The Same or Different? What’s Your Pleasure?

Same or different?

Since I got a Fitbit for my birthday two years ago, I’ve started walking almost every morning.

At first I was elated when I logged 2,000 steps, although I was often tired afterwards. But as my stamina increased, I set my goal for 5,000 steps daily. Slowly I’m working my way up to 10,000, not easy for someone who sits at a computer most of the day.

As I’ve increased my steps, I’ve found new places to walk. These days I have four 4,000+ step routes that I rotate, each through lovely scenery, ranging from attractive housing developments blooming with tropical foliage to wooded paths bordered by wildlife-dotted lakes.

I’m content with the diversity as well as the routine. I know what to expect, how many steps I’ll log, and how I’ll feel at the end.

Recently, for a change, my husband and I decided to take our Saturday walks through the state park behind our house. We’d walked there before, of course, but now were trying different paths. The landscape is scrubby, pines and palmetto and lots of sand, but the scenery has its own quiet charm.

Best of all there are surprises, as there always are when you vary your routine, surprises like the bobcat who crossed just in front of us on Saturday and stopped to examine us as we excitedly examined him. He trotted away after a few seconds, but what a wonderful start to our weekend. (And before you ask, this is a stock photo. We were much too surprised to whip out our cellphones.)

What do walking paths have to do with books? Well, ask yourself, are you as much a creature of habit when you read as I’ve been on my walks? Do you want the same or different? Do you read the same genres over and over? Do you have favorite authors you read almost exclusively?

During a book signing I once told a reader who liked Danielle Steel that I tackle some of the same elements, so she might like to try one of my books. She stared at me a moment, truly perplexed, then she said, “You don’t understand. I only read Danielle Steel.”

I got the message.

Novelists confront the “same or different” dilemma from the other side of the mirror. Some write nearly identical books, over and over again. Same genre. Same themes. Carbon copy characters. Inching their way out of the mold is often viewed with horror by their readers, who’ve come to expect the usual, thank you very much. These books are their comfort reads. Surprises are unwelcome. They don’t want the novelist to change the rules.

Other novelists couldn’t write the same book twice if they tried. They frequently experiment with different genres, go out on a limb each and every time with new plots about unusual characters. Sometimes readers follow their adventures, and sometimes readers leave them for more familiar territory. The novelists understand this and are willing to take chances anyway.

The Swallow’s Nest, which comes out next month, has many of the elements you’ve come to expect in my novels. It’s the story of three very different women, and as a reader you get to know each through her personal point of view. Sometimes the way they behave isn’t admirable, maybe even less admirable than you’re used to from me. But my job, as the author, has always been to help you understand what motivates each woman, to help you learn to root for her and hope she finds a measure of happiness–even when she doesn’t know where to look.

How is this book different? I’ve never set a book in California before, nor have I had a home and lifestyle blogger as my main character. But more important? I’ve never tackled infidelity quite this way or child custody ever, and I’ve only rarely written a novel in which a love story takes such a back seat. Neither have I written many stories that take place over a long time span. All these things, plus characters I had to wrestle with, made the writing both exhilarating and challenging.

So is The Swallow’s Nest more of the same? Is it one of my familiar walking paths? Or is it different enough to either excite or dismay you, like a bobcat unexpectedly crossing your path?

You’ll have to tell me. I’m happy to say you’ll have your chance after June 13th when the book officially goes on sale. In the meantime, for a taste of what to expect? You’ll find more here, and if you go to the excerpt page and scroll all the way to the bottom, you’ll see an even longer excerpt and more information courtesy of Overdrive.

Enjoy the preview.


  1. Kathryn Trask on May 10, 2017 at 3:52 pm

    Laughing about the Danielle Steele reader, she is missing out on so much! I am a reader who stays pretty much to a familiar path ( The Swallow’s Nest is well within). I have strayed out into a little paranormal in past years, emphasis a little, I like Nalini Singh’s books and because she lives here in NZ I always read. The Better World is taking me a little out, not sure how far, I just bought Dragon Springs Road by Janie Chang for a book set in Asia. I have read there but not for years.

  2. Maru on May 10, 2017 at 6:15 pm

    Years ago I was reading a novel of an author I was fairly familiar with. As I recall it was a good book until I got to the end where the main character was killed off! I sneak peek at last pages now. ?

  3. Nancy Lepri on May 10, 2017 at 6:29 pm

    I had to laugh at the person who only reads Danielle Steel. I enjoyed her first books but have refused to read any of her books in the last two decades. I find the writing sloppy and the same premise used with each book. I enjoyed contemporary women’s fiction with fresh and exciting plots, not the same old, same old.

    • Maureen on May 11, 2017 at 8:08 pm

      If find the same with Danielle Steel’s books. I quit buying them. What irked me most was the number of sentences she began with the word “and”.

  4. Kate on May 11, 2017 at 11:48 am

    Book groups are an excellent way to expand your reading world. I have read many books that I would never know about without my book group. Some I loved and will read more by that author. Some I hated, but I tried them out.
    I was surprised the first time I heard someone say they only read non- fiction. I have met others since, and I now think that really means they don’t really read anything.
    My mother used to say I read the bubblegum comics off the sidewalk, proof that I read everything!

  5. Judy Long on May 17, 2017 at 11:10 am

    I have my favorite authors that I always read their new books, but I also read many others. Every year I try to diversify my reading. I love trying new genres, but sometimes, I choose new authors from other countries. I have had the opportunity to experience many new ideas, places, and even my own opinions have changed

    • Emilie Richards on May 17, 2017 at 11:24 am

      I think you’re on to something. Reading outside our “usual” can really give us new insights.

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