Thursday, June 20, 2024

"I write to tell you your book is tripe" by Catriona

Tell us about your ideal reader. For whom do you write and why don’t they ever leave reviews or tell you how you’re doing?

Three separate questions here. I'll answer them in reverse order. Why don't they ever leave reviews? They might. I wouldn't know. I don't read them. I mean, I read reader reviews as a reader. That's what they're for. But I don't read reader reviews of my own books, since I'm not planning on picking one up anytime soon. 

And I did recently advise a friend to start ignoring GoodReads reviews of her own new book, after she had a bruising encounter with an ill-informed opinion there (shocker!). 

Wait though, I'm being too grand here. (Grand might be the wrong term. Wurdz iz hard, after all. Just see that sentence two paragraphs back with all the "read", if you don't believe me.) I do sometimes catch a glimpse of the total number of reviews, if I find myself checking something about my own book on Amazon. So I find out that, yes indeed, reviews can be thin on the ground. Of course, when I catch that glimpse I also see the overall star-rating, so I'm not always sorry there aren't more. Sheesh!

But I don't read them. I've heard it called restraint, steel and even courage. Gimme a break! It's rampant, snivelling cowardice.

My cowardice doesn't protect me anyway. Because they do tell me how I'm doing. They email me. That can be lovely. My favourites down the years have been an elderly gentleman in . . . let's say Missouri; that's not far wrong - who got in touch to say that a bit of Scots I had used was a phrase he knew from his emigrant mother, that he hadn't encountered it since she died in the fifties, and that he had never seen it written down before. Another gem was someone telling me she was rereading Dandy Gilver from Book 1 to soothe herself during trying times. I think I sent her the one she was missing. How could you not?

More often though, the emails are from people who've taken the time to tell me that they didn't like my book and stopped reading on some early page. I write back congratulating them on their sensible use of reading time and hoping they've found something they prefer. (This is not polite. This is passive agression. I always hope it leaves them impotently seething.) The final cohort is people who've found a mistake and broken into a trot to get to the keyboard and let me know. 

Now, here's the thing. If you're reading a new hardback, I want to know about the typos. There's a good chance we can fix it before the paperback comes out. But if they're reading something five years old, I already know. And I think they know I already know. They're telling me nothing about my book. They're telling me a great deal about them, though. None of it good.

(There's someone I used to know in real life, who's still got my email address and only ever gets in touch if he finds something amiss in a book. Years go by and then up he pops again. Such a staggering lack of self-awareness, right?)

So is it Mr Missouri or Ms Ree Read I write for? Hmmmmmmmm. I don't think so. I think I write for the characters, to get them out of my head and put them where they belong: in a book. I might edit for Ideal Reader, but my editors know who that is. I haven't a clue.

I do know who my Ideal Reader isn't. And this storm of emotions is very fresh. As I type this blog entry, my mum is sitting in the same room as me, finishing DEEP BENEATH US and teaching me that if Ideal Reader exists for a corpse-strewn psycho-thriller about a deeply dysfunctional family, including a Medea-style mother, she is not it!

(She's finished it. She enjoyed it.)




Lori Rader-Day said...

You know I'm your Ideal Reader. Loving Deep Beneath Us!

Susan C Shea said...

Funny! I love the way you sail into your topic and let loose!

Anonymous said...

I’m pretty sure I’m your ideal reader since I started reading you years before I met you, when you were Cat-ri-own-a. (I quite liked that name and wished you hadn’t changed it )
Now I hear your voice when I read you. That’s fun although I do hear voices otherwise, too.
And I leave reviews for you and everyone else. I don’t leave crap reviews. If I don’t like a book, I don’t review it. Period. Who am I to say it’s no good. It’s still better than anything I could write. Xo

Ann said...

That is I ^^^

Catriona McPherson said...

@Lori - ahh bless you! @Susan - I think I still think of this blog as an eternal panel! Ann - I know! I said to another pal once that one particular book's protagonist *really* wasn't me. She got back in touch to say "Piffle, you lunatic. It's like you're in my kitchen with a cuppa telling something that just happened to you."