That Series I Used to Love, by Stuart Sharp

A little while ago, one of my favourite authors brought out a new book. By “favourite”, I mean one of the authors I consider one of the biggest influences on my own writing, and without whose work I probably wouldn’t be writing at all. Before this, I’d read all of their works, and have generally bought everything they’ve brought out as soon as it has come out into the world. I’ve spent time devouring the author’s books in one sitting, and more time wondering how on Earth it can possibly take so long to finish the next one.

Logically, therefore, I should have bought the new book without a second thought, settled down to read it ahead of everything else on my TBR pile, and heartily enjoyed the latest instalment in a series that has so far kept me enthralled for more than half my life to date.

Yet I didn’t buy it, and I don’t intend to. Instead, it was as this book came out that I finally admitted to myself that I’ve fallen out of love with this author’s works, and that I don’t intend to read any more of them. It came as a shock to realise that. That this author whose writing has played such a big role in my life is no longer that important to me.

It’s a transformation I’ve found happening a few times recently. Certainly often enough to demand an explanation. More than that, I’m sure it’s something other people find in their reading too. At least, I hope this isn’t just me being weird. So what is it? What is it that makes us go from eagerly awaiting every word someone writes to not wanting to read any of them? What makes us give up on a series, or an author?

I think familiarity may be a part of it. There comes a point where we’ve all read and re-read everything an author has written. Where their books are on every shelf around the house, staring us in the face every day. Where we know roughly how every story they could ever write might go, simply because we have consumed their work and been consumed by it so utterly in the past. Familiarity really does breed contempt in some cases, and sometimes an author can feel just a little too much like the same old thing.

It’s not just that. We change as people over time, and as readers. Often, that’s a good thing. It’s a part of what lets us re-read a book and find something new again and again. Different aspects of it become important. Exposure to different experiences, or simply other authors’ works, alters what we look for. We realise that bit that seemed so wonderfully original was in fact done better by another author first, or we find that other approaches fit us better over time. Sometimes, we simply alter so much that the things our former favourite author offers don’t seem to be quite what we’re looking for any more.

Of course, authors change too. Most of them are constantly looking to progress. To write a better book this time than last time. To explore the issues and ideas that grab them now, rather than the ones they explored decades ago when they started. Often, that’s a wonderful thing. It keeps the reading experience fresh. But it can sometimes mean them picking up habits you don’t like as a reader, whether it’s a new linguistic quirk, a shift into a different area of a preferred genre, a change of tone, or a recurring character type that just gets on your nerves. They can’t write to please every reader, obviously, but if it turns out that you’re the one their new approach doesn’t please, that can be a problem.

Sometimes, of course, the issue is that they don’t change. They’re still writing essentially the same novel as the first one you read, and you’ve read it now, so many times that you could find the plot twists without thinking about it. There’s a temptation to do that a lot in today’s publishing environment, where no one wants to let go of a rare bankable series. Yet sometimes, it can mean that you read the first few novels, hoping that they’ll smooth out that obvious rough patch in the middle somewhere along the line, but they never quite get round to it.

Yet even in these circumstances, the process of giving up is rarely straightforward. It’s not a case of waking up one day and deciding “I don’t like author X anymore”. Typically, the realisation is a gradual one, over the course of several books. After all, we’ll all forgive our favourite authors the occasional book we don’t quite connect with. The thing that probably varies is exactly how many books we’re prepared to give a particular author before we walk away.

Not that walking away has to be a bad thing. Yes, walking away from the works of an author you’ve loved can be a little like a painful breakup, but unlike a breakup, the rebound probably isn’t going to be embarrassing. The moment of realising that you don’t like a particular author anymore is often also a moment in which you realise what you do like these days, which makes it easier to find more of that. Not reading the series you don’t like also frees up vital space in the TBR pile, and means that there’s encouragement to look in new places for your next read.

In other words, the moment where you realise you don’t like a favourite author anymore can be exactly the experience that leads to a new favourite author. For however long that lasts. It’s a poignant moment, but it’s also one that potentially gives new life to everything you read.

So, what about you? Have you ever found yourself falling out of love with an author or a series?

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