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Fantasy for Adults, Alive and Well
I write mysteries, detective adventures, circa 1930, the Jonas Watcher Series. One of the most difficult things outside of marketing my books is, of course, getting people to post a review. For most internet retailers, you are not allowed to incent a reader to leave you a review.You may ask for one, but that is all. Occasionally authors will read and agree to write honest reviews. It can be a two edge sword. Writers with integrity honor the contract. One always wonders, but until otherwise proven one accepts the agreement.
"The Transformation of Anna" is a Fantasy Romance for adults. Older teens would enjoy the book as well. It is not normally something I seek out, though I have read such from Anne McCaffery, and Ander Norton. Those familiar with the genre should recognize the names. It was with some trepidation that I agreed to the exchanging of reviews. The author of "The Transformation of Anna", Charlene Wilson, of course had the same dilemma, as 1930 noir mysteries were not her first choice.
As an early spoiler for my review, I gave it 5 stars. I posted reviews on Audible and Amazon. While I was satisfied with the reviews, I realized there was more to the story than just reviewing a book. Sometimes when I review a book, I forget I am also a writer and I have some first-hand knowledge of what it takes to write a novel, and I often don't share that insight in reviews.
The Transformation of Anna
When I review a book, it is about the book, the characters, the story, the language and a brief synopsis of what the book is about. I assign values that are standard for the process. But I am not just a reader, I am an author who gets more 5 star reviews than lesser reviews. While I am not world famous I know a lot about writing and creating.
I have an advantage in writing Circa 1930 detective mysteries. There are a lot of movies from the time that depict cities of the times and places that I am interested in writing about. There are a number of historical sites that provide me with the landscape of my novels. I write about the physical world that we all know.
Charlene Wilson has chosen to work in Fantasy as a genre for this novel series. That might sound like it is easier. She can make just anything up and put it down on paper. All she has to do is daydream. Ah if it was only so. For any writer, there is an element that he or she must overcome in order to reach the reader. That is the writer's ability to overcome a reader's suspense of disbelief. A writer just can't say believe me because I am telling you. The writer would lose the reader immediately. Of all the genres "Fantasy" is perhaps the most difficult. Fantasy writers for children may have it easier, simply start out "Once upon a time..." The child's mind becomes immediately open for what is to come. But slip from the paradigm and you'll lose the child too.
Writing Fantasy for the adult is not a simple process. the writer has to build a world, even if they're using good old earth. In fantasy, the writer is going to break some basic rules, probably some pretty basic truths and the writer is asking the reader to suspend their sense of disbelief and go along for the ride. Once the writer has put a fantasy into motion he or she must be consistent. The fantasy must become an integral part of the novel and it must fit in without distorting the story being told. The fantasy must then blend into the background, that the reader can even predict little things as they are reading. Not too much or the fantasy can become trite.
Charlene Wilson attempts and succeeds with highest marks. From the beginning when she introduces Cole, she immediately sets the "Fantasy" in motion. The reader knows that Cole is otherworldly. She describes him in such a manner that without advance knowledge the reader doesn't know if he is a good guy or not. He is likable, but there is a "Dark" side to him. What Charlene Wilson does wonderfully is develop her fantasy world as she moves the reader through the story. She has achieved suspending the reader's sense of disbelief. She holds true to the Fantasy Romance by interweaving the romance as part of the story. Here she establishes that this is not a fairy tale for little children, but creates several erotic moments and extends the relationship between Cole and Anna beyond just the physical.
While she has no car chases or a thirties style gunfights she does create conflict and action with striking visualization. I'm sure she has seen a number of the scenes she has written and worked back over them to get them just right. Her characters are real and they behave as a reader would expect. She interlaces bits of humor with her characters that make them all the more real. There is no superman in her fantasy, all have a degree of humanity good and bad which make them easy to relate to.
The Art of Writing
When reviewing a work, I have the advantage and the curse of understanding what goes into developing a novel. A good writer works with the structure of the genre they have chosen. A great writer understands the paradigm of their chosen genre and knows how to break the rules to entice the reader deeper into the story. Writers who have achieved the latter, have something else in their favor, to readers who know them, those readers already have suspended their sense of disbelief and are willing to go along for the ride. Those writers have an even greater responsibility to their readers, not to disappoint,
All writers must develop their worlds and maintain consistency.
For me, I have a roadmap already available. I have the library, I have the internet, and I have my memories and experiences. I'm not old enough to have been alive in the 1930s, but movies, books, and my family have been invaluable to me. My first book, "The Case of the Running Bag" takes place in 1930s San Francisco. The city abounds with historical information. My primary task is keeping the novel time specific. When I fail, my readers, but primarily my editors let me know when I goofed. There is a lot of information for me to work with.
Charlene Wilson has no such road map. Hey, that's great, she can make up anything she wants. Remember a reader has the sense of disbelief. Some never release it, most do; but if the writer doesn't maintain continuity, he or she may not ever get the reader back. As she builds her world she must know everything about that world, especially what she doesn't write about. She has to expand her fantasy world beyond the narration of the story because there are elements that are affected by that unseen part of the world. Also, she may want to bring in those elements in a later story so consistency and the sense of disbelief must be honored or again she will lose the reader.
Joseph Campbell outlines the hero's journey, fantasy writers have a bit of a road map to follow, but with any fantasy, even for the writer, it can become an overwhelming quest. Charlene Wilson starts out with a great first novel in the Cornerstone Deep series. The ending is satisfying and complete, but there is more to tell.