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Question
I have noticed that reader's tastes in subject matter tend to be a moving target. One year Mafia stories are popular and the next year its Military stories or Dinosaurs. Is there a was to track what the reading audience is currently interested in or do you simply write what you are interested in and hope that the reading public is interested too?

Answer
Dear William,
Thank you for your questions. I think the second qusetion is more on the mark, do you just write what you are interested. If a book is to catch on, it must have passion, and it must in some way address current events. A best seller speaks to the people who read it and sometimes that's in an indirect way. For example, you mention Mafia stories. The Godfather, when it came out in 1972, spoke to corruption. Guess who was president at the time? Maybe people wanted to watch something about a bunch of crooks. Now the popularit of The Sopranos on HBO could be due to similar reasons (apologies if you're a Republican).
Military stories are also popular right now, but people love stories that portray the "Greatest Generation," i.e. World War II, when the people fought for honest motives. First Tom Brokaw's book came out, now Tim Russert's book about his father, a WWII vet. So, you have to be relevant to now.
One clue about sci-fi is that it's always about the author's contemporary world. When George Orwell wrote 1984, it was really about his time - 1949. Sci fi is set in the future or some other world so people can handle the truth as a hypothetical thing the author wants to talk about.
So, when you are looking to write fiction, write what you know and write something that fills you with passion and meaning.
I hope this helps. My page for writers is
http://steamboats.com/writing.html
Feel free to write back if you want to discuss further.
Sincerely,
Nori

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