J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings set the bar. Everything since has been compared to this masterpiece. I have heard interviews with Terry Brooks and Christopher Paolini where each has had to deal with the comparisons.
Neither seemed particularly happy with the need to defend or compare their works. Each agree that Lord of the Rings (LOTR) stands on the pinnacle of fantasy and will for many years,
This leaves the rest of us wannabe fantasy authors with a dilemma. While my own Alliance series has its own specific aspects, it is inevitably compared to LOTHR. When I introduced my elves to my writer’s group, it is Legalos who comes to mind.
It is not only Tolkien of course. My antagonist is the Emperor and immediately someone compared him to Star Wars’ Palpatine, and his right hand man to Darth Vader (even without the mask and asthma).
I recently began to meet with an agent who is coaching me to prepare the first Alliance book to market. When I offered my pitch, he immediately asked what is my higher concept? He knows of Tolkien, Brooks, Salvatore and Paolini: what differentiates Shalev from these masters?
I admit to being stuck. I am reading John Locke’s How I Sold 1 Million Ebooks in 5 Months book and he admits it is much harder to change a book already written to hook your target audience than to begin a novel with the specific demands of your target audience in mind. This is doubly hard for me as I have already written two books in the series and have the third mapped out.
Every time I, or anyone helping me, have an idea, I feel resistant. I have created my world, my characters, my conflict…but I cannot explain its unique or higher concept. Reluctant hero must learn his magic from a master and overcome the all-powerful evil dude. Sound familiar? There are many ways to make an omelet, many variations of vegetables, spices and cheeses, but all omelets involve eggs.
When someone has already used organic, cage-free, grade A eggs, how do you change the recipe? How do you find a higher concept? Any ideas?
Alon Shalev is the author of The Accidental Activist and A Gardener’s Tale. He has written two fantasy novels and the first will enter the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award in January 2012. More on Alon Shalev at http://www.alonshalev.com/and on Twitter (#elfwriter).