A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness

I tried. I really, really tried. But when I got to the part on page 348 of Deborah Harkness’ A Discovery of Witches, where Diana was mind-talking with the stag her vampire boyfriend (Matthew) was hunting, I just about chucked the 600 page book across the room.

Be still, I urged the stag. Stop running. Not even you are fast enough to outrun this creature.”

Let go, I said sadly. It’s time. This is the creature who will end your life.

Now, I’m going to throw Harkness a bone. It’s clear this USC professor of history and blogger of fine wines simply wrote a story including the things she holds most dear: dusty old books, wine, tea, French, Latin, wine, Oxford, Twilight, wine, Harry Potter, naps, Sookie Stackhouse Series, more wine, tea and naps, and frizzy, out of control hair on a one dimensional, pathetic, heroine who is supposed to be smart but ends up, well, pathetic.

I think it’s admirable that Harkness alluded to Twilight, Harry Potter and Sookie Stackhouse in her book. But here’s the problem: she’s missing the spark and passion from Twilight, she’s missing the amazing plot and adventure from Harry Potter, and she’s nowhere near the wacky humanity of Sookie. So in my humble opinion, it’s fine and dandy to try to honor your favorite books/authors, but you simply cannot duplicate other authors works. It’s not possible. And when you try, you sink…like a philosopher’s stone. I think Harkness was on to something with her story, but it fell way off mark when she tried too hard to expand on the success of others.

But again, I’m not going to fault the author. Nope. Not me. I’m starting out in the wonderful world of fiction writing and I know how hard it is to put on paper the thoughts and images in your head in a way that SHOWS the reader what’s going on rather than TELLS the reader what’s going on. If you don’t have that skill at the get-go, then you have to study and learn it. And ask for help. Lots and lots of help. This is what I’m getting at. I don’t think anyone gave Harkness any help. I think her agent, who normally represents Harkness on her non-fiction history publications pursuant to the back flap, got this fictional manuscript and probably said “What the fuck am I supposed to do with this?” Harkness should NOT have relied on Sam’s “keen eye” nor on Carole’s “tweaked [words]” nor Maureen’s polishing the book in “record time” — had they been a proficient team, they would have flipped the MS over to an agent/editor who specialized in romance or thrillers. In other words, they should have used better judgment representing her.

I’m also putting the critics on my shit list.  Their praise graces the first three pages under the jacket as well as the back cover. I mean, that was what I went on. Those critics. Their praise. That was why I placed a copy of ADOW in my Target cart over dozens of other books that had also caught my eye.

But like I said earlier, I can’t really blame Harkness because she was obviously surrounded by idiots and somehow, someway 27 critics (i.e. People, NPR, The Seattle Times, The LA Times, Publishers Weekly and O the Oprah Mag, to name a few) put their stamp of approval on this and I really, seriously question a) did they actually even read all 579 pages, and/or b) did they get a kickback?

I’m probably shooting myself in the foot for discussing this openly since I aspire to also one day have a New York Times Bestseller as well as praise from numerous publications and authors on my novels. But if they are putting their stamp of approval on ADOW, does it even matter if they like what I write?

I wonder if I’m missing the point. Just like the freak-show that is Fifty Shades of Grey, marketing and sales is the name of the game, right? Who cares if new authors expand on successful authors? The world apparently wants more Bella, Edward, Harry and Sookie and they’ll buy anything that makes a comparison to those fictional characters…created by others.

I always thought it was good, true entertainment the world wants, but maybe I’m missing the mark. We shall soon see.