. . . or why I’m reading Amanda Hocking’s Trylle trilogy.
Like many people recently, I’ve heard of her success on Kindle, and from curiosity, I downloaded the sample of the first book, Switched, to my iPod Touch Kindle app. I wanted to know what she was doing that hooked readers. Now, I know not everyone likes her writing (my friend Alex initially liked the sample, but quit reading halfway through the book), but I had to read it, given the sample. (It’s possible I just haven’t gotten fed up with Wendy’s angst yet, and I’ll agree with Alex in the long run. We’ll see.)
You see, the first book I wrote, for NaNoWriMo 2003, was called Changeling. Summer wasn’t precisely a changeling; she was half-fey. However, she didn’t know that. She’d never known her father, and now weird things were happening to her and she didn’t know why. Where my book failed, though, was in figuring out what happened when she learned the truth. I didn’t have a real society for her to interact with, or real plans for what exactly she had to overcome. My story was overly simplistic compared to Hocking’s because I neglected world-building.
However, if you want to know why her sample hooked me, read the following scene from Changeling. I had to know how she took something so similar and worked through it. (Yes, I know the writing is wooden. It was my first. Sorry.)
Summer tugged on Kyle’s hand. “It’s not as cool as I thought out here. Let’s go back in. ” However, as she began to move forward, she heard live music, and her footsteps faltered. She stood still, as she listened for the faint strains she had heard. There was a flute, and a touch of violin, she thought, or maybe harp. Something with strings. It came in fits and gasps with the wind. She cocked her head, trying to pinpoint which direction the sound was coming from.
Kyle looked puzzled. “What’s up?”
“I heard music.”
He shrugged. “We’re at a dance.”
She shook her head. “No, not like that. As though someone were playing instruments out here.” She paused, holding her breath and standing on tip-toe, trying to catch one last faint note. She sighed as she sank back to the ground. “It’s gone now. Let’s go see if Andra has deigned to dance with any of her admirers.”
He laughed, slipping his arm around her shoulders. “My money’s on Vince. He’s been the most persistent.” She laughed with him and moved into the gym.
Inside, Andra was still standing near the entry door. Summer grinned as Andra turned away from their friend Vince. He didn’t leave, though. Summer looked at Kyle. “Would you get me a can of root beer, please?”
He gave a wry smile. “I’ll meet you by Andra.”
“Thanks.” She leaned in and gave him a quick kiss before moving over to join her friend.
Andra greeted her with a big smile. “Finally tear yourself away from the big he-man?”
“You ought to try it sometime.” There was a chorus of responses from those surrounding Andra.
Andra gave her friend a playful push. “Just what I need, you encouraging them.” Summer shrugged and grabbed for a nearby chair. She hesitated as she felt her neck prickle. Someone was watching her. She turned and scanned the room. No one’s eyes met hers. Dismissing the feeling, she pulled the chair over to sit next to her friend.
Movement near the door drew her attention. A young man she didn’t recognize from around campus stood there, inventorying the room. With his ruffled shirt, red and yellow cloak, and epee, he looked like one of the Musketeers. He ignored most of the attendees; Summer was surprised to find herself miffed when he did the same to her, instead focusing on Andra. She studied him as he moved forward. He was tall, with hair as blond as Andra’s, narrow shoulders, and natural grace. He and Andra would make a cute couple.
He bowed before Andra, sweeping her hand up and kissing it. The others standing there made no effort to conceal their scorn. “Get a load of him!” “Who does he think he is?” Summer didn’t say anything, but she did wonder about the newcomer. He seemed too polished and sure of himself to fit in with a group of college freshmen.
Andra pulled her hand back. “I don’t believe I know you.”
He smiled at her. “Shall we remedy that, perhaps with a dance?”
Summer saw her friend wavering. “No, I don’t think so,” Andra said at last. “I’m perfectly happy here, and I owe these gentlemen dances before I dance with anyone else.”
He waved his hand easily. “Then I shall stay here in case you change your mind.”
Seeing a slight frown crease her friend’s brow., Summer leaned forward in her seat. “I’m sure if she wants to find you, she can. . . . What did you say your name was?”
He looked at her with disdain. “I didn’t.” He turned back to Andra. “I did not hear you say you want me to go away.” Summer watched her friend’s hands clutch her skirt and her face furrow. Surely Andra wasn’t thinking of letting this over-bearing gate-crasher stay!
“Please go.” Andra’s whisper was barely audible. Summer let her breath out slowly. She hadn’t realized she’d been holding it. The man glared at her before addressing Andra once again.
“Very well. If you should want to find me, ask for Shea. Someone usually knows where to find me.” He turned away. As he did, Summer was certain she heard him say softly “We will meet again.”