Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Trends and Spotting Spot

Trend spotting.
One of the great mysteries in a writer's life.
Every so often we fluff up about them, cluck-cluck a little and then settled down again on our eggs.
There are writers with industry smarts, a ductile pen and a capacity for cross-genre who can swiftly capitalize on the newest, latest trend like hawks.
Others aren't so facile.
We all heard the drumming of heels when chic lit was declared dead.
Some trends don't so much as "die" as attach an extra molecule, acquire new espadrills, and visit a different tourist trap.
Yesterday, a bookseller posted on Romancing the Blog about this transformation.
She suggested heartily that the Next Big Thing - the next Treasure Island - would be pirates - reviving both the historical/regency as well as the chi lit sub-genre and the Kidnapped heroine of the suspense category.
Friggin' in the riggin'.
It would have been interesting if she had explained why she came to this conclusion/prediction.
The cinematic success of Pirates of the Carribean? The fact that there are favourite themes which re-emerge every decade or so like vampires?Who knows?
I would have been happier if she had extended the prediction to include other types of hi-jackers, brigands and assorted criminal types. The Taming of the Shrewd is one of those perennial female fantasies.
Various were and vamp books have already explored the Dark Hero, so why not pirates next in popular romance.?
On hindsight - keeping in mind the usual fallacies - one could have predicted the best-seller success of Brown's DaVinci Code.
Just as chic lit could be considered a reflection of a public trend for ultimate consumerism, the Code double taps an increasing public flirtation with conspiracy theories and a public outrage over certain ambiguities within the Catholic church.
Simple - now that it's a fact.
I really haven't a clue about the next trend - it's my dog that's called Cleo.
Any guesses?


S. W. Vaughn said...

Hot angel love.

Yeah, that's where it's gonna be next. Fo sho'. Write those novels now. Include a plucky talking animal sidekick and a precocious orphan with Prada and Jimmy Choos. (That's where chick lit went -- it's all about the precocious orphans now).

Write fast. Publishers are waiting for I Married an Archangel and We Adopted Annie from Macy's Closeout Bin (But She Wouldn't Come Without Her Pet Marmoset, Binky Urbanite).

Bernita said...

It sounds DIVINE!

Rick said...

pirates - reviving both the historical/regency as well as the chi lit sub-genre

Chick lit subgenre? I think of chicklit as purely contemporary - not that a 17th-19th c. gal couldn't be just as sharp, but Prada doesn't exist yet.

Contemporary sea piracy is actually a serious and growing problem. (Remember the cruise ship attacked by pirates off Somalia a few months back?) But it would be awfully hard to romanticize those guys into jolly swashbucklers.

I would have been happier if she had extended the prediction to include other types of hi-jackers, brigands and assorted criminal types.

Surely if pirates make a comeback, highwaymen and robber barons can't be far behind.

Ric said...

I'm sure all this pirate stuff has to do with Anne Bardawill's fixation with Johnny Depp - which may or may not be a bad thing.

Angels might be a trend. with the rise of Christian publishing, I can certainly see that happening in the mainstream as well.

The precocious kids came from all the chick lit editors and agents getting married and having those obnoxious little ones.

"how my electric car led to romance when he had to park his hummer"

"I married the last New York Liberal"

I think Urban Fantasy is going to ride in with the angels.

Bernita said...

I took it to mean a transfer of the chic lit voice and attitude, Rick - those Paris fashions.
Of course, pirates traditionally wear those kick-ass boots...

Yes,noting incidents of real life piracy, I stumbled over the appeal myself. However, that's one of the purposes of romantic fiction after all - a form of ritualized escape to submerge and alleviate fear and horror.
All those hunted, amnesiac, kidnapped ladies with their babies...

Bernita said...

Wondered about that too, Ric.

Thought that angels had already hit the mainstream.
Or was that in "non-fiction?"
Popular non- fiction themes often do provide a clue to the next fiction outburst, so SW may well be right.
Represent a desire for supernatural guardians in the psyche of the general public and alleviate anxieties about the uncertainty of the times.

Flood said...

I thought I had a fantastic idea. A novel in which the reader would assume the protag was male until the very end, when her sex was *revealed*! It would have blown the industry away! What genius!

Then The Crying Game came out.

I often wonder if some of my ideas are ahead of their time or if I got them out of trend-osmosis. Either way, it's annoying.

Not referring to historical romance, it surprises me that 'online-love' hasn't made the rounds. Lots of people seem to be meeting this way. Perhaps it's that reading 400 pages of "LOL!xoxo" would get old quick?

Carla said...

Apparently Helen Hollick, who is best known for mainstream historicals, has just written a pirate fantasy on the advice/instructions of her agent. She mentions Pirates of the Caribbean and Johnny Depp too - so maybe the shops are going to be awash with pirate romances in a few months' time.

Oddly, the original chick-lit novel, Bridget Jones' Diary, hardly has anything about shopping or Prada or designer fashions. All that seems to have been added to the genre later, almost as if it became Sex and the City fan fiction.

ali said...

That's weird. The book I'm writing at the minute involves (sort-of) angels.

And Rick, I think people can romanticize anything. Some historical events you'd think couldn't be romanticised have been. I think with pirates it's the whole 'bad guy' thing.

Bernita said...

There you go, mateys. Carla has just provided some hard evidence.

Flood, there are really no new ideas or gimmicks. You shouldn't have let that stop you. If readers enjoy a certain kind of twist, they'll like to read others involving the same set-up.
A surprising ( or not) number of people seem to meet, romance and get married form on-line contact.

Bernita said...

You might be at the cusp of a trend, Ali!

Carla said...

You can tell I used to work in evidence-based medicine, can't you? :-)

Bernita said...

Your approach is much appreciated, Carla.

These prognostications often annoy because they fail to supply either the inductives or the deductives.

Bonnie Calhoun said...

The angel thing has been here! There have been quite a few books written in the last three years about some form of angels.

For our Christian Fiction Blogging Syndication, I just read The Hidden by Kathryn Mackel. It's about good and evil angels!

I think the trend is Christian writing. Even BEA made note that the christian market looks to grow by at least a billion dollars this year.

And looking at the trend of secular publishers buying christian houses (6 so far this year) that looks to be the way!

Bernita said...

Good news for you, Bonnie.
You're positioned at the right time with the right topic.

For The Trees said...

I think the idea of pirates, brigands and criminals in romances with Angels afoot is a GREAT direction. Add in the Christian aspect and you can just see "Nude Nazi Nookie News" coming out from Harper Collins or Random House, a 100,000 word extravaganza featuring Adolf Hitler after being pardoned by God, turned into an Angel who comes back with Menachem Begin to help the Palestinians build a new government, with several romantic involvements involving a Syrian woman (Muslim, of course) falling in love mit Adolph, and Menachem doing his best to foil their plans to meet surreptitiously...

Call me psychic, I just know this will take off big time...

Whom have I not offended yet?

Carla said...

Mind you, she ended up self-publishing it, along with four of her back-list titles. If interested, there's some of the background on her diary page for April 2006 and in the archives.

Bernita said...

Ooops. Cancel the verification.
Was that an object lesson to double-check the evidence, Carla?

Nazi-Arab nookie is so old, Forrest. Besides, we're discussion fiction, not history.

Rick said...

Real 17th c. pirates were no better than contemporary ones, but I suspect they're much easier to romanticize. The facts are remote, the image familiar. The modern ones lie somewhere along the spectrum between druglords and terrorists - neither one the stuff of romance.

archer said...

MY novel is called Evil Archangel Left Behind: The Michelangelo Sistahood Code.

The goregous sexy woman who looked just like you, only thin, eyed the ancient wrinkled parchment. It had worked! Now she was a model! What she did not know was that this day was the Day of Judgment...

Bernita said...

You under-rate the transcendent immagination of a romance writer, Rick.
She is TORN between her ethics and the DARK seductive power of his sensual body - the way he makes her FEEL when he ravishes her.
Then she reforms him by her luuurve - or decides she likes the FREEDOM of giving in to her dark destructive psyche, the victims of what-ever-marauding-activity are all bloated hypocrites anyway.
Or something like that.

Bernita said...

A sure winner, Archer - if it hasn't already been done...

Carla said...

Not really - I gather from her diary that the agent wanted a YA fantasy about pirates (no doubt for the Orlando Bloom teen demographic) and she wrote an adult romance fantasy about pirates, hence no sale. I also gather that the sales of her back-list weren't high enough to convince the publisher to reprint, which probably contributed to the decision not to buy the next one. But the pirates aspect still holds good; I think that counts as anecdotal evidence in favour of your suggested trend. (Anecdotal evidence is the lowest possible rung of evidence in EBM, but in this context there probably isn't any other kind).

Carla said...

And PS, that reminds me why I rarely read romances :-)
At least in Frenchman's Creek it didn't end HEA, and in Jamaica Inn there's no romance about the wreckers.

Bernita said...

No, I don't think it does supply evidence, even anecdotal, that that pirates are the next big trend - at least in the mind of British publishers.
Quite the contrary.
The agent wasn't able to place the story.
Now if it sells even moderately well - self-published or not - then it would indictate something about reader interest and trends.

Carla said...

Interpretation is free. Without numerator and denominator data I wouldn't venture to judge whether a particular type of book is/is not selling better than the average, much less whether that constitutes a trend. Some time last summer Bookseller.com reported that Tim Severin had sold a two-book series about corsairs to Pan Macmillan, which was around the time that Helen Hollick was writing hers. Maybe the trend came and went and is now "so last year", or maybe her book fitted the trend but didn't sell for some other reason, or maybe there never was a trend for pirates in the first place. Maybe angels are the next trend. Maybe pirates. Maybe historical regency. Maybe chick-lit suspense. Maybe all of them, maybe none of them. Who knows?

Bernita said...

Who knows?
Not me.
Definitely not me.
I just hope that stuff with a paranormal angle continues to be "property."

However, if there were a spate of sales similar to the cosair set it might be anecdotal evidence that publishers THINK pirates are the new chickens crossing the road.

Carla said...

How about combining paranormal and pirates? There's the famous example of the pirate hired by Edward I to kidnap Eleanor de Montfort in 12-something, and all the so-dashing privateers of Elizabeth's day, and as many Vikings as you like. No reason why time-travel shouldn't land your Damie in one or other of those if you choose - and you have Rick on hand for expert advice on naval warfare.

Bernita said...

~digging around for my Chronicles - where'd I put it this time? - I had it right here...somewhere~
Have the vague memory of a few, non-Viking mentions pre-Conquest, too.
That's an excellent, excellent idea. Pity is, as much as I like Forrester, I'd be safer confining myself and Damie to small boats and in-land waters.
But betcherbottom, I'll give it serious thought!

Carla said...

I don't know if there was much piracy on river traffic? Rick probably knows. I'm fairly sure there are references to Frankish, Frisian and Saxon pirates attacking Gaul in late Roman sources (but don't get me started on the possible meanings of the title 'Count of the Saxon Shore').

Bernita said...

I'll just have them come ashore, Carla,like Lothen and Irling, in search of their "unspeakable booty in men, and in gold and in silver."

Dennie McDonald said...

angels ... pirates ... oh MY!

Rick said...

Re modern pirates, I guess I don't read enough romance. ;) And of course I'm looking at it from the male lead's perspective - I can much more readily daydream about being a swashbuckler than the kind of plug-uglies you find as modern pirates.

I've seen mention now and then of river pirates, but it is rather a different game than sea piracy, and likely suppressed at an earlier period. A river pirate isn't going to sail off to a hidden cove somewhere. Most likely he just uses quite small boats to attack passing riverboats. If successful, he'll quickly graduate to a robber baron collecting tolls.

E. Ann Bardawill said...

"I'm sure all this pirate stuff has to do with Anne Bardawill's fixation with Johnny Depp - which may or may not be a bad thing."

You are quite correct, Ric.
it's entirely about me.

It's I - ME! and noone else who decides what is the NEXT BIG THANG.

I shall reluctantly disrobe...er... disclose the trends for 2007. You may adapt them to your writing as you see fit.

Yes... yes... the mists are clearing...
I see. PIRATES! Yes...

VAMPIRE pirates decended from Knights Templar and renaissance painter/tranvestites who must keep a terrible secret from the pious monks - Brothers of the Perpetual Goatshair Thong Wedgies - that John The Baptist did not get beheaded, but ran off with Salome, became a whole life insurance salesman, and fathered a bunch of kids and that bloodline is the foundation of producers of reality TV shows!

I guess this means it's a bad thing.

Gabriele C. said...

there was a big bunch o' pirates on late 14th century Baltic Sea as well, and they made more than one foray into the North Sea. Their main lair was Gotland.

In the end, the Teutonic Knights, landlubbers as they were, had to deal with the lot because they were still the best fighters around and better armed and armoured than the pirates.

I could dust off a certain plotbunny if pirates really take off.

Bernita said...

Ann, hysterically funny - as usual. The bookseller poster apparently shares your fascination.

Don't think it matters Rick, pirates do come ashore to maim and maraud.
Rather frequently, according to the Chronicles.
All the action doesn't have to take place, ship to ship, on the high seas.

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