I read an interesting interview with Joss Whedon the other day and the interviewer asked him why he is obsessed with teenage girls with super powers. Whedon answered very nicely, saying he doesn’t know why, he just writes what comes to him.
I wouldn’t have answered so nicely. People ask me all the time why I write only about princesses. The answer to this is: I don’t write only about princesses. You, the audience, only want to read about my princesses. I don’t know why that is true. I can make guesses at it, but probably you, the audience, are the ones who can answer that question.
Let’s look at Whedon’s works: Buffy (about a teenage girl with super powers), Angel (not), Firefly (not), Dollhouse (not), Avengers (not) Runaways (not). I don’t see any evidence to suggest that Whedon is, in fact, obsessed with teenage girls who have super powers. It’s his audience who is obsessed with them. Whedon has many, many interests, including Shakespeare, cowboys in space, and lots of weird stuff that probably no one is interested in but him. And that’s the way it should be.
I was watching an interview with Harrison Ford (Inside the Actor’s Studio) and he talked about the problem of doing films where he doesn’t play the charming hero who gets the girl. He said that he has had to accept that that role is the one the largest audience of Americans wants to see him in. He does other films because he loves them personally, though he also knows that they will not be as successful in terms of numbers. He does them anyway because he’s an actor and he has to do what he loves, too.
I think this is the way I feel about princess stories. Don’t think that I hate princess stories. I don’t, so long as I’m writing about princesses who interest me (which is pretty much whenever I write about princesses). I don’t think my princesses are anything like the stereotypical princesses. I don’t know if this is why people like my princesses or not. But I write lots of things besides princess books, a lot of them unpublished, granted, but still they are projects I love.
I write about Mormons and vampires, about people doing Ironman competitions, about the most embarrassing moments in a teen’s life ever, about sisters, about ugly giants and evil serpents, about private luck academies, about truth magic, about a child’s death causing the disintegration of a family, about kids who can time travel until they hit puberty and the adults who use them, about father/son relationships that last through different dimensions, about the feeling that you aren’t real, about parents lying to kids, about finding love again in your marriage, and on and on.
When I was in college, I remember a professor of mine told me that he had stopped reading the books of a writer I much admired because he felt he had already heard everything that writer had to say. That seems like the worst thing to happen to a writer. I hope I never reach a point where I am writing the same things over and over again. Success is actually one of the things that I am afraid causes this, the idea that if you stick to a formula, you will continue to give your audience what they want. I may never be successful by that definition.
I write many things and I don’t expect every reader will want to read all of them. But I also think that if you love my princesses, you may be interested in some of my other books because what I am really writing about when I write about princesses is people who have certain gifts and certain problems and who are trying to figure out who they are and how they can be happy—which is, essentially everyone on the planet.