It used to be that the most important criteria for a story was that it be well written and a good tale. Then when large box stores appeared over the last thirty or so years, titles became more narrowly focused and many publishers and agents started creating lists of what it meant to write for children, middle-grade, teen, young adult and adult. Some also insisted that a book should also be clearly of one specific genre. I ran into this when I became serious about wanting to be a published in the early 2000s.
You see, I grew up liking books that appealed to all ages, say from precocious twelve year olds to one hundred and twelve. I always give the example of William Golding’s Lord of the Flies, the book that made me want to be a writer of future fiction. I also liked long books, like the ones Neil Stephenson writes. But when I showed my first drafts of what became The Verona Trilogy to writing instructors, I was quickly told that no publisher buys long books from untested authors and that the beginning of my books sounded middle-grade, but then changed to young adult. That was because the characters in my story start out as naïve and spoiled teens in the twenty-fourth century, but quickly mature.
Well, I did end up breaking the story into three parts, each just over one hundred thousand words each, and I believe it was actually a good thing. I was able to really flesh out the characters and ramp up the action. But I really couldn’t, wouldn’t, change the tone of the story, limiting its vocabulary and plot to fit a “perceived” level of complexity, supposedly aiming it at some theoretical reading level. And I held my position that I wanted to create a story that was a mixture of science fiction and historical fiction, and not pick one, like many advised. Sometimes one has to listen to their gut, or maybe an artistic muse. I let my natural writing voice tell the story it wanted to tell. In the end, I believed that some people would resonate with it and others won’t. I would find my audience.
Finally, Lou Aronica invited me to join his Fiction Studio Books imprint, and I’m pleased to say that, now that all three books of The Verona Trilogy are published, I no longer get the comments that I should choose a narrowly focused segment of readership or genre. I’m seeing more and more reviews that readers are enjoying the variety and broad scope my writing engenders.
As an example of one of these reviews, here is a recent one by Sheila Windley Staley of Why Not? Because I Said So! Sheila actually wrote about the series as a whole.
Could anything be better than a combination of three of my favorite genres…fantasy, sci-fi, and historical? Well, this is what you are going to find when you read The Verona Trilogy. The part of the series I love the most is the time travel aspect. Anyone that reads my reviews know that I love time travel books. I love the unique way time travel is presented.
At the center of these books are the History Camps that the elders have created in this perfect post-dystopian society. At the History Camps, youths are sent there to live as their ancestors did and learn the lessons from the past that almost destroyed the planet. Talk about a history lesson coming to life. This concept totally fascinated me! The problem is, in the first book, The Lens and the Looker, something goes terribly wrong with the History Camp that three teens, Hansum, Shamira and Lincoln, are sent to. The first book was good as the characters are introduced and we get to know them. But, to be perfectly honest, this book was only “good” for me, and the second book was “better” and the third book was the “best”! What a great complement to the author, in that his series, and writing, kept getting better and better. I can’t tell you how many series I read that knock it out of the park in the first book, and everything kind of goes downhill with the rest of the series; NOT the case here with The Verona Trilogy. The characters grew, their voices became stronger, the action became more intense, and yes, even the romance was kicked up. I also noticed that the introduction of new characters throughout the series also made the storyline richer.
If I had to pick a favorite character…hmmm…this is hard, but I can’t help but absolutely love Hansum. All of the original characters grow and mature throughout the series, but I feel that Hansum makes the most changes for the better. There is also a twist at the end that actually made me cry a little. You will love the ending!! It was one of the more satisfying endings I have read in a long time. I highly recommend this series to teens and adults (Lory Kaufman says he writes for readers 13 to 113, (and precocious 12-year-olds) This is borne out by the fact that about half the readership of the series is adult.) that want to read a fascinating series, that will not only entertain, but also educate.
Special thanks to Sheila Staley at Why Not? Because I Said So! for her permission to re-run this review.
Lory Kaufman is the author of The Verona Trilogy, whose final volume, The Loved and the Lost has recently been published. You can find out more about him here.