I spent Sunday at the Reno Earth Day Celebration talking to people and gaining new readers for myself and the three other local authors with me. Of all the questions I attempted to answer, though, the one that stuck with me the most asked simply which of my books did I think was the best.
I could have answered the way a parent would and said I cannot choose between them, which is true, but that’s not the type of best this reader was looking for. The real answer is that all and none of them are the best depending on the reader.
There is no more subjective question than one about “best.”
If you are looking for dark and gritty, none of my currently published books will provide that, though my short story Curve of Her Claw takes you into that world. If you are looking for light and fluffy with nothing to make you think, again, none of mine would suffice because they all address the risks of divisions in society to some degree.
My Regencies point out the difference between the various classes and the expectations there. The lords and ladies might be uncommon in Uncommon Lords and Ladies, but some of the characters are not nobility so offer a glimpse into the conflicts of convention versus reality, especially with the relatives of those who married up. Don’t expect the rather traditional presentation of all commoners as boorish or crude either. If one of the family could suit a noble’s sensibility, why would the rest be the worst possible examples?
In Seeds Among the Stars, the main character of Shafter and the co-main character in Trainee was raised in abandoned subway shafts beneath a colony. She helped her family survive by stealing. That background doesn’t disappear when she has the chance to go to space as much as she pretends she’s a polit born and bred. The dangers of discovery are only half the struggle as she questions her own ability to move beyond her history.
Which brings us to The Steamship Chronicles where Samantha Crill has been named a fugitive not for anything she has done but simply because of her natural abilities to transform machinery. Hunted and hated, she brushes the Dickens underside of English society and fights to prove Naturals aren’t what they’re said to be when among those who might listen.
My son classifies pretty much all my writing as “coming of age.” This is because I like to explore the transition moments when people make big, life-changing decisions. The decisions can be strictly personal like Daphne’s wish to pursue professional dance despite the cost such a scandal would bring down on her family. Or they can have a broader scope such as Trina faces when given the choice to hide what she knows or reveal her activities to save them all (yes, it’s vague but otherwise would be a spoiler for Shafter).
In my romances, I like to explore personal conceit. My characters often do the wrong thing for what they are sure is the right reason. Each time that decision is different because their circumstances and the characters themselves are unique, but on the thematic level, they tend to fall under “we are our own worst enemy.” In my adventures, I often touch on the conflict between the society and the individual. In some cases, the error is on society’s side, in others with the person, and still more where needs are set in opposition with no fault involved. There’s a balance between community and individuality that is rarely achieved, leaving many areas of tension ripe for exploration.
These are what I see in my works, but I’ve been surprised before by comments from my readers that reveal aspects I was unaware of. One reader classified Trina in Shafter as a kind-hearted pirate. I couldn’t see it for a long while because to me she’s a guttersnipe, but then I came to understand the analogy drew on how she does what she has to but will choose the path of helping others whenever she can no matter the consequences.
Though my books are very different, they share the wish to be something readable and enjoyable at any age. I take as my model William Shakespeare who was able to entertain the uneducated while providing complex layers that kept the upper classes enthralled. My focus is on storytelling first and offering food for thought a close second. You can read and enjoy without even pondering a thing. Yet, my hope is some elements will linger and possibly offer parallels to modern times that help make some modern aspects become clearer.
With all of that, can you understand why none and all of them are the best depending on what you are looking for? Pretty much everyone has a favorite read, some they turn to when they’re in a particular mood, and then the book they read only because someone pressed it on them but they love now. While I hope my books can become all those things to some readers, they cannot be that for every reader. Their very power rests in the stories I tell, and those stories won’t resonate with everyone.
If my books sound like they might resonate with you, maybe this pondering will help you decide where to jump in. If you already have, perhaps you can share your favorite aspects in the comments to help others decide.