The Cat Who Series - A Lesson for Writers!

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The Cat Who Series - A Lesson for Writers!

Postby JillStar » Sun Sep 04, 2005 12:37 pm

This is a lesson to writers of series... please take heed.

I have all of these books up to The Cat Who Talked Turkey. I have read the first 15 of about 22 books. I noticed on Amazon that they have The Cat Who Went Bananas and soon to come up The Cat Who Dropped a Bombshell. I do not have Bananas nor have I read the last 5 or so books.

What am I getting at?

Well, it seems that many series lose their lustar over time and apparently, this is one of those series. I feel bad about that because they were so good in the beginning... those first 10-15 were interesting and I avoided putting the books down because I wanted to know more.

But with all the bad reviews out there about these last books, I'm not wanting to even give them a chance. And I admit that the last one I tried to read wasn't as enthralling as the others.

Here is a long list of reviews of the book... and I actually read them because it's amazing to see how people are willing to give an author time to recover from a bad book... but once they have gone over the line, the readers will abandon the author even asking the publisher for their money back!

I have a strong feeling, as do others, that these books are now being ghostwritten and that Lilian Jackson Braun is either unable or unwilling to write any more books. If you look at her picture, you will note that she's not 20 years old any more. She was born in 1916 which makes her almost 90 years old. Is she still writing these books?

Image

If she isn't... who is the ghostwriter and why does he or she not know how to write this series. It seems to me that the ghostwriter (assuming there is one) hasn't really taken the time to dive into the series enough to know how the characters work or how and when it's time to move them forward.

Reviews found on Amazon:

The author is one of my favorites until these last few books. This latest one, "The Cat Who Went Bananas", left much to be desired. The story was thin, the cats involvement was minimal, and Mr. Q was pretty wishy-washy with Polly. All in all I didn't care for this one very much. Ms. Braun's earlier books were more vibrant, delightful twists of tale, and cute interaction of cats, townspeople, and Mr. Q. This time it was just plain ol' dull. Sorry, but this book was a major disappointment.


Notice how the readers take considerable interest in the characters and how they interact.

All members of my family are long time fans of The Cat Who Series, reading and more recently listening to audio tapes and CD's of all the series. Yes, they are sometimes a little corny, sometimes a wee bit predictable, but always thoroughly entertaining and enjoyable. We wait anxiously each year for each new publication and found The Cat Who Went Bananas to be pleasurable listening. That is, until the ending, which left us wondering if our attention had lapsed and we had missed something. I ran the last tape back and listened to it again, but was left with the same thought of "What happened?". My wife, who had listened to it earlier, confided that she had also re-listened to the end of the last tape for the same reason and had the same question. I do not recommend this book to first time readers of The Cat Who series. I can only hope that this book was just a glitch and future publications will not leave us hanging, wondering "What Happened?".


Here you will notice that neither of these two people understood the ending. I read many reviews like where the reader didn't get it! This leads us to believe that whomever was actually writing this either 1) was under a time crunch and hurried along 2) doesn't know how to write an ending 3) became uninterested in his/her own work.

Then, I got to thinking. I'm 66 and remembered that Ms. Braun is many years older than I. Did a Google and found that she was born in 1916. Which would make her 89 at some point in this year of 2005. Now, I wonder if she's permanently retired and handed over the writing reins to someone else, suffered some debilitating disease which makes writing well (or even at all)impossible for her or if she died and it has been kept a secret from "Cat Who..." fans.I imagine it's one of those those choices.

Whatever the problem is, the greedy publishers are doing her and her past books no service or honor. Ms. Braun deserves better treatment.

One more thought. Years ago, I decided that Ms. Braun had fallen into the same trap that P. D. James, Martha Grimes and M. C. Beaton have done. They are in love with their heroes and too jealous to allow them to have a real love life, marry or have a family. How sad.

If any of you ever read the "Miss Seeton" series by Heron Carvic, you will surely relate it to "Cat Who...". After Carvic's death, the series was never as interesting nor as entertaining. Agatha Christie was a smart author who wrote an ending for Poirot. Nobody ever tried to fool the public that another writer could do just as well. Good for her. And her books have held up through the years.


This review really tells me something. Others are beginning to wonder what has happened to Lilian herself. Where is she... is she still alive... is she able to write these stories herself? If she isn't... why are publishers allowing ghostwriters to totally destroy her series. Are these publishers so stupid as to think readers are that stupid? People can tell one writing style from another and we don't think people live forever... so either end the damn thing or find someone who can write it properly.

After reading "TCW Talked Turkey", this one is actually a slight improvement, in areas, at least. However, there are still continuity errors (both within the book's storylines & in relation to previous books) and odd tacked-on bits in the chapters. However, those are pretty minor issues compared to what's REALLY wrong with this book... Examples: Are we supposed to hate Polly now? I mean, I never liked her before, but now I'm starting to wonder if we're supposed to want her to be the next murder victim. Qwill and she had an odd relationship to begin with, but now I really don't get it. And what happens to the potential rival for Qwill's affection? She gets married to someone else and then promptly DIES. And of the several mysteries in the story? Qwill does NO sleuthing, ignores Koko (who wasn't really helping much anyway) and the book ends abruptly with no explanations about deaths and disappearances. The things I loved about the TCW series are mere ghosts now... Koko & Yum Yum are all but ignored, the numerous characters are all written the same now (I challenge anyone to discern one from another!), and the cool sleuthing is replaced by yet more examples of Qwill throwing money and influence around like a mob boss. Qwill is the PERFECT model of a Roman Patron dispensing noblesse oblige to his lowly underlings. He used to be a funny guy, nice, witty, good at solving a mystery... now he's a jerk, and Polly needs to GO. I hope the next TCW has Qwill & Polly murdered and someone else adopts Koko and Yum Yum. PLEASE FIRE THE GHOSTWRITER!!!


This person is demanding that they FIRE THE GHOSTWRITER... assuming that there must be one because the original author wouldn't do this to her series. What I like about this review is the reader goes into detail about why it sucks.

I have read every book Lilian Jackson Braun ever wrote and enjoyed most of them. Yes the plots were always lame and the endings stupid, but I enjoyed the characters and at least the previous books HAD endings. In my life I imagine I've read thousands of mystery novels. In fact I am a professional writer myself. This was by far the worst I have EVER read and in fact I want my money back from the publisher! How dare the publisher put out a book that is unfinished! The mystery is never resolved! This book violates the basic compact between mystery writer and reader: I will write a book with plot twists and turns and you can try to figure them out and then I will reveal the answers to you. This book simply stops dead, as if the author suddenly got tired of writing it or died or something and then they decided to publish it anyway. I am incensed at the waste of my time and money. Shame on you, author and shame on you publishing house for putting it out! This is the LAST "Cat Who" book I will ever read.


And this person is demanding a return of money... stating that the book stops dead.

As authors, we must give the reader a reason to read our books. We can’t assume that just because everyone loved the first five, they’ll love the next five. You must pull a person’s interest into the story, hold them there long enough to finally reveal the answer they’ve been waiting for… and then… leave them begging for more.

I doubt seriously that Lilian is writing these books any more. The last have been disappointing to several readers and I have been paying attention to what these reviews are saying. Why? To better understand how I can keep my readers enthralled in my stories over and over again.

And… include a clause in my contract that states NO GHOSTWRITERS if I happen to die or become unable to write another word.
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Postby Mlou » Mon Sep 05, 2005 9:00 pm

Very interesting Jill, I've read several of the earlier ones but none of the newer. I hate it when they farm out a good story line and characters to another writer, just for the bucks and destroy all the good will built up.
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Postby Anblick » Mon Sep 05, 2005 9:07 pm

I have to admit, the writers that have taken over for Robert Ludlum, though not quite as good, they are still doing an awesome job for him after his death.

And, btw, I haven't been able to uncover anything other than her as the author in any of my searches, but seeing as how the first of the Qwilleran, Koko and Yum Yum series came out in 1966...

edit:

Also 99% of the time, if it is continued after death or inability to continue, they change the title to be "Author's Name's New Book Title" and give credit to the new author.
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Postby AlienEeeter » Mon Sep 05, 2005 9:13 pm

or it reads 'created by' instead of 'written by'
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Postby charlesp » Mon Sep 05, 2005 9:14 pm

the other possability is that they're not farmed out and she's just senile...

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Postby AlienEeeter » Mon Sep 05, 2005 9:16 pm

lol
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Postby Anblick » Mon Sep 05, 2005 9:17 pm

I think that was my point with the 1966 point...
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Postby charlesp » Mon Sep 05, 2005 9:22 pm

yeah but if you give reasons it's less funny :D

"Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic." - Arthur C Clarke
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Postby AlienEeeter » Mon Sep 05, 2005 9:34 pm

or it reads 'created by' instead of 'written by'
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Postby JillStar » Mon Sep 05, 2005 10:22 pm

I searched on Amazon and they all say "by Lilian Jackson Braun".

And then states she's the author of twenty-eight bestselling Cat Who . . . novels and three short-story collections. I must have miscounted.
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Postby Anblick » Tue Sep 06, 2005 12:04 am

I doubt it's a ghost writer, as usually you can find out. The fact it's been nearly 40 years from the first one to now might be a key point here. (i.e. it's hard to sustain with original ideas a concept series over multiple decades...)
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Postby JillStar » Tue Sep 06, 2005 7:29 am

That's definately a possibility Anblick. There's that and maybe the possibility that she (the author) isn't willing to have the characters go anywhere else and (as you said) she's losing ideas.

I wonder if anyone "personally" has said anything to her (ie close friends, publisher, etc). There is another book coming out... I wonder how well done it is?
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Postby Quicksilver Wolf » Wed Sep 07, 2005 6:48 am

So basically... you really need to plan the series as well as each book in the series. And I mean PLAN. Flesh out details of characters, situations, and what changes they could make and when. And IF you need a ghost writer, make sure it's someone who knows the story like you do, who eats, sleeps and breathes it like you do.
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Postby charlesp » Wed Sep 07, 2005 7:09 am

OR... just stop milking it after a couple dozen books.

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Postby JillStar » Wed Sep 07, 2005 6:44 pm

It's a lot like the Xanth novels... I loved the first 8 or so but then they got too predictable and just "no good".
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Postby Anblick » Wed Sep 07, 2005 8:05 pm

Though I haven't read any of them, I've heard the "Wheel of Time" series is starting to fit into that category...
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Postby JillStar » Wed Sep 07, 2005 8:13 pm

I haven't read those Anblick... but it seems true with many series that go on and on.

So basically... you really need to plan the series as well as each book in the series. And I mean PLAN. Flesh out details of characters, situations, and what changes they could make and when. And IF you need a ghost writer, make sure it's someone who knows the story like you do, who eats, sleeps and breathes it like you do.

I agree!!

We plot our novels... I think it's important to plot the whole series. Obviously, trilogies may not have this problem because the last book is basically the end. But I've seen a few trilogies go on into four or five books because the author suddenly saw the ending a little further out.

I think that's okay so long as the writer knows when to stop.

And it's true... if you do have to have a ghostwriter (we should all be that lucky) then make sure he or she knows it well.

And of course... do as Charles says... stop before it's too late.
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