Celebrating 16 Years: Ode to L.J. Smith

Drum roll, please! It’s July! And this summer marks the 16 year anniversary of my first ever completed novel attempt! I’m celebrating it all month long and I’d like to kick off the celebrations by dedicating this post to L.J. Smith (aka Lisa Jane) aka the author who inspired me to try my hand at fantasy.

I first read a book by this author in the 8th grade. I had recently finished my first novel and as you can imagine…awful is an understatement. I’ll skip the formatting woes (like start a new paragraph much) and just say it was too short and I apparently couldn’t punctuate a sentence to save my life. I never wrote like this in real life for papers or reports, so I don’t know why I did it then, and continued to do this until I was 16.
forbidden game coverBut anyway, I read her book “The Forbidden Game: Collector’s Edition” a trilogy of three books bound together under one deliciously grabtastic cover about a girl’s adventures in a dark, shadowy parallel world. It was the best book I had ever read. And I had read a lot of books. My copy is so worn from reading it so much that I literally have the front and back covers taped on. With clear tape, of course, because I’m classy like that. Normally before I buy a book I read a sentence or three on a random page, but with this one, I feasted my eyes on the front cover, read the back cover, and proceeded to run to the checkout counter. Here’s the first two sentences off the back cover: “He’s watched Jenny for years. His name is Julian and he lives in the shadows, the youngest of an ancient race.” When I finished the final book my hands were icy cold as I had not moved them other than to turn to the page for hours. (Plus the book is no lightweight.) I was stunned by her genius. And oddly…I felt a bit annoyed… because I would have done things differently, but that’s neither here nor there. That book remains to this day one of the best books I’ve ever read.

I immediately went back to Waldenbooks (you’ll live the memories of book lovers everywhere!) and bought a few more. A series of books called Dark Visions about a group of teens with different supernatural powers: a psychic who has…wait for it…dark visions, a healer, and a psychic vampire (a vampire who drains your energy instead of your blood.) I can still remember this one scene involving a water tank that I’ll never forget. After this series I was sold on L.J. Smith, though again, I was a bit irked because I would have done things differently. Nevertheless, I immediately went back to the bookstore and bought up everything with her name on it. And when those books were read, I went on a search to find every last thing she had ever written, including the out of print books (thank you used bookstores!) and I did save for the first two books she ever had published that I found in 2004.

I reread her books again and again waiting for a conclusion to her Night World Series until I realized Ms. Smith had fallen off the face of the publishing world. She would leave her fans hanging for 10 years! And might I add, we’re still left in the lurch. When she came back, she came back with an add on the worst series in her bunch (worst but still palatable until Book 4): The Vampire Diaries. (You’ve heard of it, right?) And many of her old fans have given up her. Including me. We’ve let ourselves be replaced by new fans. And it looks like we’re all pretty much fine with that. I wish her many more years of success, and I’m thrilled that Vampire Diaries is doing so well, though I want no part in it.

While I no longer read Ms. Smith’s books (I didn’t much like The Vampire Diaries then and I like the add-ons even less. But I would read her Night World conclusion, so long as it doesn’t suck, if she should ever choose to write it), there will always be a special place in my heart for her because she inspired me write the kind of books that I needed to be writing about. Before I found her, while I had written a few short stories with a witchcraft or paranormal bend, I hadn’t done so in 2 years (a long time when you’re a kid) and I had never written a fantasy story, though I loved them. I was started to lose interest in writing because my own stories (at that point regular plain ‘ol teeny bopping chick lit) were boring the crap out of me. So much so, I had gotten halfway through I planned series of shorts when I quit because I couldn’t take it anymore. I didn’t want to write stuff like that anymore. And I didn’t want to read it either. It wasn’t me. It wasn’t who I was as a person or a writer.

So thank you, L.J. Smith, for inspiring me to find who I am as a writer, my niche, from which I’ve never looked back. And thank you to Sanjulian who did the cover art which was so fantastic there was no way I was leaving the bookstore without that amazing book. (I’d also like to thank my parents for providing the allowance that supported my book addiction – Lol!)

8 Responses to Celebrating 16 Years: Ode to L.J. Smith

  1. That's awesome that you figured out your niche relatively early. I didn't think I could write historical fiction until I started writing it. But what a bummer that you're still waiting for a conclusion to the series!

  2. I know! It wouldn't be so bad if she hadn't told us several times over the years that it was coming!But yeah, the genre just clicked for me, helped in large part by an ego that told me I could do anything. Lol!

  3. Wow! What a great story to share with us! I don't think I can trace my love of literature or a particular genre back to a single first read but I can relate to loving an author and getting sort of lost in the shuffle over the years. I rarely admit to the following as I find it kind-of embarrasing: but I read Laurell K. Hamilton. I got addicted to her Anita Blake series and have held on for many, many years even though I feel like it should have ended… oh, let's say ten books ago. From the reviews I've read even her hard-core fans are sort-of done with it by this point. Granted I never loved her like you did L.J. Smith but I was very, very fond of her at first and it's been a hard road watching go in places I wouldn't want her to.While I haven't really found a niche myself yet I like to believe I learn something from everything I read.Thanks again for sharing this glimpse of your writer's origins!

  4. Thanks for stopping by!I never got into Anita Blake. By the time I heard about it, there were so many books already, it was overwhelming. But I know quite a few people who are huge fans of hers in general – nothing to be embarrassed about at all. 🙂

  5. I think that you are fortunate to have discovered your niche early on in your writing career. I've always been a reader of the mystery/suspense/thriller genre, so it's natural that I gravitated in this direction when I started writing flash fiction (which I started very very late in life, mind you…) Now I'm attempting a story, which is in the contemporary suspense genre. I'm not sure that I know what I'm doing… we'll see…Congrats on your 16 year milestone!Writer In Transit

Hi! ^_^