A couple years ago, on the cusp of moving to the Boston area, I attended a writer’s conference. There were many agents and editors in attendance, each with their specialties and preferences on the conference website. One agent specified that she loved novels set in Boston. She didn’t read my kind of writing, so I was never interested in submitting to her, but I did say hello since I was moving to Boston, and the two of us talked about that a bit. I remember thinking about how oddly specific that preference was.
Then during the Readathon, I read The Trouble With Destiny, which is set on a cruise ship. It’s my third cruise-setting read, following The Living and Displacement. I also have a manuscript percolating that takes place mostly on a cruise ship. After reading Destiny, I had the realization that I love books set on cruises, particularly modern-day cruises. That setting automatically gives the book a point in its favor and makes me more likely to enjoy it. Kinda like that agent who enjoys books set in Boston.
That got me thinking about all the things I love in books – not stuff like good writing, good characterization, etc, but the individual pieces that give a book an automatic favorable point to my mind. And they are oddly specific, each of them. I love books set on cruises. I love shared dreams, and long distance falling in love (especially through letters or phone calls), and books that have characters either reincarnating multiple times or living the same life over and over. I like books with elements of the occult or telepathy, or books that have slightly creepy elements that seem supernatural but turn out not to be. I love characters, especially women, who cross gender boundaries, and books entrenched in various Middle Eastern cultures.
I’ve always been fairly aware of my personal turnoffs in books. Vomiting. Drug use. Talking animals. Vigilante justice. Torture. Excessive medical gore. Crime-glorification. I always knew these sad-Manda buttons were very specific. I just hadn’t realized that I had equally specific happy-Manda buttons in books as well!
What are some of your turn-ons in books?
PS – You know what else I love? Mimosas. Which my family is in the process of making me for Mother’s Day. Woot! Happy Mother’s Day to all you moms out there!