7 Questions With Jennifer Stevenson
Jennifer is an avid reader and aspiring writer of young adult fantasy fiction who fell in love with books when she was old enough to read. When she doesn’t have her nose in a book, she’s scouting out her next great read. Fellow bookworms looking to chat or authors seeking honest but polite reviews can find Jennifer hunting the shelves on Goodreads at Goodreads.com/pixiquill or on Facebook @PixiQuill.
In today’s interview, Jennifer opens up about the key elements that pull a reader into a novel, reading trends and negative reviews. Don’t forget to check out all the tips From Writing To Publishing Your Novel, and sign up to my Newsletter for the latest & greatest.
Esther Rabbit: What are your favorite genres as a reader and what authors made you fall in love with reading?
I mainly enjoy YA fantasy–with a nice sprinkling of romance, and I occasionally enjoy a good mystery. I’ve loved reading since I was a child, so I can’t remember where it all started, but I have to say that C.S. Lewis is one key name on my list.
I love the Chronicles of Narnia, and I am always amazed at how Lewis was able to create so many parallels between the Bible and his fantasy world of Narnia. I can’t leave out Jane Eyre, though. Charlotte Bronte’s use of language and the characters she created were absolutely incredible. The way Bronte pulled together all the elements of her plot left a true impression on me.
Esther Rabbit: When you start a new book, what are the key elements that pull you into the story?
I need whatever book I’m reading to follow the P.A.C. Criteria: Plot, Action, Characters. All three are essential to a good book; the cornerstones that can make or break the whole story.
A solid plot that is consistent throughout the course of the novel is vital. Action that has proper direction and carries the plot to the climax and resolution is what keeps me turning the pages. Characters that leave a lasting impression–negative or positive–are what keep that book on the front shelf of my mind.
In a novel, there are no pictures or videos, so every word counts to eventually tie everything into the neat little package called “The End”. It’s a lot to ask as a reader, but it’s a challenge writers accept when they decide to become authors. As an aspiring writer, I firmly believe that.
Esther Rabbit: Is there any difference between traditionally published and self-published authors when it comes to the quality of the manuscript?
I’d say that true quality depends on the author behind the work. That’s what really makes all the difference. I’ve read a staggering amount of books that I’ve found to be absolute nonsense, all traditionally published. Most of the time traditionally-published books focus on trends, political correctness or whatever agents and big-name publishing companies think readers want.
I truly respect self-published authors because they take the leap and write the story they want to tell without the tethers that the bigwigs impose. In my reading experience, indie writers are just as good and just as bad as the big guys. It really just depends on the quality of the authors themselves.
Esther Rabbit: Do you also follow trends when it comes to reading?
I don’t believe in trends–not in clothes or movies, and definitely not in reading. If the book sounds good, I’ll add it to my list and give it a read. Just because it’s “fashionable” doesn’t mean it’ll suit my taste. In my opinion, writers shouldn’t follow trends.
Chasing after trendy material just degrades a writer’s caliber as they turn away from their true voice and style in an attempt to please the masses. Yes, you have to give the people what they want as an artist, but not to the degree of losing yourself in the process.
Plus, trends change, and by the time a noveI is completed, something new may be on the scene. I also find that in trend-chasing, literature loses quality. The writer is so busy trying to fit the mold that they fail to tell a truly worthwhile story. The feminism trend is a good example.
It seems every author and filmmaker is on the feminist train, with the misconception that because the protagonist is a “strong female”, the story is guaranteed to be a smash. But most neglect the plot and produce second-rate characters, dooming the projects.
Esther Rabbit: Can a really bad book become successful?
Yes. Unfortunately. I’ve seen it with my own eyes. A while back I read a fictionalized YA account of Jack The Ripper. It was one of the most ridiculous, historically inaccurate, pseudo-feminist pieces of literature I’ve ever read.
It scorned femininity in a poor effort to bolster feminism. It also gave the impression that it’s okay for a man to make inappropriate advances toward a woman if he’s attractive and intellectual enough.
Yet, for all these shortcomings, the vast majority of the ratings on Goodreads and other sites were five-star. I imagine that this is because some readers have fallen into the trend-rut. If it’s in vogue, it’s all good. But I disagree.
Esther Rabbit: What would make you, the reader give someone a negative review?
Failure of the author to meet P.A.C. standards as I mentioned above is number one. The second issue is failure to meet my 100 page rule, which is: if the plot and all points thereof aren’t clearly defined by page 100, I’m done.
I should know what the story’s about and who to cheer for by then, or it’s not worth continuing. Discovering that the author has sacrificed quality for trendiness or being PC will earn a bad review.
Age-inappropriate content (YA lit); inappropriate handling of delicate issues such as rape, abuse and general violence; deriding femininity in pursuit of promoting feminism; obvious factual inaccuracies and lack of realism that kill suspension of disbelief; perpetual digression from the plot. Yeah, any one of these things will definitely generate a negative review.
Esther Rabbit: What are the scenes in a book you’d rather skip as a reader?
Explicit sex and graphic violence are at the top of my list. This is why I generally stick with YA literature where such content is kept in check. Scenes of seemingly interminable dialogue are also irritating. All that chatter is boring and distracts me from the plot, as do lengthy descriptions.