Sunday, August 16, 2009

From Thug Love to Little House and Nancy Drew
(Because that's how my mind works)

So, I've been reading my very first book that I'd classify as "street fiction." I don't normally go for the more commercial paperbacks, but I was offered copies of two of Wahida Clark's books to give away for the Diversity Rocks challenge and I thought, I should know what I'm giving away. So, I started reading and here's what I've been impressed with: the dialogue. I can hear these characters talking so vividly, even though their mannerisms are very different from the people I hang out with. It's gritty and sharp and real. Also, there's no holding back on the cussing.

Clark started writing the first in this series while serving an 8 1/2 year prison sentence for money laundering, wire fraud, and mail fraud. Working in the prison library inspired her to give writing a try, in hopes of making enough money to support herself and her children when she was released.

Here are some thoughts from Ms. Clark on how what started as the desire to get one book published evolved into what's now a four-book series:
My latest, Thug Lovin’, is Part 4 to a series that came about unexpectedly. When I submitted my first book, Thugs and the Women who Love Them, it had so many pages, that the submissions editors’ first response was, “we have to turn this into two books.”

The way I ended Part 2, I had no choice but to do a Part 3. There are four couples who are all intertwined, but lead lives of their own. My readers love them, and I make sure that they always want to know what happens next. Added to that, the series took on a life of its own.

In my experience, the pros of writing a series surrounds the characters. In a sense, you don’t have to develop new characters and character profiles. I hate that task!

The cons are you have to make sure you develop your characters more. You have to grow with them. You can’t keep them stagnant, and in doing that, your characters may change…and sometimes drastically. When the fans have grown to love them as they were in book 2, but now in book 4 or book 5 their favorite has done a complete 360, the readers are at their wits end screaming, “What happened? Who is this imposter? Ms. Clark how could you do this to me???
I remember as a kid being taken aback by all the changes Laura in the Little House books went through over the course of the books. When Laura got married, 9-year-old Ali was floored! On the other hand, the Nancy Drew mysteries drove me crazy because Nancy and her friends never aged, never changed, and yet had far more adventures than anyone had a right to have in one lifetime.

Have you ever read a series where the characters changed too much or too little for you tastes?


  1. I think it was the fifth book of Harry Potter. On the one hand Harry's change into angsty adolescent and the added anxiety of not being trusted and having to save the world (or at least the UK) was justifiable, but the change was a bit too drastic. Maybe it was necessary, but I didn't like Harry much in that book. I forgive Rowling though, far as I understand, she had written the first three books before she got a deal, then screeched the last four off in four consecutive years. Or something like that. I'm having trouble with a partial manuscript in one year.

  2. Janet Evanovich's Stephanie Plum series. I gave up after 13 (can't believe I made it that far!) b/c there is absolutely NO character development. I told my coworkers to just let me know when the last one comes out so I can see how everything ended up but I have no desire to read the same story over and over.

  3. Libby, I had a hard time with Harry's whiny teen angst phase, too. Still loved the books, but found myself baffled by why he was acting like such a jerk all of a sudden.

    Casey, I've heard that people love that series but I've never felt drawn to trying it out. I guess I had my fill of series mysteries during my Nancy Drew/Hardy Boys phase when I was 12!

  4. Ali,

    Great review of a book I won't read. Sorry, street lit doesn't work for me. I'll carry it in the library but I won't read it or review it. I have a lot of angst about this genre because it is targeted to AA readers as if we all can relate, publishers push it on us as if it's all we want and if a white reader who doesn't know much about AA fiction and the first book they read is this, well, I'm not sure if they'd be motivated to look for more. Yes, I'm being harsh. I want more. I want greater representation of the black experience because street lit is one small slice.

  5. Fascinating review and comments, too. I can't think of an answer to your question, however since I don't read many series books.

  6. Having read many Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew mysteries, what really drew me to Trixie Belden as a kid was that she actually aged! It didn't continue past the first few books though when the series was taken over by in-house writers.

    I read "Angels & Demons" but couldn't read "The Da Vinci Code" because it was like reading the same book again.

  7. Your title caught me, as I guess you expected it to do...

    While I probably won't be reading this series, mainly because I'm not into YA fiction that much, at least, it introduced me, and I'm sure your other readers, to something that they weren't familiar with.