When was the last time you tried something new? Romance readers are some of the most widely read readers out there, and arguably the most likely to read other genres as well as their genre of choice, while at the same time remaining some of the most fiercely devoted to our favorites, be they authors, settings, series, or character types. Still, as the world around us makes the shift between seasons, sometimes an itch to try something new gets under our skin, and we give a stretch as we wake from a long winter’s nap. Where, though, does one begin, when the urge is merely for “something different?”
The first thing we might want to consider when we’re in one of these moods is, how much “new” are we looking for right at this moment? It might be as plain as having finished all of Mary Author’s janitor romance books, but we still have an urge for a good hearted man, who doesn’t mind cleaning up other people’s messes, even when he’s totally blind to his own. If janitor romances are the flavor du jour, we’re all set, as Suzy Wordsmith, J.R. Storyteller, and Lee Fictionauthor all have their own twists on the janitor trope. Amanda Huggenkiss’s rag and bone men may not have all the fancy cleaning solutions their modern counterparts get to use, but they make up for it with street smarts and pure muscle.
Trying a familiar trope or character type in a different setting is one way to find something new, and, when a beloved author does a bit of time traveling, adding historicals or futuristics to their contemporary body of work, for example, that gives longtime readers one foot in familiar territory, while at the same time braving the unknown. Perhaps a longtime favorite author has waved off the last couple in a long-running series, into the sunset, and embarked upon new adventures, either with the next generation, or an entirely new cast, crew and location. Even when starting from scratch (and readers of standalones get to do this on a regular basis) the author’s voice will provide a touch of the familiar, so one doesn’t feel totally lost.
Unless that’s what one actually wants. There’s nothing like the exhilarating feeling of climbing up the long, long ladder of a high dive, shouting “Cannonball!” and plunging into the deep. With debut authors, it’s a brand new experience, rife with the thrill of discovery. Will author and reader find this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship, or do they part ways at the end of the book, with the knowledge that they took a chance, and that’s always a good thing. Ruling out something as not for a particular reader can actually enhance the overall reading experience. Janitors don’t do it for a particular reader? Not every writer can please every reader, and that’s fine, because hey, look at all these accountant romances over on this other shelf. Nothing wrong with trying something and not finding it to one’s taste; the experience is reward enough.
Trying a new author, subgenre, or character type can be a palate cleanser when one’s favorite go-to read has become too much of a good thing. If all those Regency ballrooms are getting too crowded, and it’s hard to remember which hero goes with which heroine, maybe it’s time to take a step back and try something different. Spend a few chapters with a small town sheriff and a single mom (or dad) on the run, hang with a werewolf pack or vampire clan, or try a YA to relive all of the thrill of first love without homework and curfews. Give one of those a try and find it’s not the same without the historical atmosphere? Try a medieval, western, or 20th century romance on for size. Sometimes, a breath of fresh air is all that’s needed to appreciate the tried and true even more.
Never before have there been so many ways readers can experience stories. We can read paper books, ebooks, or listen to audiobooks in a variety of formats. Switching up formats can be a fun way to keep things fresh, as well as finding out if the same book feels any different on page versus screen, or in the hands of a talented narrator. For those really dedicated to trying something new, consider reading along in paper or ebook with the audio version.
In the same vein, there has never before been as many ways to find new books as there are today. Book review websites and blogs, message boards where like minded (or otherwise) readers congregate, bestseller lists, searches by theme, setting, trope, or even character names, can open up a whole new world of reading possibilities. Libraries, and some independent bookstores, often run blind date with a book events, where all one knows about the next addition to the TBR is the genre, and literally nothing else. Who knows what lurks behind brown paper and plain string? No matter what it is, adventure awaits. Really, when one thinks about it, there is no end to the possibilities for plotting new reading ventures. Nothing to read? From the looks of it, not anymore.
So, dear readers, I turn it now over to you. When was the last time you tried an author, subgenre, or plot device that was new to you? Read in a different format? Did you have any reservations? What tipped you into taking the leap, and how did it turn out? This reader’s TBR pile is topped by the brand-spanking-newest Marsha Canham historical, bought on the author’s name alone. This reader knows exactly zippo about characters or plot, but trusts in the Canham magic, and that’s good enough. What’s your newest experiment? If all this new stuff isn’t your bag, we want to hear about that, too. Nothing wrong with sticking to what works. Pull up a chair in the comment section and tell us all about it. There’s room for everybody at this table.