clay. It was such a gift to me, because Bitten is one of my favorite books, and it filled in Clay’s side so beautifully.

The pleasure of …er…vitality

Okay, bad title, I couldn’t think what to name this one. But, the other day I was thinking that short spin-offs actually alter a series for a reader, and make them more dynamic and living. In other words, less set in stone.

If you read a spin-off first, you get the pleasure of knowing things about characters beforehand—you are ‘in on’ something as you read—not in a spoilery way, but in a fun way. And if you save the novellas until later, until after you are familiar with the world, that’s nice in a different way, because the various little things mean a lot, sort of the way gossip means more when you know the person.

When I was walking the other day, I was trying to think if I was a reader, if I would prefer to read my novellas before I read my trilogy, or after and I couldn’t decide. Neither way would be better. They would both have their own effects on the series,.

The pleasure of play

Burning Up (Berkley Sensation)Because a novella is more low stakes than a novel or series, and also less complicated in terms of structure and plotting and all that, it can take time to have a little fun. I’m thinking about Virginia Kantra’s strange story in Burning Up, with a heroine who dwells partly in the ocean, or Jill Myles saucy were-fox story from our anthology, which is very very playful, in a way I rarely see in longer work.

So! What do you know, I’m no longer a short story and novella avoider.

So, do you have thoughts on the novella or short story? Something I missed? A reason you avoid or enjoy them? Do tell!

You can find out more about Carolyn and her stories at her website, blog and Goodreads.

Mind Games (The Disillusionists Trilogy: Book 1)  Double Cross (The Disillusionists Trilogy: Book 2)  Wild & Steamy


Carolyn generously offered to give away a copy of the Wild & Steamy anthology to a commenter!

Wild & Steamy

All you have to do is

1) answer Carolyn's question above in red, and
2) leave me a way to contact you (e-mail, Twitter handle, etc.)

Giveaway is open worldwide and ends on 16 September 2011.

Good luck!

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