Monday, June 17, 2019

Connecting With Readers

It's generally accepted in publishing that it's best for authors not to read reviews - and in the modern world that has come to specifically mean "reader reviews." In the age of the internet, everyone has an opinion. People are willing to berate a book with the same zeal as a toaster oven, indifferent to the reality that who-the-hell-knows who made the toaster oven, but the author will suffer the real-world effects of someone's hatred - whether that's in damaged feelings or damaged sales. 

Pic by Story-eyed Reviews
To make the internet even worse, we authors are often tagged in these reviews. Sometimes it's obvious from the outset that the author should proceed at her own peril, but sometimes it isn't. Thus, we authors find ourselves with a finger hovering over a link, debating whether or not to click it.

That's where I was a short time ago, looking at a Tweet I'd been tagged in, wondering if the description of BABY TEETH as "a wild ride" held more positive connotations than negative. I took the risk and clicked on the link...

Every once in a while I'm rewarded with a reader reaction so apt, so what I was hoping my words and characters and story would convey, that I'm struck almost speechless by a welling of emotions. 

Another thing you discover as a published author is how symbiotic the writer-reader relationship is. Every reader experiences a book a bit differently, based on their own set of experiences, influences, personality, etc. I've come to realize just how much each reader brings to the process, resulting in a thousand people with a thousand different interpretations of the story. Now, quite often there is a lot of overlap, but there are almost always subtle differences - and occasionally a radical possibility I, the author, hadn't even considered. But it is a very special moment when a reader is able to convey to you that they read the exact book you intended to write. Truly, it doesn't happen very often, so needless to say I was glad I clicked on this blogger's review.

There was this: 

"What makes this story so special is that it takes these distressing, confusing, sinister elements, a lot of them classic tropes, and then weaves them into her characters lives with an incredible amount of heart. I didn’t expect my heart to be so conflicted or broken open by a thriller! So much happens in this book and there are times when it’s almost impossible to tell who you’re supposed to feel the most for: the parents? The child? Everyone involved?... Her ability to shift such intense and full empathy onto every character, especially juxtaposed with the subject matter, is one of the most compelling things I’ve read in a long time."

And this:

"A third aspect of this book that I loved was the authentic and relatable way that the author wrote a character living with a chronic illness. Suzette, the mother of this family, has Crohn’s Disease and it plays a huge part in her ability to care for family, to make decisions, even to live and work and feel like she has enough energy to be a whole person. I wasn’t expecting this in a suspense novel, but I needed it so badly. As someone else living with a chronic condition, it was obvious to me that Stage was writing from firsthand experience. So many subtle moments of Suzette’s suffering made me go “me too!” and to see and acknowledge that as a valid, human part of this story was a brilliant decision on the author’s part."

These aspects - the empathy, living with chronic illness, and turning a trope on its head - were fundamental in my vision for the story, and it feels like such a victory to connect so fully with a reader on this level. And this is why, in spite of what we know about "not reading reviews," sometimes we take the risk... and click the link... And are rewarded with a little insight into someone else's thought process. It feels good to be "heard," to be understood and seen. Yet another magical element in this crazy journey of writing books. Thank you, Readers. 

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