Monday, February 2, 2009

Item #2 I admired about the Anne Stuart experience

Last week I put up the first Anne Stuart Black Ice thing I admired...did you think I forgot about this little project? Of course not. And I'm sure everybody has totally been waiting on the edges of their seats for #2! Without further ado:

Thing #2 that I admired about the AS experience:
I felt like she was in full control of my readerly experience. Like I could just sit back and trust. Do you ever get that with an author? This sense of trust? I so admire authors who do that.

LKH: expert describer
For me, Laurell K. Hamilton has always been queen of that trust thing as far as description--when you enter a room, LKH makes damn sure you knew what it looks like, but she doesn't go on boringly. When a character appears, she give you one or two strong things to remember about their looks. I read the first ten books of the Anita Blake series a while ago, but I can still tell you exactly what Anita's boss looks like, or Edward or that carrot-top sidekick of hers. All her leading men. In fact, I think that's the only series where I still have strong visuals on all the characters.

Anne Stuart: expert info planter
With Anne Stuart it wasn't so much visual description as the way she planted information, but the feeling of trust was still there and I really enjoyed it.

Reading Black Ice, I always felt like I knew what I needed to know so I could enjoy my reading experience as much as possible, but not too much so that I'd predict things.

One example is with Chloe's roommate. You totally get her ditziness, her disinterest in anything that doesn't have to do with fashion or finding a rich husband. Then, when Chloe takes her place as translator for the arms dealers, they are all instantly suspicious and unhappy with Chloe, and you immediately guess why: because they can see she's observant and interested in life around her. They liked ditzy! And then, it's oddly gratifying when one of the arms dealers actually says so.

Hmm, I guess this doesn't seem that impressive when I say it out, but I don't know, I just really appreciated it. Like the plot was carefully built. I wouldn't say the romance arc itself was so carefully built, but the plot sure was.

A better example
Okay, here's a better example. Bastien and Chloe are hiding out in this house on page 225 and he's sort of hot for her but trying to ignore it because of how it would complicate things:
...It was a normal enough response, and he knew himself well enough to try to dismiss it. Life-or-death situations brought out all sorts of primal appetites. Ugly but true. Danger aroused him.

And being in the presence of death whether he'd been the one to kill or not, made him want to experience life on the most basic level. It made him want to fuck, and whether it was some caveman instinct about replenishing the species or a twisted fascination with sex and death, it still existed. He either acted on it or he didn't, depending on the circumstances. There were often women operatives around who shared the same reaction, and a fast, frenzied coupling usually only heightened their defenses in times of danger.
So, this was interesting to me just on a spy level. But then, like, 50 pages later, Bastien kills this woman who is trying to kill Chloe, and after, in the hotel room when they're washing the blood off themselves (this is Chloe's POV):
The water wasn't enough, the soap couldn't banish it. She needed more, and his erection against her belly was proof that he did, too.

...she reached down and touched him, and he jerked in her hand, big and heavy, engorged with the same need that swamped her.

She looked up at him though the heavy downpour of the shower. "Please," she whispered, letting her fingers slip down the solid ridge of his cock. "I need...."

"I know," he said.

He didn't turn off the shower. He simply picked her up and carried her into the darkened room...
I know. Thanks to his earlier thoughts his connecting sex and death, (the stuff above, but there was actually more) I felt like I had this x-ray eye into his head: I knew exactly what he was thinking and how he was feeling with those two little words, I know. And it was so immensely satisfying!

So anyway, I really enjoyed and admired how Anne Stuart did this sort of thing!! Do you guys have authors you've come to trust in specific ways? 


Jill Sorenson said...

Just wanted to say I enjoyed that sexcerpt! Black Ice is one of my favorite books.

You're absolutely right--Stuart's earlier exploration of Bastien's reaction to death (primal, sexual, life-affirming) makes this scene work on a higher level.

Kati said...

Ah CJ, I love reliving books with you. I'm looking at Black Ice right there on my keeper shelf and am yearning to reopen it. What I love is Stuart's ability to write an anti-hero, who you know is a very bad man, and who very likely DOES NOT have a heart of gold. He's just a bad, bad man. Until...and even the love of his woman doesn't necessarily make him a good man so much as a better one. You know? I love that about her.

And on the topic of writers who can draw a room and a character, I'll have to drag out again my love of Tom and Sharon Curtis. I can picture exactly the settings and characters, not just of The Windflower, but of Sunshine and Shadows or Lightening that Lingers, or any of their other books. I know, I know, would I shut up already about them? But they're the example the sprung to mind when you asked the question. :wink:

Carolyn Jean said...

Jill: totally! sexerpt. Did you just make that up?

Kati: Was it you who said she writes a lot of these characters? I have to read more of them. And oh, the Curtis' did do nice descriptions, didn't they? I still remember that moon. And the hero's hot piratey leather vest. Mmm!

Jill D. said...

Carolyn Jean, It is just amazing how you were able to express what you liked about Ms. Stuart's writing. So many times I find it difficult to articulate why I like a book so much. This was a perfect example of how to do that. Maybe I should be taking notes :)

Carolyn Jean said...

Jill, Thanks for saying that! I can get kind of nerdy about these issues as I'm an aspiring novelist, so I just think about them all the time. But thanks for saying that!

Tracy said...

I agree with articulate your feelings about a book so well. I almost feel like I'm having the reading experience with you. Very cool.

Renee said...

Awesome! I'm so glad you ended this one on such a positive note. I just bought this book from my ubs this morning. :-)

There is nothing like the feeling that an author is writing with confidence, and as a reader I am being led down the path they have created. If their writing skills are good enough, they don't have to hold the reader's hand to get where they want us to go, but can stay a few steps ahead of us. To me, this demonstrates that they have confidence in the reader.

Kelly Armstrong is one of those writers for me. As soon as I start a book of hers, that self-assurance so clear in her writing, and I know I can sort of sit back, relax and enjoy myself.

BTW, totally ot, but greatly due to your recommendation, I'm reading Lord of Scoundrels right now (finally!) and LOVING IT! :-)

Lori said...

This was the last book in the series that I enjoyed. But you captured its essence perfectly.

And AS does write just the absolute perfect anti-hero. I was so stoked when I saw her at RWA - she told me she's contracted to write another historical. Woot!!! Way excited for that. Her historicals rock. Those dark heroes in one of my favorite settings... yummy!

Jill Sorenson said...


Someone else probably made it up before I did.

Kwana said...

Very good observations. I total writing lesson here. Thanks.

Katie Reus said...

I trust Linda Howard that way. She never fails to give me the type of hero I want ;) As you know, I'm not a fan of Stuart. Though she's (obviously!) an amazing writer, I just can't connect with her heroes. I read Black Ice and their first 'scene' together rubbed me the wrong way.

Ladytink_534 said...

I can't remember the roommate's name but I do remember her very clearly and I read this book quite a while ago. Usually I wouldn't remember a minor character so well but she's such a good author that I do!