I read a lot of books and the same themes keep recycling over and over. This isn’t bad per se but in addition to sometimes tepid writing means books tend to blend together or be forgettable. When reading for entertainment as I think the majority of us do it doesn’t matter so much as the enjoyment WHILE reading but when looking back at the vast number of books I’ve read I sometimes can’t remember a thing about them.
So when I discover an author with a distinctive voice, one that resonates through their writing no matter what the subject or genre, I tend to cling that author. I love when I can open a book and instinctively know who the author is. This partly guarantees a good read (or strongly suggests) but I also like the familiarity; sort of like visiting an old friend who’s got some new stories to tell.
I’m not exactly sure what makes an author voice distinctive. I’m not sure I could pinpoint the exact element from author to author. Just one of those you know it when you see it. Not all authors have this elusive quality, even some massively productive authors still lack a distinctive stamp while some authors with only a few books to their credit stand out with uniqueness. It’s just one quality that I love when it comes through – even if I’m not a fan.
For example there is Cameron Dane.
I recently read a book of hers and right away at the beginning I knew I was reading Dane. Though much has been made of her continued and almost stubborn use of cringe inducing prose – I don’t think a single book can go by without a fluttering rectum or seizing chute of molten fire – her books are very distinctive. From the situations to the characters, the set up of the sex scenes and of course the prose, these books scream Cameron Dane even if her name wasn’t on the cover.
Along those lines of exaggeration is Evangeline Anderson.
She tends to polarize fans with those that adore her writing and those that can’t stand it. I tend to fall into one or the other as well as often EA’s work will get 1 star from me but also it can get a super hot 4 stars OMG MORE PLEASE too. She seems to stick to GFY tropes and a yaoi-inspired non-con with a patina of homophobia over the whole thing. Yet I don’t think anyone can argue that her books aren’t distinctive and easily recognizable.
Another great unique voice is Tamara Allen.
I recently read The Only Gold (reviewed here) and right away I was swept into her world. I knew I was reading an Allen book with her attention to detail and that melodious voice. Her style of writing is immediately evident and unique even as her characters vary wildly. Yet it’s the complexity of the story and the men themselves that shows her voice. The sheer level of complicated personalities and beautiful lyrical writing never lets me forget the author. This doesn’t detract from the story at all, in fact I like that feeling of comfort and knowing I can trust the story.
I could go on but these are just 3 examples of authors with distinctive voices to their writing, at least in my opinion.
But what do you think? Do you like a distinctive author voice or not? Who stands out to you as having one and do you immediately think of when asking about recognizable writing?
17 thoughts on “What I like – the distinctive voice.”
Lord. I’ve never really thought about it. Maybe that’s why I’m attracted to some author’s work more than others. I think I’ve only read a couple of EA and one each of the other so can’t really speak to those.
I mean Sean Michael is someone you can usually pick out their prose style a mile away. Not always (considering how many books there are) but there is a “style” there. Sometimes I’m in the mood for it, sometimes not so much.
I think KZ’s style is fairly distinctive. I consider it pretty sophisticated. She uses big words and complex phrasing and descriptions. I don’t mean that in a bad way, but it’s usually a step above how someone else would describe it. Maybe it’s her literary background that spills over into more complex language.
I’ve also come across author’s whose voice DOESN’T work for me. Thom Lane is one. I know others love it but I suppose it’s like chocolate. I only like milk, others love it the darker the better. 🙂
Oh god… Sean Michael. So very true.. you can always always always tell when you’re reading a SM book. Perhaps that’s why so many readers recognized all the other names she was writing under. Whether the style is good or bad, it’s definitely there.
I’ve not read enough of KZ Snow to know that or not but that’s someone Val mentioned so clearly their style resonates with readers. Similar to Thom Lane. I don’t think every author’s voice will appeal to all readers but I think good or bad having a recognizable style and writing is an accomplishment. It’s also something that lets you the reader know immediately that regardless of the subject you may like or dislike the book.
Great post, Kassa! I like a distinctive author voice. Three that come to mind are KZ Snow, Jordan Castillo Price, and AM Riley. I wish I could explain it better than that it sounds like they’re telling me the story in their own speaking voices, but it’s something like that. Also, all three have flashes of humor that come through no matter what’s being written about, so it may also boil down to them expressing unique senses of humor (and all three of them are different from each other).
The author I’ve run across recently with the strongest and most unique voice is Irish crime writer Ken Bruen. You can practically hear his Galway accent lifting off the page. He has a wild, and very dark sense of humor, and he writes in first-person most of the time. His protagonists like to list things, sometimes each one-word item forming a single paragraph. Very unusual!
Great examples. I do love JCP and AM Riley and they definitely have a clear writing voice. I pick up their books and always remember the author I’m reading. That’s what I think of as a distinctive voice. Some kind of continuity through various books so you always know who you’re reading.
I’ll definitely have to check out Ken Bruen. That sounds wonderful!
I haven’t read any of the authors you’ve mentioned, Kassa, but I certainly value a distinctive narrative voice. Like Val, I love Jordan Castillo Price’s voice, and I really wish Lenore Black would write more because hers is fantastic.
Also, and I know she’s a friend but she became one precisely because I adore her writing voice and sent her an email to tell her so: JL Merrow.
Oh god how could I forget JCP! I always know I’m reading one of her books. Great example. I haven’t read much of Lenore Black but I’ll be on the watch for her books now.
I need to read more of JL Merrow’s to recognize her voice but I do love her humor. I’ve said that a dozen times and will say it again another dozen! Very good choice.
And now I’m blushing at Jo’s comment… 😉
Maybe I’m just not as analytical/aware in literary terms as the rest of you, but while I have certain authors who are auto-buys, I’ve never really thought of them as having a distinctive “voice”.
What I do notice when I read is whether a CHARACTER has a distinctive voice. Examples that spring to mind are: Vic in Jordan Castillo Price’s Psycop stories; Harry Dresden in Jim Butcher’s Dresden Files series; and (don’t laugh) Sookie Stackhouse in Charlaine Harris’s Southern Vampire stories.
I guess it’s why I’m such a fan of the first person narrative, which I know leaves some readers cold.
I don’t think I’ve read enough of your books to recognize your “voice” yet though I do associate your style with humor for sure.
I do love distinctive characters. All of those that you’ve said are incredibly unique and original characters. I actually loved Charlaine Harris’ book series (well until it jumped the shark sadly). I can instantly recognize that voice.
I think an author’s style could be associated with their style too. It’s something about the book and writing that immediately lets you know who wrote it. There are so many books that blend together that those that stand out repeatedly (for good or bad) tend to capture my attention. I don’t know if it’s literary or simply reading way too much but it’s something I just love to find. Kind of goes along with your character comment, just perhaps one step further.
Oh and I don’t mind first person. I just find it’s often used poorly but with a great author anything is possible.
LB Gregg definitely – if it’s madcap, it must be LB! 🙂 And Harper Fox has a complex, yet immersive style.
Oh LB is definitely madcap humor and I associate that style with her writing for sure. Harper Fox also definitely has a style. While I don’t always like her writing I do think it’s distinctive for sure. Great examples.
So–where do I send the chocolates?
Thank you, Kassa.
You know the address! I do take bribes :D.
There are quite a few authors I read who have what I’d call a distinctive voice – but most of the ones I can think of right now are m/f authors.
The problem with a distinctive voice can sometimes be that you get sick of it. There’s one author I read (I still read her books even though they are now a bit hit and miss for me, but they’re like crack so what can I say?) who says the same thing over and over in the same paragraph – the same sentence even. Like, she says the same thing, repeating herself, echoing her thoughts, well, you probably get my drift. 🙂 Once you pick it up it just kind of jumps out at you and it can really throw you out of the story.
Other voices however are just lovely and you can settle in from the first line and know you are in for a great ride.
Oh I can think of a few of those right off. So yes there are two sides there can be a voice you dislike which ruins the body of the author’s work or one you love which keeps you glued. Or like you said in spite of the writing.
I do like Thom Lane. I tend to stay away from writers who try to add humour in their writing voice. I found most time it doesn’t work for me at all.
Have you tried JL Merrow? I love her humor but I do agree it’s very very tricky. Doesn’t always work.