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August 10, 2012

Friday Fun with J. C. Andrijeski

Yay! It's Friday and I have another author who has stepped up to the creativity plate to provide a little fun to start the weekend. Today, author J. C. Andrijeski joins us to talk about books that made it big, but left you scratching your head as to why, as well as, a few books she thinks should have made it big, but didn't. J. C.  has published novels, novellas, serials, graphic novels and short stories, as well as nonfiction essays and articles, including the Allie’s War series and The Slave Girl Chronicles. Her short fiction runs from humorous to apocalyptic, and her nonfiction articles cover subjects from graffiti art, meditation, psychology, journalism, politics and history. JC currently lives and writes full time at the foot of the Himalayas in India, a location she drew on a fair bit in writing the Allie's War books. Please visit JC's blog at

Why is that book so popular?
So after reading something like the thirtieth blog post today about the 50 Shades trilogy debating whether or not it "deserves" the attention it's getting, I found myself thinking about the oft-repeated myth that the best books written usually go unacknowledged, whereas the bad books get a lot of underserved praise. I don't know about most people on here, but I think I've been hearing some form of this "popular = bad" myth since I was a kid, whether it was relating to books, movies, music, painting/drawing or whatever else.

Just for the heck of it, I tried to think of a book that, in my mind, didn't "deserve" its popularity, including those I may not have, personally, liked. I haven't read the 50 Shades trilogy yet, so I can't comment on that one, but I have to say, the other books that popped into my mind didn't strike me as particularly undeserving.

Some of those books, I didn't like particularly. For example, The DaVinci Code, which had a writing style that irritated me and which I found pretty boring. But a lot of this had nothing to do with the book and everything to do with my taste...further, the big, controversial story around it wasn't really a new theory for me, since I read some of the nonfiction research it had been based on prior to reading the book. I'd also liked Katharine Neville's version better, personally, which I believe was called The Magic Circle. But I have to say, my personal tastes aside, I can't with any honesty say that The DaVinci Code didn't deserve all of the attention it got. It obviously hit a pretty big chord in people, and it was a little less complex than the Katharine Neville version, so more people got caught up in the story and followed along with the discovery process.

Not a big fan of John Grisham, either, although a few of the movies they've made out of his books were okay. Still, I really get why so many people do like him, and I don't really feel he falls into the "undeserving" camp either, in that the whole conspiracy theory, anti-lawyer thing somehow strikes me as kind of tailor-made for a large chunk of the American psyche and reading public.

Loved Harry Potter. Liked Twilight...and definitely got why it was such a big deal, in terms of the archetype of the story itself and the appeal to women in particular. I love Stephen King even if I haven't loved every single one of his books, and Neal Stephenson and Cormac McCarthy and Suzanne Collins' The Hunger Games.

I guess my point is, in the span of my life so far, where I've often heard these "only the bad writers get rich" complaints, I couldn't think of a single book I've read that fit that category, at least not in a way that I felt confident wasn't a matter of personal taste. But hey, my tastes in reading might be off the norm...I've never read any James Patterson for example, and maybe only one Nora Roberts, so I know there are huge, massive genres out there that I have no clue about.

Your Turn: So what about you? What books can you think of that either go unnoticed and SHOULD have become the next big thing, or DID become the next big thing and really shouldn't have?

I thought I would offer the best answer in the comments an ebook copy of any one book in either my Allie's War series or The Slave Girl Chronicles (winner's choice). Of course, I'll have to judge it, and it'll be subjective, so apologies for that in advance, but I'm really looking forward to what people have to say...!

Learn about all of J. C. Andrijeski's books at Goodreads.

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  1. OMG did you read "Secret Life of Bees"? I couldn't finish it, it was so bad. I've read so many amazing Indie Books it's really amazing that people think there's "no market" for them. Recently I've read a number of books that SHOULD be big:
    The Kingdom by Anderson O'Donnel
    X-IT by Jane George
    The Between by LJ Cohen.

    1. No! Never read that one, Pav...I guess I'll give it a pass, lol. I'll definitely check out the books on your "SHOULD be big" list!

  2. Interesting post!

    I put dow The DaVinci Code when I was on a plane and had nothing else to do. I tried The Kite Runner a couple times and couldn't finish it.

    I thought Emma Donaghue's ROOM deserved to be bigger than it was. I also thought Garth Stein's THE ART OF RACING IN THE RAIN never hit the way I'd hoped.

    I loved Grisham's A TIME TO KILL, but read it before THE FIRM was released and haven't been enamored of anything he's done since.

    1. Great list, thanks! I actually liked The Kite Runner, but maybe I was just in the right mood to read it. I finished the DaVinci Code but it was relatively painful for me, lol. I'll have to check out the other two you mentioned! Thanks much for your list!

  3. If we were all the same, the world would be a very boring place! I'm not a fan of certain popular authors or genres, but that certainly doesn't mean they have no merit. Diversity is something that should definitely be embraced and it saddens me any time I see something being bashed - either for being different or for being popular.

    The Hunger Games wasn't a book I particularly enjoyed, but I applaud Collins for creating something that has encouraged thousands of young people to read.

  4. Hey, awesome responses, everyone, thanks so much for participating! I love the lists of undeserving and deserving, and as always, Alan always has wise words to contribute to the discussion. Thanks, everyone!

  5. I'll weight in on the "scratching my head" side. James Patterson - even when he was writing the actual books himself, I thought they were terrible. I remember thinking, "Man, this guy has no talent for writing at all." Now that he's a corporation and just outlines and has a team of writers to write the story, maybe they're better, but I have no interest.

  6. I'll offer my ends of the spectrum. "The People of the Book" by Geraldine Brooks is right near the top of my "others should like this" list. It is compact, well crafted, contemporary, and under appreciated.

    Most likely the really amazing pieces of fiction out there are often missed by the geographically challenged American reading audience. I went on a "Balkan Binge" and followed this story up with "The Tiger's Wife" by Téa Obreht, and later, "The Cellist of Sarajevo" by Steven Galloway.

    Back to the Patterson readers - the bottom end. Perhaps some readers don't like to think when they read? These stories usually have one simple plot with few twists or turns and lack character depth. There is no accounting for choice.

  7. yeah, I definitely think people read with different goals. Some people just want a "zero thinking" or "minimal thinking" entertainment experience...then I have a friend who wants to relish every sentence of every single thing she reads, so she can find the hidden meaning behind it. She is definitely not a fan of Patterson, but I learn a lot when she and I talk about books. I can't really begrudge people a little escapist entertainment, problem is, it takes more to carry me away than it seems to take some people. I get distracted and annoyed if I find the people too unbelievable or wooden. But I still can't say they don't "deserve" their bestseller status. Clearly they're providing a product that many people enjoy enough to keep buying again and again and again...