Monday, September 14, 2009

LJ Smith and Charlaine Harris (repost from LJ)

Reposting this from my Live Journal...

If you asked me who was the most influential writer to me that shaped my style of writing, without a doubt, every time I would hold up an LJ Smith novel and tell you, "Her, and you should read all of her books." I, in fact, own almost all of them. There is no other author I could say takes up as much space as her books do on my bookshelf. When I was a young teen, I would bury myself in her books, getting lost in the sweet romance and the stories that my young mind could comprehend but still felt it was expanding by reading. I felt smarter after an LJ Smith book--felt like I walked away knowing something I hadn't known before. She has always been a hero of mine.

Until last night.

I don't know if any of you decided to watch the Vampire Diaries, which is a new series on the WB written by Kevin Williamson (of the Dawson's Creek fame!) based on the series of the same name by LJ Smith. I grew up on these novels. I cherished them. They're the only books on my bookshelf that are almost destroyed from me reading them so much.

At 8:00 P.M. on the dot, my husband and I switched over to the WB to watch the show. I was almost giddy with excitement. I could hardly contain it. I think I even squealed... A sound that promptly died as soon as the main character, Elena, appeared on the TV.

Number one, she is an actress that played on Degrassi: The Next Generation, as a girl named Mia, who I hated. Not just the character, but the actress was pretty irritating, too, in all of her mannerisms and way of talking through her cheeks.

Number two--she's a brunette. With dark eyes.

Elena, the character this actress is portraying, in the books was describled as blond haired and blue eyed. In fact, that was a pretty big deal in the books. And don't get me started on Bonnie, who was a short red-head in the books. But my main question as I watched the pilot... "Where the hell is Meredith?!" (Who was my favorite character, because Elena was pretty much a bitch in the books, but she was supposed to be like that.)

I paused the show 15 minutes in and stared at the TV, trying my damndest not to cry. My husband looked over at me and stared, anticipation and concern marring his features. I could barely breathe. And then I ranted.

"She let them destroy her books!" I all-but shouted. "She let them bastardize her characters--her CREATIONS. They DESTROYED them. This has nothing to do with the characters! They took the name and the vague storyline and changed everything else! How could LJ Smith let them get away with this?!"

I can't tell you how devastated I was to see how badly one of my main writing heroes had sold out. After making my husband SWEAR to never, ever let me sell out to the same degree, I went and started searching on the internet about the show.

Then I found this post by LJ Smith on her website (

September 10: The Vampire Diaries TV Show on the CW at 8 Pacific and Eastern, 7 Central!

May I make a plea for everybody to try to be patient (especially with the pilot episode)? The Twilight Zone feeling rapidly diminishes after that. Ian Somerhalder is being recognized as a superior villain; and I feel sure that under those brown curls Elena's scheming mind is simply waiting for an opportunity to emerge. Really, guys, the series people have been nice to me lately and I get to hear about (and I hope get, to give to you) freebie things like posters and "sunscream" and "Fang" dental floss, all part--along with a blood drive ("Starve a Vampire: Donate Blood!) in New York. Even Brazil is all het up about the books and the show. I've waited this long to speak out, and my verdict is: give it a chance.

Slowly I started to calm down, as my husband told me that the post seemed to indicate that she wasn't super thrilled with what they did to her characters/story, either. She is, afterall, just the author of the books. When you sign over rights to someone, they can pretty much bastardize it as much as they want.

Am I still angry? You betcha. Am I still disillusioned? Yeah, sadly. Do I still think LJ Smith, being the famous and fantastic author that she is, should have been more involved in the evolution of her art? You're damn right I do. Will I ever feel the same way about this author again? If I had started reading her when I was older, and hadn't put her on such a pedestal when I was a child, probably. But the kid in me feels beyond horribly betrayed.

Now. Please allow me, if you will, to argue the other side.

My husband and I are huge fans of True Blood on HBO. HUUUUUUGE fans. We eagerly await each Sunday to see the show's progress as it just gets better and better. True Blood, as you may or may not know, is based on the Sookie Stackhouse novels by Charlaine Harris. As I started to get more and more intrigued by the show, I went out and bought all of the Sookie Stackhouse novels, mostly to find out what happened in the series. (Yes, I am one of those people that thrives on "spoilers" and will still continue to watch the show.)

The books are really good. I'm not going to say they're my favorite ever, as they're full (and I do mean FULL) of filler stuff that feels like it was put in just to make the books longer. But her writing, though at times irritating, is also pretty enjoyable. I was pleased as punch with my purchase, and in 2 nights I ended up reading all nine of the books. Before you get all impressed, I'll admit there were parts I skimmed because it was just boring as hell and didn't push the story along at all.

What did I discover when I was done reading?

The characters in the novels are NOTHING like the characters in the book. Okay, they're something like them. But not a lot. I could do a side-by-side comparison chart of the books vs. show characters, but I won't. 'cause that sounds boring. Also, I'm sure someone else has already done it.

Does liking the books (albeit not as much as the series) mean that I'm angry that they changed the characters so much? No. Not even a little bit. Why? Because the characters on the show are exciting. They're fun. We love them and the issues they face. So why would I be so angry about The Vampire Diaries? Is it because I grew up with the Vampire Diaries and it didn't match what was in my head? Is it because I watched True Blood before reading the books? Is it because I like True Blood better than the books? Is it because it's different-but-the same enough to keep both good?

I don't actually know the answer. I just know that I'm generally one of the people who can appreciate books AND the movies that they're based on equally. I'm pretty good at separating the two. So it must just be because I grew up with The Vampire Diaries and I can't get over the betrayal. Because I can't help but look at LJ Smith and think, "You KNOW what kind of writer Kevin Williamson is. Yes, he's brilliant in thousands of ways and I personally love him to death. But marrying TVD and Kevin Williamson is not a good idea. The two can't mesh."

Whereas True Blood went to Charlaine Harris and said, "Hey. We've got a show idea for your books. Here's what we want to do." And I can't help but also believe that Charlaine Harris cocked an eyebrow at them and said, "Let's talk when you get it closer to my characters."

So, that's my post. Tomorrow look for a post on this awesome, amazing book I picked up called "Writing Shojo Manga." (Which doesn't actually have to have anything to do with manga.)

Until then!