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Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Author Insight: Iconic Tales

What makes a book iconic and elevates it to be more than just a story? Can you think of a book that accomplishes this?

"Timing. Which is most oftentimes a fluke. I’m thinking of Twilight, of course. It hit a very specific demographic at exactly the right time." - Daniel Marks, author of Velveteen.

"A book becomes iconic when it speaks to our universal experience as humans on many levels (emotional, intellectual, etc), and does it in a fresh way.  A good example is Marcus Zusak’s The Book Thief. World War II stories are nothing new, but by having Death narrate, Zusak brought a different perspective and made the story seem insightfully innovative." - Lenore Appelhans, author of Level 2. 

"I suppose a book becomes iconic when it catches on with the public at large. But my taste often isn’t aligned with the taste of the public at large. For example, I didn’t much care for The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo books. But they were huge! I think the character of Lisbeth Salander represented something to people, meant something. I just didn’t happen to go for her. I don’t know. It’s a personal thing." - Lili Peloquin, author of The Innocents

"In terms of books that are true giants of literature, 'major works' as they say, I think such stories have to delve into core themes of the existential dilemma. A book like Crime and Punishment, for instance, seems to me a perfect synthesis of many major issues--empathy, cruelty, redemption, desperation, solipsism... there's so much to think about in it, my head spins. I guess if a book makes my head spin, I'd call it iconic." - Steven Arntson, author of The Wrap-Up List.

"I am passing on this question. I honestly don't know how to answer it. :)" - Lisa Schroeder, author of Falling for You

"I’m always trying to write a book that is more than just a story. It’s about finding what is universal in your specific story. For example, I’m not a boy wizard, but the idea of discovering a special gift that has gone unseen by the world is an incredibly powerful thing. It's what hooked me in the first Harry Potter book." - Allen Zadoff, author of Since You Left Me.

"An iconic book speaks to human emotion in a vital and visceral way. It portrays universal ideas, feelings, desires, regrets, and ultimately, hope. Pride and Prejudice is iconic for me, because I think it embodies all those things." - Pamela Mingle, author of Kissing Shakespeare

"For me, iconic books usually come down to character. A great character stays with you long after you’ve turned the last page. They seem to take on a life of their own outside of the book. I’ll stick with my east coast roots and say Anne of Green Gables. People have loved those books for over a century because they love Anne Shirley." - Kathleen Peacock, author of Hemlock.

"I think what makes a book iconic is an ability to transcend the time in which it was written. That the language is such that fifty-years later it doesn't feel out-of-date or irrelevant, or that there's a historical quality to it that only deepens with time. Some could argue that a book like Twilight is iconic because it has touched SO many people and has become part of the literary landscape--and they'd probably be right--but for me, it's about timelessness." - Trish Doller, author of Something Like Normal

"Some books have a thousand stories lying in the whitespace between the lines, so that every time you read them you can catch a glimpse of some new untold tale. The Lord of the Rings is the canonical example of a whole-world-in-a-book, but I think Harry Potter's enormous appeal stems from this as well. It isn't something unique to epic fantasy, either; every character in Jane Austen whispers their own secret history, if you listen for it." - Helen Keeble, autor of Fang Girl

"I've debated the answer to this question myself. For me, at least, the elements of an iconic book include an 'everyman' hero or heroine, a timeless aspect to the story, characters, voice, and dialogue, strong rooting interests for readers, engaging plot that holds interest and yanks readers through the book, if world-building is involved--a rich, fascinating world, and if villains are involved--truly nuanced, fully-developed, and deeply scary bad guys. I can think of a ton of books that accomplish this, including the Harry Potter series, Garth Nix's Abhorsen books, Stephen King's It and The Stand, Abraham Verghese's Cutting for Stone, The Lord of the Rings books, just about anything by Philip Pullman or Neil Gaiman--really, this list could be a book all by itself. :)" - Susan Vaught, author of Freaks Like Us

Stop by Thursday to see what the rest of the authors think makes a book iconic. 

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