Happy 2017, dear readers! Now that 2016 is firmly in our rearview mirrors, it’s time to look ahead to all the brave new worlds open to us in the coming year, especially those that involve reading new romance novels. There’s nothing more exciting than counting down the days to a favorite author’s new release, unless, maybe, it’s finding a brand new debut author who knocks one out of one’s footwear of choice. At the dawn of a brand new year, the anticipation for coming reads is, arguably, at its peak. Now that the holiday decorations are stored away for another year, that only means there is room for more books, which can’t be anything but good. So, what are we looking forward to this year?
As with many questions, the answer to that one can be intensely personal, and vary widely, but the one thing that is common across all boundaries is that feeling of anticipation, that “I cannot wait for Book XYZ” that makes the blood tingle, the finger hover over the preorder button and keeping one eye peeled, at all times, for the postal carrier or UPS truck in the driveway. When there’s a new book on the way, is it even possible to enter a brick and mortar bookstore without checking the new arrivals shelf, any pertinent dumps or displays, and the proper genre’s section for a glimpse of that long-awaited cover? Probably not, at least not in this writer’s experience. When there’s a new book on the way, one by a favorite author, that uses a favorite setting, trope or character type, or perhaps has that “I’ve never seen that in a romance novel before” cache, well, what’s a reader to do?
The anticipation can begin seemingly eons before the actual release date. How many of us have read an ongoing series where one particular character’s story is teased to the point of madness, throughout the entire run? Those of us who have been around for a while may remember the torture of waiting for Rothgar in Jo Beverley’s Malloren family series, and the payoff when he finally did take center stage. Most of us know how this sort of thing goes. Introduce family or friend group in the first book, drop a few hints about why the gruff leader of the gang has not yet found his (or her – gals can do this, too) match, then make us wait, wait, wait, wait, wait until it’s finally time to tell the whole story. When that happens, it’s sure to bring dedicated readers to the ends of their limits…and of the bookstore lines, as the pounce on that long-awaited volume as soon as humanly possible. Now that we have e-books, of course, there’s the smug satisfaction in pushing the preorder button, knowing that the book will put itself right into our reader the second it’s available. Once it’s there, we can pounce, devour it, and, in most cases, unless it’s the final-final book of the series, get another teaser for what’s still to come, and the cycle begins all over again.
Author newsletters and websites are great for building anticipation, and, in romance communities, talk amongst readers can only fan the flames. It’s not even out of the realm of possibility for readers to demand books for characters the author hadn’t even considered putting in the spotlight before the buzz started. Once it does, though, there’s an additional sense of urgency, because, we, the fans, had a hand in getting that story started. Some authors have even started writing in new settings, time periods, or taken on whole new subgenera due to fan input. Other writers have turned to their fans to name characters, two or four-legged, and either used the reader’s name itself in the book, or thanked them in the dedication. Is there anything harder to wait for than a book with one’s own name right there for everybody to see? Well, one’s own release, for those of us who also write, which is a whole other topic.
Waiting for a debut author’s very first book has its own special feel to it, because we don’t know how things are going to go. Maybe we’ve seen tidbits on social media, perhaps read an excerpt, or heard cryptic but intriguing snippets from other writers we love, or readers whose opinions we trust, but we don’t know. Cue metaphorical chewing of fingernails here. Is this going to live up to the hype? Is the whole book going to be as good as that teeny bit we’ve had as a tease? Will the author’s voice carry through three or four hundred pages as well as it does in a blog post or discussion thread? Are those elements we love going to combine in the right way, even though we don’t necessarily see them put together all that often? Is that for a reason, or is it merely because nobody has tried it yet? Is there a reason nobody has ever tried it before, kind of like the book version of a jelly bean and tuna fish omelet with hot fudge dipping sauce? Or will it turn out to be the fried ice cream of the book world instead?
If only there were some sort of reader’s Magic Eight Ball, well, to be frank, that would probably take some of the fun out of the wh0le process. Not saying nobody would ever want to take a peek, but, as much fun as reading can be, sometimes, waiting for a great read is a pleasure all in its own.
So, dear readers, I turn it now over to you. Do you like anticipating reads-yet-to-come? Do you stalk an author’s social media for every possible bit of advance information, or close your eyes, stick your fingers in your ears and loudly announce to all and sundry that you are spoiler-free? Are you content to get each piece of the puzzle as it comes, or do you entertain fantasies of lurking in dark alleys so you might pounce upon a favorite author, grab them by the lapels and refuse to let them go until they let you know exactly what’s going to happen in the book that won’t be out for elebenty bajillion months already? If you’re the patient sort who scoffs at this sort of anticipation, and are happy to wait for books to come to you when they are darned good and ready, we want to hear about that, too. Pull up a chair in the comments section and tell us all about it. There’s room at this table for everybody.