Charlaine Harris (author of the Sookie Stackhouse books) recently posted this blog entry:
Coincidences happen. I get emails pretty frequently that have essentially this message: “So and so’s book has motorcycle gang werewolves in it, and so did yours. You should look into this. So and so’s copying off of you!” I’m sure people sent the same email to Laurell K. Hamilton when my first books came into print.
The truth is, there are few really original ideas under the sun. There are similarities between many books in the urban fantasy genre. If you get vampires, werewolves, and heroines with a supernatural trait, and they’re all tossed together, some of the results are going to be the same.
I did some lightning plotting last week about a book I want to write. I’m fascinated by cemeteries, and I thought it would be interesting to write a book set in a cemetery. I imagined the protagonist, a girl raised by ghosts in a cemetery, and I began figuring out how she’d live, how she’d avoid being taken in by the state and put in a group home, and what she would do to pass her days in such a lifeless place.
Then I went on Amazon and clicked on Fiction, then on Cemetery, and found that Neil Gaiman has already written a book with a similar premise.
So, what do I do now? Let my lovely idea go? Buy the Gaiman book, and read it enviously? Purchase every copy on earth and burn it?
Can I salvage my own idea? I haven’t decided yet. I would have been happier if I hadn’t checked, I think.
But when when my book was completed, it would have been a rude shock when someone asked me if I hadn’t read Neil Gaiman’s book. I haven’t, and I won’t, in case I decide to go ahead with my own, though the temptation is strong. I admire his writing – who doesn’t? Gaiman (whom I’ve met twice, very briefly) is a living legend.
It’s a hard call, but luckily I’ve got plenty of time to think about it. I’ve got two short stories, a lot of editing, and another novel lined up when I finally send in GRAVE SECRET, which is close to completion. By then I’ll have made up my mind, and I’ll either write CEMETERY GIRL . . . or I won’t.