Friday, 12 April 2013

Reverse Author Interview - Hilary Weisman Graham


Reverse author interviews is a new feature run by Kim and Cyn at Book Munchies. Instead of the blogger interviewing the author, this time the author asks the questions. What a great idea! Here's the official blurb from the Book Munchies site:

Here at Book Munchies, we enjoy reading other author interviews and see them often featured on quite a number of book blogs. But a thought came to us, those authors never get to ask us anything; we’re always the ones doing the asking. But what if there was something they wanted to know about us? So, Book Munchies has been working to gather questions from a variety of authors about a good mix of topics.

Today I'm one of the bloggers taking part, and I'll be answering questions from:

Hilary Weisman Graham

Hilary Weisman Graham is an award-winning screenwriter, filmmaker, and novelist. She is the author of Reunited, a young adult novel from Simon and Schuster. She lives in New Hampshire with her husband and son.

Here are her questions:

HWG: If you are a fan of a certain genre, do you ever get bored by the conventions of that genre, such as the inhumane society that always exists in Dystopian fiction, or the plots in Romance novels, where the girl always ends up getting the boy?

Me: I'm a big fantasy and science fiction fan, and there certainly are some common conventions and tropes within the genre. In fantasy it's things like The Chosen One, The Dark Lord, The Quest, Wise Old Wizards, etc, and in science fiction you come across Robots as Slaves, Space Soldiers, Han-Solo-esque Space Rogues, etc, quite a lot. I love it when authors twist those ideas in some way, or when they do something completely new.

Reading the same thing over and over can get tiring, but thankfully SFF has a lot of sub-genres within it that often have very different conventions, which makes it easy to 'take a break' while still staying within the wider SFF genre. For example, cyberpunk stories have their own common ideas and feel, but these are very different to, say, epic fantasy. Some of the most interesting stories come out of authors combining sub-genres that don't seem to go together, or using the typical tropes or style of one to tell the other. Combining science fiction and fairytales, for instance, has been very successful recently.

Of course, twisting old ideas to create new ideas does eventually lead to those new ideas becoming common conventions themselves. There was a time when Tolkien had such a great influence that all fantasy reflected a similar world - a kind of nostalgic, rosy-glasses approach to the past - and adventure on an epic scale. Reactions against this led to two different fantasy sub-genres emerging: gritty fantasy, which doesn't gloss over the more unpleasant aspects of the past, and sword and sorcery, which tends to focus on smaller character-driven stories rather than epic save-the-world adventures. These sub-genres were once surprising, but now their own conventions have become very familiar.
HWG: What's more likely to get you hooked in a book--plot or character?

Me: That's a hard one. My first instinct was to say 'character, definitely', but there have been some amazing science fiction books that kept me interested despite having fairly boring characters, simply because their ideas and plots were so amazing. I think if the characters are strong enough, they will hold up a lacklustre plot, and vice versa. Obviously, it's better if both aspects are good! It's really the characters that tend to keep me coming back for more, I think, and that will hook me on a book.

HWG: Does a book need to have a love story in it for you to like it?

One of my fave romances
Me: No, absolutely not, though sometimes I do deliberately go looking for a romance. In fact, because so many books in certain genres seem to shoe-horn in a love story, sometimes it's a relief when they're not there. I really like a good love story, but I can't stand bad ones, and so if the author isn't going to bother with it or write it well, then I'd rather it wasn't there at all. But I would never be put off a book simply because there's a love story in it, and I don't believe that love stories or romance fiction are any less 'worthy' than any other kind of story. 

HWG: Do you ever get "series fatigue," or do you prefer reading books that are part of a series because you get to spend more time with characters you love?

Me: I don't think I've ever had series fatigue. Oh wait, yes I have! But in that case it was because the story had been dragged on for longer than necessary. Then again, if I'm really loving the world and the characters, I can forgive bloated plots much easier (*cough*A Song of Ice and Fire*cough*).

What I love about series is being able to pick up a book and get into it straight away, because you're familiar with the characters and the world. A longer series, such as the Harry Potter series, begins to feel like an old friend after a while, and it's such a joy to re-enter the world each time.

On the other hand, there are so many trilogies within the fantasy and YA genres that it's such a relief to read a stand-alone book sometimes. Series are fun, but all the time you're reading the first book you know you're not going to get the resolution yet. It's much easier to find stand-alone novels in science fiction, but even that's becoming a bit seriesified now.

Those were great questions! Thanks Book Munchies and Hilary Weisman Graham.

What about you? What do you think - too many series at the moment? Love stories - yay or nay? Plot or character? Do you get tired of the same old genre tropes?


  1. Wonderful responses, Victoria! I agree; the breadth of SFF is one of the things that has kept me happily reading in that genre for the last 40+ years. And you are certainly right about the creation of new subgenres or conventions by twisting or challenging the old ones. It has to be done successfully in order to catch on, of course!

    I took a quick look at your reviews... it seems we have more than a few things in common. I'll be following your blog from now on. (And incidentally, nice design!)

  2. Thanks! :-) These were great questions weren't they? I could talk about the pros and cons of genre for ages (and have often bored my husband with it, hehe!)

    Thank you for the follow! Yay, glad you like the design! My husband and I had no idea what we were doing but just played around until we got something I liked. Quite proud of it (and him - it was mostly his work!). Following you back too!