Monday, March 06, 2006

How the first “real” reviews of my book “Writing Naked” helped me to understand why I wanted to be published

My first collection of short stories, Writing Naked, has been out since the beginning of the year but even though I’ve actually held a copy in my hand and I’ve seen the sales figures from Amazon, it only really came home to me that I had a book out there when I read Lisabet Saria’s review on ERWA and Kathleen Bradean's review on her blog.

As a reader, I hate reviews written by people who either didn’t get beyond the blurb at the back of the book or have no empathy with what they're reading (like the fashionably disparaging reviews of science fiction that are occasionally found in the Sunday papers in the UK).

Lisabet’s and Kathlean's reviews are the opposite of this. It’s clear that they are written by people who have read every story and who have thought about what the book means to them. Perhaps it is because they both write erotica themselves and know what makes a story work.

When Susannah Indigo (who edited the book) and I were discussing what stories made it to the book and what didn’t and what order they would appear in, we were creating something more than the individual stories themselves. Lisabet understands this. She sees the book as a sort of dialogue between the writer and the reader and she discerns patterns and themes that connect the stories and the characters in them. Kathleen focuses on the impact of the stories on her, how they slip into the mind and refuse to leave. She knows the essence of these stories, what is important about them, what makes them snag the attention.

Reading these kind of thoughtful, considered, skilfully written reviews; seeing my own words quoted back to me as evidence of a particular intent; seeing the stories summarised so that what is most important about them comes to the surface, sensing the curious but familiar intimacy that reading a writer whose stories resonate with you creates; I found myself smiling.

This was what I really wanted when the book was published: not money (I donate the fees to charity) not the feel of the printed book in my hand (fun, but it wears off too quickly to justify the effort) but the sense that there are people out there who are reading what I wrote and thinking about it and giving it meaning in the context of their own lives. I can’t think of anything more exciting than that once you’ve released the story from your head onto the page.

Take a look at Lisabet’s review and the others on ERWA –it’s a great place for finding books that people feel passionately about. Spend some time in Kathleen's blog - there's a lot more there than a review and vist "Scared Silent" to see another side of her.