I just finished up auditing a graduate-level Harry Potter course called Taking Harry Seriously from the Mythgard Institute, a part of the new Signum University. The professor was the amazing Dr. Amy Sturgis–I simply can’t praise her enough! If you love Harry Potter, fantasy or gothic literature, try to at least audit one of her classes. Imagine taking a course with people who love the same kind of literature you do, and getting to discuss it in a serious, in-depth way from a brilliant professor who loves the subject as much as you do!
One week, Dr. Sturgis asked us for our thoughts on how the Harry Potter movies would affect the reading experience of the next generation of Harry Potter readers. The first generation of Harry Potter readers read the books first. They imagined the characters and the places for themselves. But many, if not most, of the next generation of readers will either see the movies first or at least run across clips and photos to the extent that it will be very difficult to come to the books with a completely fresh perspective. I shared my thoughts with Dr. Sturgis on this topic–and thought I would now share with you, you lucky dog! Here’s my letter:
In the last lecture, you asked for our thoughts on next generation Harry Potter readers, whether they will come to the movies before the books, and how that might affect their experience.
Seeing the Movies First
This is a very interesting topic to me. Naturally, I’m viewing it through the lens of my own experience. Over the years, I’ve actually preferred to see movies first, then read the books. First, because it was too jarring to form my own mental images of characters and then see totally different people onscreen. Even if they were brilliant actors and did a wonderful job, they didn’t look the same. And I sometimes have trouble forming mental pictures of places from book descriptions, so having the movie scenery in my mind can help.
Second, you almost always get less in a movie–less detail, less plot and character development, etc. I preferred to get a taste from a film and, if I liked it, dive into the book and get more. Finding new scenes and extra detail in the books would be such a delight! Coming from the other direction–book to movie–was almost always a letdown. Invariably, the scene or character I’d be anticipating would be cut altogether. Or twisted in some disappointing way. So I definitely preferred movie first, then book if I liked the movie.
Other classic movies/books
And of course, during my childhood, there were other huge films based on books that almost everyone saw either as a movie first, or only as a movie. The Wizard of Oz and Gone With the Wind are the two that come to mind. I read both of those books because I had seen the movies and loved them so much. I found reading Gone with the Wind to be a treasure, because the book was like the film in spirit, but there was so much MORE.
The Wizard of Oz…I loved the book, but it was so different from the film that in a way it was a totally different experience. Almost…a book that I enjoyed and a movie that I loved but no real connection between the two.
However, when I came to the Potter books (very late, in 2008) and started reading them, I didn’t want to see any of the movies until I finished reading the books. For some reason, I felt those books were special, and I wanted to approach them fresh and unaffected, as other readers and friends had.
The Harry Potter movies and the books
Of course, even I, a Potter virgin, had seen movie trailers. So I think I had a sort of Daniel Radcliffe-ish picture of Harry in my head. And an Alan Rickman picture of Snape. Maybe that partly explains why these book-to-movie experiences were some of the least jarring I’ve ever had. Or maybe Rowling was that good at description. But when I saw the movies, Hogwarts, Privet Drive, the characters were almost all very close to what I had pictured.
All of this is a lengthy way of saying, I think a huge percentage of new readers will see the movies first. And many movie-goers will never read the books. (Most of the people I know who saw The Wizard of Oz and Gone With the Wind didn’t go on to read the books.) Those people will be cheating themselves out of something wonderful, but they wouldn’t have read the books, anyway.
But there will be others who see the movies, love them the way I loved The Wizard of Oz and Gone with the Wind and wanted more. And they’ll be delighted with the extra…the secrets, the humor, the detail and richness of the Wizarding World…the undercurrents! And yes, they’ll be picturing Alan Rickman and probably Daniel Radcliffe and the Hogwarts of the movies, but as you mentioned in the lecture, I think Rowling’s vision was realized so closely that that’s not necessarily a horrible thing.
Will the movies look dated?
Also, you asked whether the movies will become dated and people will think they look silly–and therefore will avoid the books. I think story and character trump everything. Back to referencing The Wizard of Oz and Gone with the Wind–they’re still brilliant. I have recently seen The Wizard of Oz terrify children who have seen the best that modern movie-making and special effects can throw at them.
And then there’s a British science fiction show called Blake’s 7. The special effects were pretty laughable to begin with and are most certainly dated and silly now, but the story-telling and characters are so compelling that it fires the imagination–or at least it does mine–nonetheless.
So…that’s my take on all this movies vs. books business. What about you?
While waiting for her writing to pay off, Robin Johns Grant had some fairly boring jobs but also did a lot of crazy fan stuff, especially in Harry Potter and Star Wars fandoms, which helped her dream up her first novel Summer’s Winter. According to John Granger, author of several books on Harry Potter, “Robin Johns Grant’s Summer’s Winter is the most inventive take on fan fiction I can imagine — because it’s a romance-thriller about fandoms, especially if not explicitly the Harry Potter fandom, and explores the important intersection of literature, spirituality, and imagination. Delightful!” With a degree in English and a mid-life crisis coming on, Robin returned to school and earned a master’s degree in library and information science a few years ago. She now has her best day job ever as a college librarian, which keeps her young by allowing her to hang out with students.
Normandie Fischer, women’s fiction author and fellow Southerner, is today’s guest on “How I First Published.”
Her post is so inspirational–she had to persevere for a long time in the face of rejection, but she kept going. This post about getting published reminds me of my old blog, when I crowned myself The Queen of Perseverance for hanging in there so many years! I’ll stop babbling now and let you hear from Normandie:
What was your first published novel?
Becalmed, my fourth completed manuscript, became my debut release when Lighthouse publishing of the Carolinas acquired it in 2012 and released it a year later.
It has just finaled in the Heart of Excellence Contest (Strong Romantic Elements) from the Ancient City Romance Authors (St. Augustine FL RWA) Here’s the back-cover copy:
When a southern woman with a broken heart falls for a widower with a busted boat, it’s anything but smooth sailing.
With her days chock full–designing jewelry for the shop she co-owns with her best friend, sailing her sharpie, and hanging out with girlfriends–Tadie Longworth barely notices she’s morphing into the town’s maiden aunt. When Will, a widower with a perky daughter named Jilly, limps into town in a sailboat badly in need of engine repairs, Tadie welcomes the chance to help. Her shop becomes Jilly’s haven while Will hunts boat parts, and Tadie even takes the two of them sailing. It’s the kind of thing she lives for, and it’s a welcome distraction from the fact that her ex-boyfriend Alex, aka The Jerk of Jerks, is back in town. With his northern bride. Oh, and he’s hitting on Tadie, too.
Those entanglements are more than enough, thank you very much, so it’s almost a relief when a hurricane blows into town: at least the weather can match Tadie’s mood. When Will and Jilly take shelter in her home, though, Tadie finds herself battling her attraction to Will. Even worse, the feeling is mutual, tempting them all with what-ifs that petrify Will, who has sworn never to fall in love again. Mired in misunderstanding, he takes advantage of the clear skies and hauls Jilly out of there and back to his broken boat so fast, Tadie’s head spins.
With the man she might have loved gone, and the man she wishes gone showing up on her doorstep, Tadie finds herself like a sailboat with no wind; becalmed, she has to fight her way back against the currents to the shores of the life, and the man, she wants.
Was it a traditional publishing contract or did you go indie?
Traditional. I’m terrible at marketing, so I wanted to be with a house that would have an investment in my book’s success. I love the cover they designed and all the editing help Andrea Merrell provided. Their marketing division continues to work with me. It’s been a very positive experience.
How did that come about?
At the time, I was editing for another small publisher in their general market division and liked the close relationship I had with my authors, so I wasn’t as adverse as some might be to going with a small house. My agent had sent queries to a number of publishers, from large to small. Of the two that wanted my work, he recommended Lighthouse. I’m so glad he did.
How did this make you feel? Has it been as good as you expected, or a letdown, or exhausting, for example?
I’d been at this writing business for so long, I’d begun to see myself as the little engine that could, tossing out motivational speeches to myself on a regular basis. I’d finish one story, send it out, get a few rejections, go write another story, send it out, tweak the first, get a few rejections, write another story, tweak the second, get a few rejections… I went through one agent and then another. And all this time, I was raising children, taking care of my aunt, becoming a divorce statistic when my children’s father decamped, writing a memoir for an Iranian freedom fighter (which he self-published), finding the love of my life at an age when I’d just about given up, and writing, writing, writing.
The occasional encouragement came when I really needed it. In 2011, desperate to find out if I were delusional about my ability, I entered several contests. I’m so glad I did, because Becalmed won the Catherine for Strong Romantic Elements from the Toronto RWA; its sequel (which I’m trying to sell now) won the Marlene for Strong Romantic Elements from the Washington, DC, RWA; and Sailing out of Darkness was a finalist in mainstream fiction from the Rocky Mountain Colorado Gold. On I plodded, tweaking, trusting, and sailing with my dear husband.
I truly believe that all things work together for good and that God gives us trials for our benefit, so I’m a devotee of praising God in all things. No matter what. “Yet though He slay me, still will I trust Him.”
So, if I were going to pronounce that truth over my life, I’d also have to pronounce it over my writing. Would I trust Him with all the no-thank-yous or would I let discouragement rob me of joy? I chose to trust and to keep on learning and revising and growing as a writer and as a person.
It’s never too late.
Tell us what’s happened with your writing journey since.
The same year that my agent sold Becalmed, he also found a home for one of my earlier stories, Sailing out of Darkness, with another small house, WhiteFire Publishing. I had been very impressed with Roseanna White’s biblical stories, in which she handles some hard issues courageously, and I knew she’d do a good job with Sailing out of Darkness, which also delves into some tricky issues. Roseanna and the entire WhiteFire team have been a delight to work with, very professional, very kind, and very supportive. And Roseanna designs absolutely gorgeous covers.
Sailing out of Darkness has just finaled in two contests: The Maggie, from the Georgia Romance Writers (Strong Romantic Elements), and The Aspen Gold (Single Title) from the Heart of Denver RWA. Isn’t that medallion fun? We’ll have to wait until fall to know who won any of these contests, but I’m sending virtual hugs to all the judges who got me this far.
Here’s the back-cover copy:
Love conquers all?
Maybe for some people.
When Samantha flies to Italy to gain distance from a disastrous affair with her childhood best friend, the last thing on her mind is romance. But Teo Anderson is nothing like her philandering ex-husband or her sailing buddy, Jack, who, despite his live-in girlfriend, caught her off guard with his flashing black eyes.
Teo has his own scars, both physical and emotional, that he represses by writing mysteries—until one strange and compelling vision comes to life in the person of Sam. Seeking answers, he offers friendship to this obviously hurting woman, a friendship that threatens to upend his fragile peace of mind.
But not even sailing the cobalt waters of the Mediterranean can assuage Sam’s guilt for destroying Jack’s relationship and hurting another woman. Soon the consequences of her behavior escalate, and the fallout threatens them all.
Thanks so much for sharing this inspirational story, Normandie. I look forward to seeing more from you! Here’s a brief bio of Normandie and lots of places you can find her and her books:
A life-long sailor, Normandie Fischer has been writing and editing professionally since the seventies, with time out to work on her sculpture. Her non-fiction credits include Survivor, an action memoir she wrote for the late Reza Fazeli, an Iranian social activist. She and her husband returned recently from cruising Pacific Mexico in their ketch, Sea Venture, to care for her 86-year-old mother, and in the summer of 2013, the three of them set sail from Beaufort, NC, on a publicity tour for her debut novel that took them to NYC for the birth of Normandie’s first granddaughter. Now she’s trying to market Becalmed and Sailing out of Darkness and to decide what route to take with her second Carolina Coast novel, Heavy Weather.
Amazon links: (Also available at B&N for Nook and paperback)