Monday, April 8, 2013

If Imitation Is the Sincerest Form of Flattery, What Does it Say About the Imitator?

 *Previously published at BeishirBooks (WordPress), April 8, 2013.

When I sold my first novel, one of the first things I was asked by my editor and Berkley's editor-in-chief (at that time) was: which authors did I most admire? Which books did I think my book was most like?

That was easy. I was a big fan of Sidney Sheldon. I'd learned a great deal from reading his novels and was quick to say so. I didn't realize I'd opened my own personal Pandora's Box. The marketing chimps took that and ran with it--to the extreme. I was launched as an author of glitzy romances with knock-off Sheldon titles that made no sense whatsoever, when what I had meant was that I wanted to write fast-paced thrillers with an international backdrop. The glamorous backdrops in my first two novels simply suited the plots--it had never been my intention to always look for glamorous settings. But it seemed I'd painted myself into a corner as far as the marketing department was concerned.

I'm still trying to figure out those nonsensical titles. Sheldon's came from the epigraphs in his novels, but mine? I have no idea. A Time for Legends? I guess that was taken from The Sands of Time. Angels at Midnight? The Other Side of Midnight and Rage of Angels. Dance of the Gods? Windmills of the Gods, of course!

No author who wants a long-term career wants to be a copycat of someone else. Trying to be the next Stephen King, the next Dan Brown, the next J.K. Rowling, or the next anybody never ends well.

I was thinking of this the other day. Collin and I were watching Iron Man 2. Tony Stark found himself butting heads at a Senate hearing with a longtime rival, dorky Justin Hammer. Hammer is a Stark wannabe, but he never quite makes the grade. Why? Instead of being himself, drawing on his own strengths and abilities, he's constantly trying to be something he's not: Tony. He fails because he lacks Tony's genius, his charm, his wit.

Even when he shows up at the Stark Expo with a whole platoon of battle drones, doing a little dance onstage onstage--again, in an attempt to emulate Tony--Justin Hammer just ends up looking foolish. He's trying too hard to be something he's not, and it shows.

It never works....


  1. You always were and will be an original.

  2. I so agree with this philosophy! And love Desert Rocks comment:)

  3. We have to be true to ourselves as writers. Trying to imitate what's currently hot will only end in mediocrity and a missed opportunity.

  4. You and William and Evie are such talented writers. I see that every time I read your blog. You must be true to what you "see" and write it down This is your book and not someone else.
    Unless your were in advertising then your write what the client wants.
    Been there done that but with art. I did a Christmas card for a plumber and no butt crack please. Think I did a Christmas tree with plumbing parts ?

    See the new doctor tomorrow and I am dreading it ! blahblah blah....

    cheers, parsnip

    1. Thank you, Gayle! Hope all goes well with the doctor!

  5. Idea's have to come from somewhere and someone has to be the first. As long as you have your own twist and spin, I say it is all good

    1. Even your sweet little Lucy is one of a kind, Hilary!

  6. Yeah, imitation never works in the end. But I don't think you need concern yourself with that!


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