Author, Book Reviews, Fiction, My Books, Novel, Reader, Writing

Does what you bring to a book matter?

If you give a group of writers a prompt, you might be amazed at the variety of tales that result. The same photo of a rose might inspire one to write about a first love, another to write about his mother’s funeral, and still another to write of a serial killer who leaves one in the hand of each victim. Your life experience influences what you write. In the same way, it influences how you read a book.

My novel The Brevity of Roses has received a number of reviews, mostly at Amazon and Goodreads, and I’ve read them all. I didn’t think I would. I said I wouldn’t. I should have known I’d be too curious not to. I know reviews are meant for other readers, not the author, but the varied responses to the book I wrote interests me.

The latest reviewer wrote:

For the record, I am a 100% male reader. I am not a love story genre fan but I found this love story to be compelling.

The Brevity of Roses is NOT a romance novel. It is a thought provoking story of the love between people of different age groups and social backgrounds.

The writing is very well crafted. The characters are developed carefully and seem to spring to life. I felt like they were staring back at me from the page.

This fine debut novel is a story of complex relationships. The complexity level is dependent on the amount of thought given by the reader.

The emphasis on NOT was his. I assume he was disagreeing with the previous reviewer (on Amazon) who titled his review “A good romance novel”. I didn’t set out to write a romance novel, so I don’t view Brevity as one, but if some readers do, I understand that. And maybe it’s only a contradiction of terms; what one calls a love story, another calls a romance novel.

One thing I love about reading is the individuality of the transaction between the author and myself. I ask for a story, and the author gives me one, but I might not be able to drink every drop of the story the author tells. The author can only fill the glass I bring to it. To some extent, the size and shape of that glass determines the story I imbibe.

As a reader, I suspect that sometimes part of a story ran over the side of my glass and dribbled off my chin. What can I do? I drank what I could. As an author, certainly, I’m thankful for all my readers, dribblers or not, but I admit that the deeper they drink, the more gratifying that is.

Critique, Fiction, Novel, Revision, Words, Writing

You create it, you own it

I wrote my first novel ten years ago. It began life as a romance novel and died a horror novel. No joke. Like Barbara Cartland morphing into Stephen King.

In my defense (if stupidity can be considered so) I’d never read a romance Romance before, but this was about a man and a woman and sex and all that good stuff, so that’s a romance novel, right? So, I joined the local Romance Writers of America chapter. I attended meetings and learned much from the great Alicia Rasley who co-authors a great blog Edittorrent. I even entered my first 30 pages in a major contest and received some helpful feedback. So helpful, in fact, that I learned what I had written was NOT a romance. The judges told me quite politely—considering—that you can’t have the protagonist committing adultery with a younger woman, while his adoring—and quite possibly dying—wife carries on blindly, cooking healthy meals to keep his cholesterol down and reminiscing about how he stole her heart at first sight. Bad form, that.

But … but … but … I had 80,000 words written! Sooooo, there’s always revision. What if some evil entity—immortal, of course—searching for the loving couple who escaped his wrath 200 years ago, comes to town in the guise of a realtor, meets Philandering Husband and says, “Gotcha, boy, and now I’m gonna make you pay!” Oh, the transformation was marvelous. Suddenly, I had reincarnation, telepathy, demonic possession, mind control … just all sorts of goodies to work with. Not to mention, a vicious, bloody end to Younger Woman.

But here’s the thing, I’ve never forgotten this protagonist. Every so often, I get a wave of guilt for writing him into such a mess. I feel like I owe him a better novel. So, today I dared to open those long-shut files. I was prepared to cringe at the quality of writing, but you know, it really isn’t all that bad. And sure, I’d have to lose the supernatural elements, and the violence, and it might be nice to give Darling Wife a brain, but hey, it’s 90,000 words already written! Maybe … just maybe …