Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Guest Post: The Last Great Mystery of Harry Potter

Today we are fortunate to have Angela J Kulig as our guest blogger. Angela has a wicked sense of humor, writes and lives in Las Vegas, and blogs at Angela Write Now.  Plus, the best thing about her, as you can tell by her post below, she's been a Harry Potter fan for many years!  Please help me in welcoming Angela to Harry Potter for Writers!


The Last Great Mystery of Harry Potter
(don’t be a conformist nonconformist.)

As writers and Harry Potter fans, we know that Harry Potter is not just a book. Is the moon just a rock? Is The Mona Lisa just a painting? No way man, the Moon and The Mona Lisa mean things, stand for things, and so does Harry Potter.

Few collections of words have ever inspired a generation to read, but that is exactly what Harry did. For me, Harry Potter got me to read ‘kid’ books again, and that was the single best thing that could have ever happened. I shudder as I think about the books I never would have written if I only wrote books for grownups.

The first book in the series came out in the United States in 1998 just a few days shy of my fifteenth birthday, but I was already way too cool for kid’s books. I was into the Classics, and romance novels by Daniel Steel. By some miracle I accidentally stumbled into the book when Chamber of Secrets had just been released. I had exactly five minutes in the bookstore (because they still existed back then) to select and buy a book. Otherwise, I’d have nothing to read while on a really horrendous car trip with the parents.

Lucky for me, The Sorcerer’s Stone was on an end cap. By the time we had made the drive from Houston to San Antonio I was done, and the first stop at Rivercenter Mall was to buy the sequel.

The Death of a Lit Snob.

I remember vividly scoffing at the other students in my English classes in junior high as they read Goosebumps while I read Tom Sawyer, and The Giver. I thought once you graduated into adult books you stayed there, and never went back. I was proud of the post college reading level I scored on some random test in the 7th grade. I thought that meant I should be reading post college level books, and that everything else was beneath me.

Can you believe people still think that way?

I have been amazed at the number of writers, even writers who write middle grade and young adult books, who have not, and often blatantly refuse to read Harry Potter. Let’s go over some of the popular excuses.

“I don’t see what all the fuss is about.”

And

“I refuse to read it just because everyone else has.”

Let’s take them on individually. Ever seen a kid refuse to eat something because they don’t like it? They don’t like it, because they haven’t tried it, and that is exactly what the answer says to me. If you read the book, then you would know what the fuss was about. Harry Potter is not a fad, there is a reason it has staying power and that is what makes it truly great.

The second answer is given by those I like to refer to as the nonconformist conformist. People who are just too cool or well read to partake in Harry. You run across them a lot in the world if literary fiction. I don’t know what is worse, the people who won’t read Harry Potter because they claim it won’t help them with their genre, or the people who write middle grade and young adult who refuse to read it because they think they don’t have to.

You have to.

The truth of the matter is, most people who will read a multitude of books in their lifetime have read Harry. That means, as a writer, it is possibly the best and worst work to be compared to. The love this book series enjoys has set the bar in which other books will be judged to a virtually unachievable height. Ignoring it, or claiming that you are above such things, will only come back to haunt you in the end.

Friends don’t let friends shun Harry Potter.
If you ever hope to earn money from your writing, it is your job to know your market. Chances are good that no matter what genre you write, people in your audience will have read Harry. Can your work measure up to the magic?

Thank you, Angela! You can find Angela regularly chatting on Twitter at @AngelaKulig as well as conducting random writing tweet-chats at #writingatgunpoint and #ninjachat.

I hope to continue more guest post columns on a regular basis. If you'd like to be a guest on this blog, or you volunteered to do one before and we haven't yet set up a time, please drop me an e-mail at SPSipal AT gmail DOT com!

16 comments:

  1. I don't know anyone who's refused to read Harry Potter, though I do know people who haven't read them yet. Some people just aren't readers (sad!), but if you bug them enough eventually they cave and LOVE Harry Potter of course. :) I feel bad for those who refuse to read any book for the sake of being a "nonconformist." Puuuuhleeeeze!

    My best friend's husband just read the series for the first time. Ahhh, how envious we were to see him experience it for the first time! I love re-reading them, but I wish I could get back that original magical reading experience again. :)

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  2. Angela: I LOVE the line: "Friends don't let friends shun Harry Potter."

    Great post! :)

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  3. Laura -- I envy new-to-the-series readers as well, except they'll never have the "we were there when it happened" experience of the first generation of readers. No midnight release parties, no frantic online clamoring for clues. And worst of all, the possibility of reading spoilers before hunting the clues yourself.

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  4. That was one of my favorite lines from Angela, too, Melinda! :-)

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  5. I hadn't much cared about reading Happy Potter when I first learned about it. It wasn't that I was shunning it or saying it sucked, I just had no interest in picking it up. I don't remember what got me to finally pick the books up, maybe the movies. After that I was hooked and am currently working on getting the UK version. British slang FTW!

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  6. You're right, Patricia. There are many people who haven't read Harry just because they don't like fantasy, or for many other reasons. My best friend doesn't get into fantasy and hasn't read HP...and yet, we're still friends. :-)

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  7. I agree, both with your comment about everyone having read Harry Potter series, and those who don't/won't due to the non-conformist, it's their loss.

    As a writer, I don't think you can afford to ignore such outstanding success and of course, the riveting read.

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  8. Patty enjoy your slang!

    Allie I completely agree, lets hope they get their head in the game soon. If you are a writer it just makes smart business sense.

    I am hoping to flush out some of the writers I KNOW have not read it today mwhaha.

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  9. Couldn't have said it better. I am a big fan myself and there is nothing more annoying than hearing those nonconformist conformists stuck up their noses at anything that appears to be commercial. Thanks, Angela. It's good to know there are people out there who know good quality and aren't afraid to speak their mind. :)

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  10. Allie, you hit on one of the key purposes for this blog and the workshop I've conducted for many years. There's reasons why JK Rowling succeeded so strongly, and we can find evidence of that from studying her work. Learning from a mentor is a time-tested tradition, and for writers, to learn from one who has reached such a large, wide-ranging audience is an incredible opportunity!

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  11. I'm just getting to know Angela, but, you're right, Lyn, I don't think she's afraid to speak her mind! :-)

    Thanks Lyn for your comment!

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  12. HA! You guys are right, I do tend to climb the tallest bell tower and shout fromt he rafters about things I believe in. I can't promise I am always right, I just always think I am ;)

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  13. The cool thing I noticed in my 5th grade class is that the students were well versed in the film, and in many cases are just discovering the books for the first time. Here comes the 2nd wave of Potter readers. Loved the interview.

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  14. I think the audience you're talking about is a huge portion of the audience which Pottermore is gearing up for as well. Will be interesting to see how they interact with the story in a new way.

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  15. "Friends don't let friends shun Harry Potter." As a rabid adult HP fan (got so sucked into it I've been a moderator at the Leaky Cauldron for over five years). That site alone showed me how widely read the series was by adults. The magic in Harry Potter isn't even reading the books for the first time; it's rereading the books. Reading them is like a treasure hunt. You find something new every time. That Jo was so crafty with her foreshadowing and hiding things in plain site.

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