Friday, August 25

My Agita over Angst

At an author signing event last weekend, I had an unusual (for me) experience. Tablemate Aly Grady

and I made a habit of encouraging conversation with readers by asking them what they normally read. We’re so smart… this puts the reader talking about themselves (and who doesn’t love to do that?) and gives us a chance to find how our books might fit into those preferences. Often, we get the vague “oh, I’ll read just about anything.” Bingo! Let me tell you how my books fit that need! But this time, we had several readers state they like to read dark and angsty.

Whu—???

In a very general sense, I understand “dark” so wasn’t perturbed when my “well, I write in outer space… and space is dark…” line didn’t turn into a sale. But angst? I had to muddle that around for a while.

Heck, I even Googled it. A dictionary definition said it is “a feeling of deep anxiety or dread, typically an unfocused one about the human condition or the state of the world in general.” Then I Googled Literary Angst and got “the angst usually referred to is existential angst, exemplified by questions such as Who am I? and Why am I here?"

Hello, MacBeth.

But my gut tells me this isn’t really what these ladies meant. Perhaps I’m wrong (totally possible), but I think they meant angst as in emotionally tortured characters, deep vendettas, gritty hatred in a mafia-revenge sort of manner. Alpha heroes who are so broken you wonder what kind of saintly woman would give them even five minutes of time (outside of the bedroom, of course, because in bed is where all their “angst” turns into hours of mind-blowing sex) to try and “fix” or “heal” him so he can finally love himself as he loves the woman.

Yes, I’m throwing the back of my hand to my forehead in a mock swoon as I type this.

I think it’s pretty obvious I don’t write angst. Or dark. Even in book number three, where my heroine is abducted, chained to a dungeon, and forced to be a blood sacrifice to a hideous monster… I bring the snark and humor in (she wonders if her abductors are looking for a virgin sacrifice, and boy won’t they feel sheepish when they discover their error).

Angst? The word brings to mind overly-dramatic teens who think THE WORLD IS COMING TO AN END because (insert something petty like they broke a nail). Heck, the thought of alpha male heroes with so much internal conflict they can barely function makes me roll my eyes. At this point in my life (meaning, I may change my opinion later without any guilt), I just want to tell them to get over themselves and move on.

I guess it’s a good thing I let those readers move on to other authors who write dark angst, rather than trying to fit the round peg of my books into the square hole of their preferences.

But the wine lover in me can’t quite let it go. When I meet someone who says “I like sweet wines,” I encourage them to try other wines anyway. Their narrow view in a world where soooo many options are out there gives me too much agita to accept their statement as final. Maybe it’s just their knee-jerk assumption or they’ve truly tried a variety of wines and concluded that sweet is their preference. But our preferences change over time. And exposure to a variety of wines broadens our repertoire of what we enjoy. Shouldn’t our taste in genre/tropes/styles evolve as well?

So when a reader passes by and claims “I only read dark angst,” I want to remind them that there are more flavors out there… they should expand their romance palate, broaden their horizons. Oh, and buy my book while doing so.

Is it just me? Anyone else ever done this or felt this way?

8 comments:

  1. I think this all.the.time. As a reader, I like it all (except first person present tense, that irks me)...I do love an angsty alpha male with emotional problems (just read one I couldn't put down, actually) but I also love a cowboy, and a lurrrve a little sass and snark...I get bored when I'm not reading across all the sub-genres (except that first person present tense one, I just can't with that one), and as a writer, I think reading across the board helps make us better at telling stories, finding our characters' problems, and fixing them.

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    1. I'm not a fan of first-person present-tense, either! I've read my share of Alpha heroes, and probably angst... Just not at the moment ;-)

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  2. Of course, I had to look up agita... As I have aged--there's that word again--my reading preferences have done the thing like where you look into the wrong end of a megaphone. They have narrowed so much and it's probably because I no longer read for hours at a time so when I do, I want it to be...you know, wonderful. For ME, not for anyone else. That being said, I think you're right about broadening all kinds of horizons. At the end of the day, you...okay, I still like sweet wine and pretty sweet books, but there aren't very many experiences along the way you'd...I'd want to give up.

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    1. I agree that when time is precious, we gravitate toward what we like best. But after a lifetime, er, a few years, we have tried enough to have a good idea what our favorites are.

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  3. I too don't write nor enjoy overly angsty books. It's my one complaint in the work of one of my fav authors. I blame it on Twlight glorifying all that teen worry does he live me, am I cute enough, what did I do wrong etc etc etc as nauseum

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    1. Agreed! I'm going to be getting that enough at home with my kiddos that I don't need to read it! ;-)

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  4. I'm with Liz in having to look up "agita," but what a cool word! I love new words. I'm not particularly into angsty books (says the woman who just put The End to a book about domestic violence), but I like to have broad reading horizons, so I try to remain open. Comfort reads are always sweet though--age or whatever, I need the sweet. ;-)

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    1. I learned "agita" from my Italian-heritage/Chicago-bred boss. I also learned the phrase "couple two tree," as in "I'm going to have a couple two tree glasses of wine tonight." ;-)

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