While I was writing The Roman and the Runaway I was very protective of the words on the screen. If anyone came into the room when I was typing, I’d close the word-processing program down so that they wouldn’t see what I’d been typing. I was surprised at how sensitive I was about it. Once it was finished and I was happy with it my attitude changed and I was able to contemplate showing it to other people.
The first person to read the book was my daughter, aged 11 at the time. Well she heard it, in fact, as I read it out to her. This proved to be a valuable activity in a number of ways. Most importantly, it was great to see and hear her reactions to the story. Here was someone at the younger end of my target audience; if she enjoyed it, then I hoped that other people her age and older would, too. The second benefit was in improving the writing. Words that look fine on the page don’t always sound felicitous when you read them out loud. It’s also easier to notice repeated words in this process. I did a lot of editing while I read the book to her.
After that first positive reaction to the story (and after all the editing), I was ready to share the book with my husband and then with his mother, who was staying with us at the time. I put it online and shyly started mentioning it to other family members and friends. It’s an interesting measure of love or friendship, I think: the reaction of someone to the news that you have written a book. There are those that immediately want to read it and those who don’t want to know. What if it’s terrible? (You can hear them thinking.) I’ll have to lie and say I thought it was good! Either reaction is fine by me: I wasn’t forcing anyone to read it, although I did hope that no-one would find it a hideously painful experience.
I’ve already talked about the strange set of reviews that the Authonomy website provides. Family and friends are similar, in some ways, Are they just trying to protect my feelings by saying positive things? I wondered. The other websites on which the electronic forms of the book repose have their own rating and/or review systems. Until yesterday, the book had not been reviewed but then I got an email saying that someone had reviewed it on Smashwords. This made me nervous. Here was my first ever unsolicited comment on the book from a total stranger. Unlike the Authonomites, this person had nothing to gain by being unduly generous with praise.
Clicking on the link to read the review, I felt almost as jumpy as I did when I was a teenager opening the envelopes containing the examination results which would determine my future.
The review was short (like the book, apparently!) but positive. Thank you Rebel: you made my day!