Working in a library has made me aware of the abundant output of some writers. Actually, not just some. Many. Many, many more than I would have thought, given my own experience of writing.
I notice Faye Kellerman, James Patterson, Ceclia Croft, because it’s hard not to. Like a kid tugging on his mom’s sleeve while intoning “Mom! Mom! Mom!” their book spines intone their names -- PATTERSON! PATTERSON! PATTERSON! -- as I walk among the shelves.
I want to poke their eyes out with a pencil. But first, I want them to tell me HOW THEY DO IT. I find writing excruciating, like getting my teeth cleaned. The shrill whine of the drill, the incessant scratching at my gum line. Yet, above it all is the incessant pounding in my head: keep writing, keep writing, keep writing. Either writing for these guys is a walk in the park on a sunny day, or they've found a way to block out the whining.
I looked up James Patterson. I don’t know his work at all, but millions of people do. He's known for his suspense/thriller novels. He churns them out like pancakes. He's written 20 books in his Alex Cross series alone. There's also his Michael Bennett and Women's Murder Club series and his children's books. NYPD Red 3, the latest offering in yet another of his series, comes out March 16th. Invisible, which came out last June, was just issued in paperback a few days ago.
This man is a freak.
"Did you know he has a whole stable of writers who write for him?" my publishing friend told me. "He comes up with the idea, and they knock out the book,"
Well, no, I didn't know that. I suspected as much, given that some of his books have co-authors. But still. He had to have written a lot of books, and shepherded them to scores of Beloved Readers, in order to get to the place of Writing Stable Master.
Here are some others I'm learning about:
Ellen Hopkins: She writes harrowing books about addiction that are popular among the teen and young adult set. They're thick books, because they're written like poems, short dispatches from the minds of her characters.
Wanda E. Brunstetter: She's one of several authors of a genre that I'd never heard of before, Amish/Christian romance. I've read romances, especially when I was in my teens. I learned that you could flip to about page 23 to find the first sex scene. I'm on page 45 of Brunstetter's Plain and Fancy, and there's no bodice-ripping (hook-and-eye tearing?) going on, at least not yet. Just a flirty picnic scene between the Englisher, Laura, and the Amish guy, Eli:
She toyed with the edge of the quilt a few seconds, then stared into his seeking blue eyes. "I've dated several men, but none have ever captured my heart." At least not until you came along.
Was that a look of relief she saw on Eli's face? No, it was probably just wishful thinking on her part.
Complicating further the story line is the Amish girl Pauline, who wants Eli to end his rumschpringe and settle down with her.
Mo Willems: I don't have kids, so this author and illustrator is new to me. He won this month a 2015 Theodor Geisel Honor (Geisel = Dr. Seuss) from the American Library Association. The man is a factory, pumping out Elephant and Piggie, Knuffle Bunny and Pigeon books. It's telling to see how a popular kids' book author like Mo has to manage his fans and their expectations.
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I raise my pencil to the prolific among us writers, the writers who write. Like the Charlie Hebdo cartoonists, who continue to create in spite of murderous acts of terrorism against them, authors like Patterson, Stephen King, Jodi Picoult and J.K. Rowling write and keep writing, no matter the internal terror of resistance and fear.