One of my favorite movies is "O Brother Where Art Thou?" by the Coen Brothers. It is based on Homer's epic poem, The Odyssey, but is set in the deep south during the the Great Depression. The reason I bring it up is related to my manuscript but first let me give you the set up. For those of you who have never seen it, in the movie, George Clooney (Everett), John Turturro (Pete), and Tim Blake Nelson (Delmar) play escaped prisoners who are out to retrieve a hidden treasure. Along the way, 3 beautiful women (sirens) singing and washing their laundry by the river's edge, seduce the 3 men with liquor. When Everett and Delmar wake up, they find Pete is gone, and all that is left is his clothes and a large toad within them. So here is the scene from the movie:
So I am reviewing all the comments that Da Man has given me on my manuscript, most of which are incredibly helpful and wonderful catches. Towards the latter half of my story, the hero and his group discover a beautiful spot where heavenly maidens bathe and frolic by jade green pools deep in a mountain valley and the maidens inform my MC of the treasure he must find. On the paragraph after this scene Da Man had written the comment "We thought you was a toad!" I just about bust a gut laughing. It reminded me of how well he knows me that he knew I would find that hysterical. But it also reminded me of how many references and nods to other books can be found in most people's writings. While I don't think my book is completely derivative, it cannot help but have similarities with so many quest based novels.
If you look at Harry Potter or even the Chronicles of Narnia, you can see alot of concepts that are similar to Tolkien's Lord of the Rings, and look how successful these books have been. Eragon has been criticized as having the same plotline as Star Wars but told through the same world of the LOTR. And yet Hollywood even made a movie based on it (not a good movie, but still). Similarities occur everywhere, and what might be derivative to one reader may be fresh and new to another. For example, older readers criticized Eragon for being a hodge-podge of stolen plotlines and concepts from better novels. Yet young readers were opened to a new world of fantasy they had never seen before. And surely the success of the trilogy, speaks for itself.
If someone were to make a similar comparison to my novel, they might call it an Asian based LOTR. But would this be an accurate analysis of my book? I would hope not. I would hope that my creative East Asian mythlore take on the old "quest" devise would give it a completely new spin. I would hope my execution is what will keep it interesting and fresh and so very different from Tolkien's world. And yet to have your work compared to Tolkien would be an ultimate compliment. One that could bring a similarly themed book to a new audience.
But at the end of the day, it is hard to know what interpretations a reader will bring to your book. I would never have thought my YA Asian historical novel would raise similarities to "Oh Brother Where Art Thou?" but that is the correlation Da Man saw. Was it a good thing or bad thing? I'm not sure. But I can only hope, that when the last page is turned, and the book is finally put down, that whatever interpretations were made added to the reader's enjoyment of the book.