🇺🇸-born, 🇬🇧-based, novelist.📖 Writing, travel, culture and more. Always holding "auditions" – so be careful or you may end up a character in “1797”…and perhaps an evil one.🎭 (And why do I suspect some of you might like that latter in particular?)😂
British and European schools are starting their summer holidays this week or next. Most American schools finished several weeks ago, to resume in late August or in early September. So with (northern hemisphere) summertime now fully upon us, are you looking for backyard, poolside, or beach reading?
As a writer laboring for uncounted hours to create what you believe has some literary merit and readers will enjoy (silly you), you become accustomed to being told about the latest big thing that you’ve foolishly overlooked or inexplicably omitted. You’re also constantly stumbling on this or that declaring you’re hopelessly out of touch and doing it wrong. At times, it’s like high school lunch never ended: the cool kids are all at another table…
“What? There aren’t any alien babes? Not to tell you what to write, but I’d set the book in a vaguely Scandinavian frigid place with magical stuff and long-haired, bearded hunks. And I’d toss in some babes wearing fur… and make sure it’s vegan.”
“I know, yeh, the president and all that. But nobody really cares about the War of 1812; they don’t even know the year it started. It’s all dystopia now. Or flying broomsticks at posh English boarding schools.”
“I get you feel strongly that’s inappropriate and ludicrous behavior, but that’s you. What you’ve written here is just too old-fashioned. Romance is all modern now. Audrey Hepburn is dead. Look, how about some cable ties on the second date at least?”
There are many other forms of entertainment out there now for kids, so it’s hard to know what can be done about some kids reading less and their vocabulary suffering as a result. Reading for pleasure is a habit picked up in childhood. If it isn’t embraced by the early teens, likely it never will be.
[The beginning of Emma, by Jane Austen, on my Kindle. Photo by me, 2018.]
What I write is not meant for kids; it is for over-18s. I know also what I write falls within a niche that will probably appeal only to a certain type of reader regardless of age. While I aim to be entertaining of course as well, it cannot always be easy reading either.
I hope readers do get more out of the novels than just some entertainment. Every writer does things his or her own way. I love people: I enjoy writing of the “little” things that make us smile, laugh, or even cry; of travel; of learning; of change; of those we meet, including those who are in our lives perhaps only briefly, who may make a lifetime impression on us.
She is now largely confined to her London home. Council carers come in twice a day. Her son usually also makes a daily appearance.
Many in her situation would probably stare at television all day, but not she. As long as I have known her (nearly 20 years now), she has been a novel reader. Apparently she reads now more than ever; whenever we have visited her over this difficult last year and a half (despite her own numerous problems, she invariably asks me how my dad is coping: “I know he misses your mum…”), beaten-up paperbacks have been stacked up half a dozen high next to her bed, which is now in her lounge as it is no longer easy for her to walk upstairs.
My wife suggested to me back in the autumn that her aunt might like to read Conventions. But I wasn’t entirely sure. However, pre-Christmas, without warning I decided just to send her a paperback and a short note.
On Friday evening we flew to Dublin from nearby London Luton airport for a weekend visit with Irish friends. We returned to that British airport that makes New York’s LaGuardia look like a travel dream Luton early Monday morning. I’ve known those friends for some 20 years, and my wife for longer even than that…
[“You are here.” In Dublin Zoo, Phoenix Park, Dublin, Ireland. Photo by me, 2017.]
On Saturday we had a stroll through the city’s famous Botanic Gardens with that husband and wife and their 12 year old daughter. We’ve been to it many times before. Every visit is different…
In the last few days I’ve seen a currently mega-popular male writer pop up in my Instagram feed repeatedly praised by several people I follow. Read his book! they declare. It changed my life!
I’ll pass. However, when others effusively push a current-day wildly popular writer you’ve read some of and couldn’t stomach (you understand why I’m not naming him), you can also wonder about yourself. You may fret, “Am I utterly out of step with the world?” You may well be, but that’s fine; everyone is entitled to their literary tastes, of course, and don’t be afraid to follow your own.
After all, we aren’t in school anymore. We fork out money for what we want to read. And there is no English literature test on Friday.
Due to what I have seen regularly “out there,” and with my brand new Conventions, as well as my first book, Passports, available on Kindle promo for 99c each until next week [UPDATE: it will run indefinitely], this awkward issue again jumped to my mind. I realized I have never addressed it here before. I feel that I should.
You may recall that I had argued recently that the current “fad” among some indie writers seeking out those now evidently termed “beta readers” (apparently more like “test readers” than just proofreaders) is, in my opinion, a creative mistake. The motivation seems to be rooted in getting pre-publication “feedback.” While on the surface that aim sounds reasonable, I detect in the practice more an underlying unease in the author about his/her writing and a hope to attract as many “reassurances” as possible that the book is actually “good.”
Hmm. Being an author is fundamentally about leaving yourself out there and being honest with readers. It is also about, occasionally, perhaps being harshly reviewed. If you are fearful of criticism and wish to write, you are venturing into the wrong line of work.
Illustration of a stack of books. [Stock photo.]
Which bring us to post-publication reviews themselves. And to reviewers…
The holiday rental here on Puerto Rico’s Vieques Island has no television. But there is fantastic internet. I’ve reached the point now where I don’t care much if I ever watch TV – as long as there’s internet.
Free Stock Photo: Illustration of a medieval castle.
When I read it yesterday, I almost fell out of my chair. I won’t share any of it here because I don’t have permission, but this is my pathetic impersonation of what I saw opening one chapter. In no way does it do her writing full credit:
Oh, the English language. Of course we use words and phrases today often decidedly differently than our ancestors did. Usage and meanings evolve over time.
Phraseology we almost never use now was once common. If we return to two centuries ago, where as you may know I’ve spent a lot of time in recent months, there are moments when reading what is clearly English can still feel somewhat like reading a “foreign” language. You have to be VERY cautious.
You may recall I had had some “fun” earlier this year as I was first researching Conventions. To help “him” better understand me, I attempted to write a planned character a letter as we in 2016 might write to an American of the late 1700s – in his 230 year old style and vernacular:
Letter To 230 Years Ago, originally posted January 22, 2016.
How complicated it can become. In 1790, for instance “society” often meant one’s immediate close friends and family: “I was most happy in my society.” That usage is almost unseen today.
As bloggers we try to anticipate our audience, but one never can know for sure what is going to catch “fire.” Every post I write is composed allowing for the possibility the entire world could see it. This is the internet: you never know…
One post back in mid-September was written much like any other. I thought I would touch on a few matters about 18th century fashion that had come up in conversation casually between myself and visiting friends from America a day or so before, and how it related to Conventions (my current manuscript). I figured it might attract a few likes and maybe a comment or two, and that would be that. Next.
Screen capture of the opening to the “What Was Fashionable” post.
I’m taking a few days away from my writing to do some reading and have a mini-break to recharge the batteries. So I wasn’t going to post today at all. But you know me…once my mind starts going as morning gets going…
Down the spiral staircase we go… [Photo by me, 2016.]
After posting yesterday about the controversy swirling around out there about a possible “unmasking” of the real person behind the “Elena Ferrante” pseudonym for the huge-selling novelist, I returned once more to my “1794.”
Initially, as I tapped away in Word again, I found myself distracted. The controversy pushed my mind to a related issue: Regardless of whose name is on the cover, “who” is actually inhabiting your fictional pages in the first place? If you write, this question is probably familiar to you.
My home office. [Photo by me, 2016.]
How much of you is really on those pages, but which no one but you of course truly appreciates? And what are you consciously changing about “yourself”? And what is perhaps subconsciously there that’s “you” despite even your best conscious efforts to alter it?