Tag Archives: J.K. Rowling

WWII: Not an Original Setting Anymore

I’m part of a book club at work. We enjoy getting together and discussing a book every two weeks over lunch. But, for some reason, more than half the books we read are set in WWII. All of the villains are, generally, Nazis.

This is the current book I’m working on for book club. It’s not bad, but I’m tired of WWII. Maybe if I hadn’t of read 6 other WWII related books for book club before, I’d be more into this one.
I was wondering if this was just related to the tastes of my book club – maybe they all are WWII enthusiasts or like, really hate Nazis.

But then I realized, maybe, just maybe, the reason we read so many WWII fiction books is because there are so damn many of them on the market.

When I do a search in Amazon, for example, for WWII under books, I get 20,203 results. If I narrow it down to non-history books, I still get about 5,000 books from literature, fantasy, mystery, thriller, suspense, romance, teen, etc.

I hate to say it, but guys, WWII is an unoriginal theme. Don’t make it your setting. Don’t make your bad-guys stereotypical Nazis. It’s been done. It’s been done so many times. How many times? 20,203 overall, or, if you just want to go into the fiction realm, at least over 5,000 recently.

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What’s in a Name?

While Juliet from Romeo and Juliet felt that names weren’t as important as character, when it comes a story, names give away a lot about the characters. While Juliet asks the following question:

What’s in a name? that which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet

The playwright, Shakespeare, has fair Verona divided between two feuding households—making name loyalty and the power behind influential names a theme within the play itself. Indeed, it is the young lover’s last names that keep them apart and their struggle to overcome their names to be together which leads to the character’s deaths. So, Juliet, a name is a very important thing.

J.K. Rowling, author of the Harry Potter series, named her characters carefully so that the character names reflected the personalities of the characters themselves. This may be more obvious with her characters that have Latin and Greek-based names, like Severus, Latin for stern or Sirius—a Greek name associated with the Sirius dog star Alpha Canis Major. Even the more simple names in the series, like Harry, have carefully selected meanings. Harry is an English name that means army ruler and is a diminutive form of Harold or Henry, former kings of England.

The power of names can stretch across series and authors as well. A good example of this is the name Sam. In J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings series, George R. R. Martin’s Game of Thrones series, as well as Charlaine Harris’s Sookie Stackhouse novels, characters named Sam share many characteristics.

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The “Harry Potter” Fan Theory That Changed Nothing

Where there are fandoms, there are fan theories. The Harry Potter world has a ton of them. The latest to gain attention is that the Dursleys were not just mean to Harry because they were bad people, but because they were under the affect of a Horcrux.

Specifically, they were under the affect of Harry, who is himself a Horcrux. Remember?

The theory started on Tumblr—because where else—where Graphic Nerdity wrote that the Dursleys were ordinary, perfectly respectable people before Harry was dropped off on their doorstep. She continues, “For the next decade it proceeded to warp their minds…The fact that they survived such prolonged horcrux exposure without delving into insanity or abandoning a helpless child only solidifies their place among the pantheon of noble and virtuous heroes in the Harry Potter universe.”

And, I suppose, on the surface the theory makes sense. Both Ron and Ginny become possessed when exposed to a Horcrux for a long period of time—Ron with the Slytherin locket and Ginny with Tom Riddle’s diary. The wizarding world had long since been surprised by the Dursley’s complete lack of familial love for Harry.

All this to say, yes, I felt it too. Reading the books, especially as a child myself, I wanted to understand the sort of people who’d keep a little boy in a closet under the stairs.

But while the Harry Potter universe does have a “pantheon of noble and virtuous heroes,” I don’t think the Dursleys are among them. Nor were they meant to be. Sometimes bad people just have to exist.

The universe Rowling created also has many evils, and while most of those belong to the magical world, there are plenty of evils that are very much human.
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Hobbit Week Repost: What’s in a Name?

While Juliet from Romeo and Juliet felt that names weren’t as important as character, when it comes a story, names give away a lot about the characters. While Juliet asks the following question:

What’s in a name? that which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet

The playwright, Shakespeare, has fair Verona divided between two feuding households—making name loyalty and the power behind influential names a theme within the play itself. Indeed, it is the young lover’s last names that keep them apart and their struggle to overcome their names to be together which leads to the character’s deaths. So, Juliet, a name is a very important thing.

J.K. Rowling, author of the Harry Potter series, named her characters carefully so that the character names reflected the personalities of the characters themselves. This may be more obvious with her characters that have Latin and Greek-based names, like Severus, Latin for stern or Sirius—a Greek name associated with the Sirius dog star Alpha Canis Major. Even the more simple names in the series, like Harry, have carefully selected meanings. Harry is an English name that means army ruler and is a diminutive form of Harold or Henry, former kings of England.

The power of names can stretch across series and authors as well. A good example of this is the name Sam. In J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings series, George R. R. Martin’s Game of Thrones series, as well as Charlaine Harris’s Sookie Stackhouse novels, characters named Sam share many characteristics.

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Literary Paraphernalia: Tattoos for Every Harry Potter Fan

This week, the internet has been buzzing with the news that J.K. Rowling published a short story on Pottermore reuniting fans with their favorite magical people. Except now, Harry and the gang are in their thirties with hair beginning to gray.

I haven’t finished reading Rowling’s new story yet, because summer, for me, is really less of a break from school work than it is a time to do said school work sweating in ninety-degree weather, with a fan on high pointed in my direction. Seriously, Portland, I thought I left California to get away from the heat. But I plan on finishing the story as soon as I can escape.

All this talk about Harry Potter has made me nostalgic for the books I read so fervently as an adolescent, the same age as Harry and growing up every year with him, that my brother-in-law once hid The Order of Phoenix from me so I’d stop reading and rejoin society. (I got it back, and all was well—see what I did there?) In order to celebrate our reunion with Harry, I spent some time searching for some of the best Harry Potter tattoos out there (or at least the best on Instagram), which you can check out below.

 

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Literary Paraphernalia: 10 Pieces of Harry Potter Gear for Muggles

With all the recent talk about J.K. Rowling and her admission that she regrets pairing Ron with Hermoine, we’ve grown even more nostalgic over the book I know I, for one, grew up reading. In case you missed it, Rowling told Emma Watson in an interview for Wonderland, “I wrote the Hermione/Ron relationship as a form of wish fulfillment. That’s how it was conceived, really. For reasons that have very little to do with literature and far more to do with me clinging to the plot as I first imagined it, Hermione ended up with Ron.”

So this week’s Literary Paraphernalia column will feature some Harry Potter gear for all of you muggles.

Jewelery

 

Get it here.
Get it here.
Get it here.
Get it here.

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Being a Twenty-Something Year Old Writer

As a writer, it’s difficult not to compare yourself to other writers. I’ll be the first to admit that if one of my friends said they just landed a book deal, my congratulatory words would be followed by some inner dialogue best not shared with the rest of the world.

There are plenty of writers who have become successes in their twenties. Stephen King published Carrie when he was 26. F. Scott Fitzgerald published This Side of Paradise when he was 23, and Jack London published The Cruise of the Dazzler when he was 26. At 22, it’s hard for me not to become depressed by these facts, but it’s important to realize that these authors aren’t the norm. And that their early success does not mean that their lives were void of struggle.

Before Carrie became a novel (or a movie, for that matter), King’s wife had to dig it out of the trash, where a drunken King had placed it. The author had developed a drinking problem while working different jobs, including selling short stories to magazines. The novel Carrie alone earned King $400,000 in paperback rights.

Stephen King
Stephen King

Fitzgerald’s This Side of Paradise was written in a desperate attempt to prove to his love, Zelda Sayre, and her family that he could support her financially. His engagement with Zelda was put on hold when his career as an ad copywriter failed. After his novel was published, Zelda’s family gave their blessing.

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Freedom in a Pen Name

There have been many writers throughout history who use pen names to disguise their true identity. Charlotte Bronte published her pieces under the name Currer Bell, while her sister Anne went by Acton Bell and Emily went by Ellis Bell. Charles Lutwidge Dodgson wrote under the name Lewis Carroll, and Theodor Seuss Geisel is known to children everywhere as Dr. Seuss. The list keeps going.

But what’s the point of these pen names? A pen name is useful for a few different reasons. If the topic you are writing about is controversial or if characters in the piece resemble friends and family (or even yourself), then a pen name can remove the anxiety of having your own life looked at through a magnifying glass.

Some authors use their real name and a pen name, depending on the piece. A historical writer interested in dabbling into fantasy or science fiction writing may use a pen name for the latter so that fans aren’t confused by the different style and focus. A writer may even decide to create a pen name that appeals to their chosen audience, like J.K. Rowling, whose name is actually Joanne Rowling; Rowling changed the name on the cover of Harry Potter after her publisher explained that their target audience–young boys–would be more prone to grab it off the shelves if a girl didn’t write it.

Interestingly enough, Rowling’s most recent book was written under another pen name, Robert Galbraith, which she used to write The Cuckoo’s Calling, a mystery novel. In the Sunday Times, Rowling admitted:

Being Robert Galbraith has been such a liberating experience. It has been wonderful to publish without hype and expectation and pure pleasure to get feedback under a different name.

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Writers Talking Smack on Other Writers

As Mahatma Gandhi once said, “An eye for an eye will only make the whole world blind.” Clearly, Gandhi was a man of peace, but not many writers followed his lead as it turns out.

Writers seem to be quick to anger, hold grudges well, and like to write it all down. I’m sure it’s terrible for their blood pressure, but it’s also entertaining for us!

Are you a fan of J.K. Rowling (writer of a little known series called Harry Potter)? Well, Harold Bloom, Yale professor, writer and literary critic isn’t:

How to read ‘Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone’? Why, very quickly, to begin with, and perhaps also to make an end. Why read it? Presumably, if you cannot be persuaded to read anything better, Rowling will have to do.

That’s a fairly new feud, in the world of writers. Lord Byron, poet during the late 1700s and early 1800s, was hated by fellow poet John Keats. Keats felt that Byron was out of touch because of Byron’s aristocratic roots.

Byron wasn’t silent in his counter-dislike of Keats after the rivalry began:

Here are Johnny Keats’ piss-a-bed poetry, and three novels by God knows whom… No more Keats, I entreat: flay him alive; if some of you don’t I must skin him myself: there is no bearing the drivelling idiotism of the Mankin.

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An English Education

Robert_Frost_NYWTS_3
Robert Frost

“There are two kinds of teachers: the kind that fill you with so much quail shot that you can’t move, and the kind that just gives you a little prod behind and you jump to the skies.” – Robert Frost

When the topic of my chosen career path surfaces, I tend to get the same responses:

A sizzling sound made with the lips as if something or someone is burning.

A sympathetic hand that embraces my shoulder.

Usually the response is accompanied by a statement along the lines of “Wow, high school English huh? You’re brave. I could never do that” said almost as if I was donating one of my kidneys.

I must admit that I initially started out as an English Literature major. I wanted to become a writer. I wanted to spend my days sitting beneath trees, or walking alongside a lake with moments of inspiration captivating me into fits full of words and splendor.

Yet, something was picking at my side, and to be honest, some of it involved the haunting echoes of my family asking, “What are you going to do about money, Lauren?” But if you’ve read my biography, you’ll know that most of my educators influenced my passion for writing.  I sat back one day in my chair and I thought, “What is it that you are truly passionate about, Lauren?” and when it came down to the answer, I realized that I am more passionate about my ever-growing ability to write rather than writing itself. I sometimes wonder where I would be without a notebook, without a word document, or more importantly without the ability to articulate words to form pieces of intricate details that embroider the influx of my emotions and thoughts. Can you imagine how it must feel to have such a strong sensation to express yourself through words, but the well of words being completely dry? I have nightmares about such things! I once had a nightmare that I couldn’t read and I awoke gasping as if someone had choked the life out me.  I want to teach. Mostly because I become so horrified by the idea of who I would be without my ability to read and write that I feel it is my civic duty to ensure that the rest of our children have the same opportunity.

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