Clinical psychologist Suzanne Conboy-Hill and I have been virtual friends for a year and a half. Recently she read my novel The Brevity of Roses. I was a little apprehensive when she tweeted that she had started reading it because I figured she might analyze my characters and find them wanting. This is how she reviewed my novel on Amazon:
“There are two things you should know; I’m not a fan of romantic fiction so I would never have read Brevity if Linda were not a twitter-buddy. I approached this with some trepidation, but once started, I read over half the novel at one sitting and the rest at another. It had me. Why? Hard to say because I really wanted to smack Jalal for his adolescent self absorption. Then I wanted to yell at the women around him who seemed hell-bent on keeping him that way. But maybe it was because, in my youth, I would have fallen hook, line & sinker for him. Maybe it’s because he was so well drawn that I was reminded of an incident in a café when an equally stunning creature dived out ahead of me and pulled up at the bus stop, offering me a lift ‘to the rest of my life’*.
Perhaps I saw myself in Renee, jealous of her predecessor, and intimidated by Jalal’s wealth and position. The feminist in me hated the family kitchen scenes, the division of labour, the ‘behind-the-scenes’ but not ‘up-front’ cleverness of the women. In short, I ranted at the characters, identified with some of them, yelled at them to avoid the traps I’ve fallen into myself, and growled at their weaknesses and ineptitudes. Now that’s writing! Make me forget I’m reading something I’d normally avoid; make me angry with the characters so that the writing becomes the skilful, competent engine that purrs quietly beneath; get me involved with people whose behaviours make me spit feathers, and I’d say you’ve got yourself an authoritative author.
If romantic fiction is your thing, you will love this. If it isn’t, give it a try; you might find you’ve inadvertently read a very satisfying, well plotted novel that had you involved enough to be hissing at the page. I wonder if, like me, you will still be yelling ‘No no no!’ as you close the book. And on whose behalf …
*I accepted. It wasn’t!”
As a rule, I would never question, or argue with, a reviewer, but I couldn’t resist picking Suzanne’s brain a little more. I tried hard to make my characters believable and their thoughts, words, and actions consistent with the “psychological profile” I had given them, so I was curious to know how she interpreted a few things. Plus, I wanted to know on whose behalf she was yelling, “No no no!”
So, now we’ve exchanged a couple emails on the subject of the psychology behind my characters, even discussing what might happen to them after the last scene in the book. We agree and disagree on various points, but I was relieved to find we aren’t far off.
As writers, we sometimes find it hard to leave off that editor hat when we read. I guess, for those who wear it, it’s just as hard to leave off the psychologist’s hat. Thanks for the free analysis, Suzanne. 🙂