Monday, November 20, 2006

Reader Review

I don’t know if other authors do this or not.

I picked someone from a discussion list, someone I’ve gotten to “know” via email over the past few months, and sent her a copy of Suspicious Circumstances. I asked if she’d be willing to try to think of book group discussion questions to go with my book. Knowing that she’s participated in a lot of book discussions prompted me to ask.

Late last night she fired back her list of questions.

Wow.

I am so thankful that she took the time to read the book, and was willing to give this some thought. I think we can get too close to our own work, and it’s harder for us to look at it objectively.

But some of these questions… I’m not sure I want to know the answers to them!

“Do you feel that there were any underlying messages (feminism etc) and if so, what were they and how were they presented?”

Why do I suddenly have a feeling Ty is going to get roasted by some readers?

I think this was a smart move on my part, and that I picked an exceptional person, because I wouldn’t have thought of a lot of these questions. Honestly. And she did questions for each chapter, plus a few overview questions, like the one above.

The questions surprised me, but they’re good. I actually suspect this person could be a hell of an editor. Perhaps I should run all future manuscripts by her with an eye to hearing her answers to some of the questions.

It’s made me aware of the fact that there are things people are not going to find believable. Just reading the questions produced a, But I can name examples… response in me. I’ve always known that whatever criticisms I level at a book in a review can come back on me by some reader at some point… or another reviewer, for that matter. This is a reality, and it’s probably why this is the scariest part of the entire process for me, the waiting to hear back.

I’ve never read a book with a list of questions beside me. My participation in book discussion groups has been limited to online, and has been rare, so I’ve never been in something very organized.

It makes me wonder. What about you guys? Do you find value in book discussion groups? What is it about them that you like? Do you ever feel you come away with a better appreciation of the book?

Me, I just like gushing about books I like, and that’s it. And I’ve never downloaded the questions off of an author’s site and used them as a reading guide.

But I’m going to print these ones out and have them handy as I read my book this week.

And while I’m at it, I have to try to find some scenes to read aloud, at the very least for that school visit.

I find that hard as well. I’m not one that likes a lot of stuff read aloud…

Damn. It was so much easier when I only thought about writing the books! Now I have to think about all of this stuff!

But speaking of readings, I took Arriel to her first book launch yesterday, to see Anthony Bidulka. He’s got great stage presence and really does his readings well. In fact, he was so impressive I could feel chills trickle down my spine with the one scene – it was freaking me out. Arriel actually said that when he raised his voice at one point, she jumped.

I don’t like hearing people who read well. More pressure…

Here’s a question for those writers out there. What are the things that scare you the most? Is it readings, edits or fearing one of my reviews?

PS: In addition to a copy of Anthony's book, Arriel picked out a book by Tamara Siler Jones to add to her tbr pile. She loves fantasy, and was intrigued by the premise of the book. When I told her I read the author's blog sometimes, she chose it. I look forward to hearing what she thinks.

FYI, Arriel now thinks Eragon is better than Harry Potter.

19 comments:

S. W. Vaughn said...

The scariest? That would be readings. *big huge shudder* I can't stand talking. That's why I write! :-)

I've never even considered joining a book discussion group. The thought never crossed my mind. And I shudder to think what kinds of questions a reading group would come up with for my stuff, especially my series...

What the f*** is wrong with this freaky chick? is the first thing that comes to mind. LOL

Sandra Ruttan said...

Yeah, readings are unnerving SW.

When I read Bill Cameron's book I did suggest professional therapy...

John McFetridge said...

A long time ago (long, long, long time)when I took a creative writing course, the prof, Garry Geddes, had us read our stories out loud. I thought he was insane. But actually he was trying to get us to understand the whole idea of the "voice." Years (many, many, many years) later I started to get an idea of what he was after.

Now I try and write everything in character's voices, with no "authorial" voice sticking its nose in. Recently an editor told me to use the slang and 'poor' grammer only in the dialogue, not the narration. We had to agree to disagree on that. This also makes public readings a lot more fun. Though the first couple of times were very scary.

And because I'm so old and cranky I'm not that interested in reviews. I love 'em when they're good and I ignore them when they're bad. I'm trying to write the book I want. I hope by the time I'm finished with it, it's exactly the way I want it. Then, if people like it, great. If they don't, well, you can't please everyone.

Sandra Ruttan said...

God John, you make yourself sound so old. NOT!

I agree with you about the readings. Great attitude on reviews. Wish I could adopt that...

JamesO said...

The thing that scares me most is the little gremlin of self-doubt that lurks at the back of my mind, waiting until I'm feeling a little down. Then it sidles up and whispers in my ear: 'you'll never amount to anything.'

I'm getting good at ignoring it, though.

Saw the trailer for Eragon this weekend, and it's stirred that nasty little gremlin with regard to my own fantasy series about a dragon and a boy. I've not read the books yet, and from what I've managed to gather, they're completely different to my own brand of fantasy. But Seeing Jeremy Irons and John Malkovich (to name but two) up there on the screen makes my own efforts seem very small.

That's what scares me.

Anonymous said...

I've never been interested in book discussion groups. I enjoy talking about books with friends, but something about the conversation being directed by someone just reminds me too much of high school and evil old English teachers sucking the joy out everything I read.

pattinase (abbott) said...

I do belong to a discussion book and enjoy it very much. I do not, however, like those questions. They take all the spontaneity out of the experience, overshaping your reading of the book and the discussion afterwards. We rarely go to them. If the book is good, you don't need them. If it isn't, you rarely find discussion questions to use.

Sandra Ruttan said...

James, don't be daunted by the 'names' in a movie. Remember the author started off same place you did - with an idea and the discipline to write it. You're a great writer, you'll get there!

Anonymous, I can understand that feeling. And I can understand why not everyone would want to relive high school!

Patti, I tend to think questions are best if used as a launch point, nothing more. Rigid adherence wouldn't be good. I tell you, all the things you have to think about - I've seen a lot of readers ask for those discussion questions, so it seems more and more like something you need to do. Some people want them...

Anonymous said...

Oops, anonymous is me, it's been a long week already. Just shoot me now. norby

Stuart MacBride said...

I have to say that Tamara Siler Jones's books aren't so much fantasy novels as dark thrillers / crime / mysteries in a fantasy setting. And very, very recommended reading.

OK, so she's a mate and I'm biased, but THREADS OF MALICE is one of the darkest books I read last year.

Stuart MacBride said...

And the thing that scares me most is wasps. Wasps with flick knives, hiding in the toilet bowl in the dead of night.

Sandra Ruttan said...

Norby, I thought it was you. But just in case...

Stuart, I think Tamara's books are perfect for winning my niece to the dark side. Bwahahahaha.

Wasps in toilets? Oh lordy. I don't like bees, but yesterday I was in the pet store and they had a GREAT BIG SNAKE up near the till. Freaked me right out. The staff person had it around her neck but it was really long. Ugh.

Anonymous said...

Wasps with flick knives hiding in toilet bowls? So that's what happens when you mix pain pills and beer. norby

Sandra Ruttan said...

Norby, are you suggesting that combining pain killers and beer produces wasps?

Perhaps some day there will be an Aberdonian horror novel, The Wasps. Stuart can channel his fears into his work.

Anonymous said...

Apparently in MacBeard world it does. I can see him now, running around screaming "The wasps, the wasps!" while the poor kitty just tries to keep out of the way. norby

Sandra Ruttan said...

Ha Norby! In combination with Stuart's post, unfortunately this has put a very bad image in my head.

Out damn thought...

Daniel Hatadi said...

What scares me most is pouring my heart into a story and having no one read it.

Great news as usual, Sandra. Keep it coming!

(I'm sure you will)

Sandra Ruttan said...

I can't wait to read your work Daniel.

I'm sure when the time comes, you'll be widely read and loved. I have confidence!

Daniel Hatadi said...

Damn, that's a nice thing to say. Thanks, Sandra.