Happy International Women’s Day! There are so many areas in which women inspire me – art, science, literature, but today I thought I’d look at some of the women in music who have created a soundtrack to all of our lives.
Starting with my first girl crush, Kate Bush. I remember being curled up on the couch beside the record player, singing (and screeching!) along to Wuthering Heights, Hounds of Love and The Kick Inside. She’s not just a singer, she’s a whole aesthetic! She is an artist who never compromises on her vision and incorporates every facet of her creativity into her work. What an inspiration she has been and continues to be…
Sade’s sound is so unique and authentic, it just invites you in. She seems to hold her power in a place that allows her to be both vulnerable and strong. Creative people especially need to find that balance – and for creative women, it is even more important.
I just loved the album ‘Little Earthquakes’ by Tori Amos. I’m pretty sure every young woman had a copy. There was something about her irreverence; her unapologetic approach and her honesty that really spoke to me as a young woman. And made me regret giving up the piano!
I can’t really talk about female singers who have inspired me without mentioning Madonna. I think all of my generation were besotted with her. I remember watching Desperately Seeking Susan and thinking I wanted to BE Madonna. I tried my best to dress like her (until my older sister kindly stepped in and told me I looked ridiculous!) and have always admired her for breaking boundaries and her ability to defy convention.
Speaking about powerful voices – Beyonce is certainly that. I love that her music is becoming more outspoken and powerful; transitioning from a young woman labelled as a pop princess to a woman with agency. And who hasn’t tried these dance moves at some point?!
So that’s it, a little montage of the women in music who have inspired me over the decades. I think they all share determination and dedication to their craft; there are no half measures, so it’s almost like a battle-cry – don’t just make art, make good art that will touch people. Don’t compromise who you are in order to fit in, as Tori’s lyrics go – ‘You’re just an empty cage girl if you kill the bird.’ What about you? Is there an album you scratched to death, or a CD, or even a cassette that fell apart from overuse? Leave a mention in the comments, I’d love to hear your thoughts 🙂
Some of us have dreamed about writing a bestseller for a long time. A part of me was terrified when I published my first book. Would I be able to handle the fame that came with it? I mean, of course, I anticipated the critical acclaim and the validation it would bring, but the success might prove to be overwhelming. Hah! How innocent I was. How naive. But then again, they were the stories I saw on my TV, in the magazines. That was how it was supposed to happen. Authors, who were shot to stratospheric success with their first novel. Bidding wars. Movie deals. Reese Witherspoon gushing over the originality of the storyline.
But are these writers really representative of the majority of authors who make a living out of writing? Or are they just the one percent we hear about because it’s more exciting than reading a headline ’52 year old woman hits the NYT Bestseller List on her 6th novel’. Yeah, it doesn’t really have the same ring to it. We don’t hear about the writers who spend the best part of a decade slogging away before finally hitting the sweet-spot with their third or fourth or fifth novel.
That’s why I was so pleased to read the following on Twitter last week, the real life stories of successful writers who found longevity in their careers, rather than overnight success.
This is very much like my story too. First book didn’t sell but got me and agent – after 100+ rejections. My tenth novel hit the NYT list. For more than half my career my income couldn’t sustain my family by itself. Lesson: stay strong, work hard, and believe. Miracles happen. https://t.co/CjMMp71ZSx
Traction is a very important concept here. As well as luck, timing and perseverance. I’m always talking about the changing landscape of publishing and how digital downloads have altered the way in which we find new authors. While books and their authors might not reach the masses right away (for whatever reason) if they keep producing good work that people are responding to, a momentum can build. Take Kristin Hannah for example, and her novel The Nightingale (which is, of course, being made into a movie!). I was astonished to find out that she has written over 20 novels! I had never heard of her and assumed that book was her debut, but no; she has been honing her craft for decades and is now reaping the critical and one assumes, financial rewards. Which is why publishers really need to support their writers and stand by them, while they build their readership.
UK author Joanne Harris often speaks about her first two novels, before Chocolat, and how they didn’t sell particularly well. I see other writers like Rowan Coleman, with a slew of books under her belt, who has found great traction with her recent bestseller, The Summer Of Impossible Things. It’s impossible to predict what will make a bestseller. If there was a foolproof recipe, we’d all be downloading it. But one thing is clear – if you give up, you’ll never know.
Then there’s age. We can sometimes see age as a barrier, but it can also be liberating. If the following tweet is anything to go by, age can give you the freedom to be yourself – to follow your heart and write what you want to write.
I started writing what I WANTED to write at 54.
Began with picture books. They sucked hard core.
Found my YA voice at 56.
Got an agent when I was 59. (It was HARD.) My debut comes out in 2020. I’ll be 62. There is NO age limit to your dreams. Write on, lovely writers. Write on.
It is so encouraging to receive this message – there is no time limit on art, on creative passion, on reaching your full potential. I’m thinking of Richard E. Grant and the unbridled joy he exudes at finally receiving all of the accolades the acting world can shower upon him, at the age of 61. It doesn’t mean he’s any better now than he was ten or twenty years ago, but the right role came at the right time and he is now getting the recognition he always deserved.
If you don’t make the New York Times Bestseller List with your first book (or your second or third!) it doesn’t mean your not good enough, it just means that the stars haven’t aligned. Yet. There are so many variables that are outside of our control and all we can do is keep writing, keep believing in the power of telling stories.
***Evie Gaughan is an Irish novelist of historical and contemporary fiction with a touch of magic. Click on the links below for a preview ⬇️
Who needs chocolates and flowers when you can spend an arbitrary date in February curled up with a beautiful book?! So for all you sleepy-heads who missed reading The Story Collector the first time around, you have one week to download it for just 99p!
‘Told with all the warmth and charm of a fairytale’
The Irish Times
‘This is the kind of book to lose yourself in’
Nudge Books Literary Magazine
But what’s it all about? Who is the story collector and why is this butterfly-adorned book breaking hearts? Well, I’ve always believed that word of mouth is the best way to spread the love for a book, so I’ve decided to use the words of my wonderful readers to make a story collector word cloud!
If you can find a few words in there that speak to you, then click on the portal below for your chance to escape into a world of wild beauty, dark creatures and true love.
I was watching a documentary about Christie’s Auction House the other day (more unexpected research!) when they took delivery of a beautiful Constable painting. Three specialists inspected the piece, oohing and aahing over the quick brush strokes and immensity of the sky. Then came the real deliberations… how much was it worth? As they debated over how many tens of millions it might fetch, the documentary maker asked them how they arrived at such a price (£20 million). The specialists said that the price was based on how much previous Constable paintings sold for and how much buyers would be prepared to pay. It was staggering to me – it wasn’t so much to do with the actual artwork itself, but how the art world chose to value it. The artist is long gone and even if he were alive today, could not profit from these kinds of sales. Banksy highlighted this issue when he shredded one of his paintings that was resold at auction.
The way society values things can often seem completely unrelated to an item’s true worth. It seems to be more about ownership and the prestige that it brings, rather than investing in an item because it means something to you. The documentary went on to boast about Christie’s new operations in China, where they were basically teaching the Chinese the value of Western art (i.e. teaching them how to spend their millions lusting after the same limited number of artworks deemed worthy). It all seemed so fake and contrived to keep money flowing within the same circles. As my mother would say, money for old rope! These auction houses aren’t actually creating anything or adding value – they are making their money off the backs of artists who died hundreds of years ago, many of them penniless. I often think of Van Gogh and how he struggled throughout his life. Ostracised by the art world at the time, his paintings speak to so many of us now because of their individuality and unique style.
Anyway, what has all this got to do with anything? Well, I’ve been stressing over book sales recently – wondering if I could be doing more and getting frustrated with myself because OBVIOUSLY I’m not doing enough. Which has ultimately led to me viewing my work purely in terms of rankings, sales and reviews. Which is awful – nobody should view their work in those terms, yet it is a reality you face when you’re trying to make a living out of writing.
The problem is, it’s an extremely narrow view of how much your book is worth. I lost touch with how much value I gained from writing my stories in the first place – how much writing helped me through the ups and downs of life. My books have been an escape and a sanctuary. A source of limitless frustration, yes, but also a source of pride. Becoming a writer has been a dream come true. It has given my life a whole new meaning and purpose. Not to mention the joy of being read! One of my favourite reviews (which I should really stick on my fridge in moments of doubt) was from a reader who thanked me for following my passion and living my purpose. Now, what could be worth more than that? You can’t put a price on that kind of connection.
We are all creators, communicating our unique experience of life. Value arbitrarily placed on something by the outside world doesn’t always necessarily mean ‘better’. It might just mean they can find a buyer for it, or that it will sell with minimal fuss. The same applies if you submit a manuscript to a publisher – if they don’t think your book is commercial enough, it doesn’t necessarily mean that it isn’t any good. Market forces are driven by very different motives. Was J.K. Rowling’s writing any less impressive when she was writing in a cafe, unemployed and unable to get published? Were Van Gogh’s paintings any less vibrant and expressive when the art world had turned their back on him? The work is it’s own reward, its value is inherent, regardless of stats or awards. Your writing has value, whether you are published or not, whether your last book was a hit or not. So never skimp on the quality of your work – make it the best it can be, for yourself. Don’t follow the markets or compromise your ideas. Never stop dreaming. The process of creation, fulfilling your artistic potential, telling your story – all of these things are beyond price tags.
We all want to be successful, but I’m not sure that allowing the world to tell you how much you’re worth is the meaning of success. An artist’s career will always have peaks and troughs, but that does not reflect your worth or predict your potential. We should value our talent and keep writing (and stop checking the sales reports!)
Well, I didn’t win the Costa Book Award, which is the first of today’s problems, but at least one of my favourite novels of last year – The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle – did, so that’s some consolation.
Now before I delve into the dark and murky waters of #WriterProblems, I have to preface it with a caveat, of sorts. A prologue, if you will. A prolo-blem. And it is this: nobody gives a shit if you have writer problems. You’re the one who kept banging on about writing a book and now you’re published, you should be full of the joys of spring and stop moaning to everyone about how hard it is. Right? *whispers* So when we talk about writer problems amongst ourselves, we need to do it in the softest voice that only bees can hear, lest we come across as ungreatful whingers.
There is nothing like finding yourself waist-deep in the tundra of a first draft to start questioning all the rose-tinted crap you once spouted about the charmed life of being a writer. That’s the stuff you say after the book is written and published and safely out of your hands. But writing is like a game of snakes and ladders – when it’s time to start writing your new book you are unceremoniously shoved down a snake and sent back to square one, having learned (apparently) nothing. In fact it’s even worse the second time around because you know you did this before, but you have no recollection of how you did it. Was it this hard? Was I this ill-prepared? It’s like like people telling you that you climbed Everest as a toddler, yet now, as a grown-up, you’re suddenly terrified of heights.
So what are the main problems we writers face on a daily basis? What are the shared agonies that can make us feel, if nothing else, less alone? Well, strap yourself in, literally, for number 1.
Problem Number One:
How to stay in the chair –
This might sound basic, but Jesus Herbert Christ, it is probably the most challenging part of writing a book. Your house suddenly becomes a wonderland of endless activities – everything from doing housework to making tea to ‘getting some air in the garden’ are all colluding against you finishing your novel. With the help of some fellow authors on Twitter, I’m currently working on a prototype for a writer’s chair™ featuring a seatbelt, tea-making facilities and a timelock. Kind of like an electric chair, only with cushions and a shelf for your biscuits.
Problem Number Two:
Nobody takes your job seriously
If you manage to avoid the distractions of giving your oven a deep clean or attacking the grout with a toothbrush, people drop by because you’re ‘not doing anything’. It’s hard to convince people that staring into space wearing your pyjamas is work, but IT IS! ‘Sure you can do that later,’ is the battle-cry of well-meaning muggles who have NO CLUE that ‘later’ you’ll be putting together a soundtrack for the film adaptation of your book, so no, that’s not convenient either. When you have a book out, people actually start to take you seriously – they see your book on the shelves and think ‘Wow, you really are a writer.’ But no sooner have the ‘Buy 1 Get 1 Half Price’ stickers faded than you resume your lowly position as a work-shy chancer, dealing in ‘ideas’ and ‘concepts’ rather than real work.
Problem Number Three:
Other writers –
Yay! Look at us and our brilliant award for being brilliant!! Damn them and their daily wordcount updates, their new contracts, their constant doing stuff! It puts you forever on the back foot, feeling you’re not doing enough. You think, great, I’ve written a page that wasn’t totally awful today and then you see somebody is doing a writing retreat to kickstart the 10 book deal they’ve just signed and all before breakfast All of a sudden, your accomplishment pales in comparison – but it’s a trap. Don’t let other peoples’ success diminish yours. We’re all moving forward, we’re just at different points along the way and as Teddy Roosevelt once said, ‘Comparison is the thief of joy’. Bloody joy thieves!!
Problem Number Four:
This is a two-part problem – not knowing if what you’re writing is any good, but also having to persevere with your ‘not any good’ writing because that’s what a first draft is. I almost have to write with my eyes closed! And the perspective keeps changing, like those mirrors at the fun-fair – one minute you think what you’ve written looks great – then it looks like one of Frankenstein’s nightmares. What seemed pithy and clever yesterday is tired a cliched today. But you know, Rome wasn’t built in a day (badum-tish!) and you just have to fake it until you make it. (I’ll stop now.)
Problem Number Five:
Having/Not having a contract.
This is where those 10-book-deal-joy-thieves are smiling on the other side of their faces!! While the security of having a book deal is nice, being creative on purpose is a lot of pressure. In one sense I feel lucky because I’ve never really had to write to a deadline. Ideas have come organically and I’ve had the space to let them germinate into something approaching a plot. But the flip side of that is the sense of futility that creeps in. ‘Is anyone ever going to read this? Will it ever get published?’ It takes a lot of grit and determination to keep going when you don’t know the answers to those questions. And I think most authors, regardless of what stage they are at in their careers are very aware of the shifting sands in publishing, so nothing is certain. The best solution is to write for yourself and worry about the rest later.
Problem Number Six:
Refusing to give up
Well-meaning Muggles: So if it’s that tough, maybe you should pack it in?
Me: I’m sorry, what now? What gave you the impression that I don’t want to do this? I’ll be a writer if I wanna be, dammit!!
So you see, despite all of the problems with writing, it’s still the one thing you get a kick out of doing, even if it insists on kicking you back. We all have romantic notions of what it is to own a bookshop or be a musician or a circus performer. But all of these exotic-sounding jobs have very mundane daily rituals. The gloss is just the tip of the iceberg that everyone sees and many envy, but the hulk that lies in solitary darkness is the part you have to make friends with if you want to get to the end of the story. And I will get to the end of this story, just as soon as I finish this cup of tea….
I saw this quote on Twitter the other day from the movie Dumplin’ and simply had to ‘borrow’ it immediately! We don’t get this message enough – Be More You! This time of year is always associated with being a better you – a better version of yourself. Gyms have made a fortune out of our annual guilt and the rush to become someone else. But where did all of this start?
New Year’s resolutions have been around for quite a long time (according to Wikipedia!). The Babylonians made promises to their gods at the start of each year that they would return borrowed objects and pay their debts. So for all you book lenders, now’s the time to turn the screws on all those friends/neighbours/relations who haven’t returned them yet. The Romans made promises to the god Janus, for whom the month of January is named. And in the Medieval era, the knights took the ‘peacock vow’ at the end of Christmas to re-affirm their commitment to chivalry.
However, the whole idea of self-sacrifice or self-improvement has really jarred with me over the last few years. I’ve hopped on a bandwagon that’s headed in the other direction, the one that asks – ‘What can I do more of this year? What do I love doing? What will make me happier?’ In a world where we are constantly being told to be our best beautiful, or whatever, we are seldom (if ever) taught to value who we really are. Or how to cultivate a life that honours our true self.
One good thing about getting older is that we get a better sense of ourselves and are a little less influenced by others and their opinions of us. Just as in my writing, I’m aiming for the kind of authenticity that comes when you stop trying to be something you’re not and begin to embrace who you are. As David Bowie once said:
I think the knights had it right – New Year is a wonderful opportunity to re-affirm your commitment to be yourself. You don’t need to change, or improve (not unless it’s what you want) and besides, as Arnold Beisser once said in his paradoxical theory of change:
So my wish for you all and for myself in the New Year, is to be more of who we really are. It’s our diversity that makes us interesting, our fallibility that makes us endearing and human. There is enough conformity in the world – so break out and be you with bells on! As Dr. Seuss said, there is no-one alive who is youer than you 🙂
The year is coming to a close and we’re laden down in listicles, so it would be remiss of me not to jump on the bandwagon with some of my favourite reads of 2018. Now I should point out that I don’t necessarily mean books that were published in 2018, because that would be too straight-forward and I prefer to read in more of a zig-zag.
Eagle-eyed readers will remember that I got a bit trigger-happy during the summer and called my three favourite historical novels in May here (*spoiler* they were The Vanishing Of Audrey Wilde, The Mermaid & Mrs. Hancock and The Essex Serpent). So here are another three for the latter half of the year, which I would highly recommend.
OMG this book. If you want to know what it’s like to be trapped inside a game of Cluedo, then read this book. You know that a murder will happen, but you have to figure out who commits the crime by seeing it (literally) with fresh eyes every day. Because the day will repeat over and over until the mystery is solved. Turton has done something truly wonderful with this story – he has taken a formula we are all familiar with (murder mystery) and created something original. (The bastard). I’m also angry that he has written one of the best opening sequences I’ve read in a long time. You are instantly in the middle of the action and rooting for the poor Sebastian Bell, who appears to have lost his memory but is adamant on finding a woman he thinks murdered in the woods. Since reading it, I wonder if the characters were written in a sequence to capture the reader, as much as they are to catch the murderer. THAT’S how clever it is! If you enjoy some retro Agatha Christie in a Groundhog Day mash up, all served with a twist, then this is the book for you.
Time for some contemporary fiction. It’s hard to find a good contemporary novel that straddles the genres of literary fiction, humour and romance, but when you find a good one, it’s certainly worth the wait. The Clasp is clever, funny and utterly unsentimental. It’s strange how books find you at the right time. I’d been seeing an acupuncturist (for acupuncture – not dating) and we often spoke French together (because we’re total eejits) Anyway, she recommended I read some short stories by Guy de Maupassant and I found a copy of The Necklace in my local bookshop (Charlie Byrne’s literally has every book under the sun). As it turns out, The Necklace is a famous short story (with a twist that I won’t spoil) and it forms the basis of the plot in The Clasp, which fell into my lap a few weeks later. Three disenchanted college friends, who meet up at a friend’s wedding years later, are all trapped in the bourgouis pretence of trying to look happy and successful, while leading rather unfulfilling lives. But the legend of a priceless necklace sets them on an adventure that will shake up the status quo. It’s a story within a story and as I said in my Goodreads review, it reveals a universal truth; sometimes we just need to believe in somethingorder to believe in ourselves.
Last but not least, a novella that was first published in 1978 and shortlisted for the Booker Prize. The Book Shop is a story about a determined young woman who wants to open a bookshop, despite the fact that the building is haunted and certain figures in the community do not want her there. Beautifully written, I only wish it could have been a bit longer, but that is the charm of novellas – the author uses such an economy of language to create the greatest impact. Reminiscent of Joanne Harris’ Chocolat – where an outsider comes to a community and their mere presence seems to shake things up, but not always for the better. Penelope Fitzgerald is a new author to me and one I plan to read more of in the future.
So there you have it, three very different and very absorbing reads. Of course, if the mood takes you, you might fancy something with a bit of magical realism, historical AND contemporary fiction…. Then look no further than my latest novel, The Story Collector. Inspired by a young anthropologist from Oxford University who came to Ireland in search of fairy stories in 1910 – it’s described by the Irish Times as having ‘all the warmth and charm of a fairytale‘. You can even read a preview on Amazon to see how BRILLIANT it is 🙂
What’s in a name? Well, that’s easy for Shakespeare to say with a name like that, but when you’re trying to think up new character names for your book, it’s not always that easy. Unless you’re Man Booker winner Anna Burns, in which case you can dispense with names altogether. But for most of us, we like to pick names that somehow embody the character. The right name can bring your character to life and set the tone, but the wrong name can take a reader out of the story, which is a cardinal sin!
One of the most striking names in literature is Heathcliff. It speaks to location and character – perfectly capturing the haunted, wild, untameable, unforgiving landscape, echoing Heathcliff’s volatile persona. I mean, would he really have had the same impact were his name John? Or Pat (considering he was probably Irish – where Emily’s father was born with the less impressive surname of Brunty). There is a power in names – and a history, like lettered breadcrumbs, which lead to the source.
My surname can be traced back to the 10th century, in the Annals of the Four Masters. In Old Gaelic, my name is Ua Gáibhtheacháin (try saying that ten times!), descendant from a fierce warrior. Apparently we were famed for our expeditious and industrious nature – swiftly dispatching enemies, which is basically just another day for me. And if it weren’t for Cromwell, I’d probably be talking to you from the family stronghold in Kilkenny, and I wouldn’t be on the Atlantic coast, constantly moaning about the rain. Damn you Cromwell!!
My maternal grandmother is also from a great clan in Mayo, the O’Malleys. So I am also connected to another chieftain, or the pirate queen as she is known, Grace O’Malley. In Gaelic she is known as Grainuaile, or bald Grainne, which refers to the legend that her father wouldn’t let her go raiding on the ships when she was a girl, in case her long hair got caught in the sails and rigging. So she took a knife to her locks and cut them off, earning her place on the ship. Which is just like the time I bravely cut my hair into a long bob (a ‘lob’). People still speak of that hairdo, to this day.
So, I hate to disagree with the ardent Juliet, but names do have significance and we also assign them with meaning. In The Story Collector, I chose the name Anna for my protagonist because I wanted a name that was traditional, unfussy and strong. I also chose the name Harold, which instantly speaks of someone who is distinctive and hints of a well-to-do background. When writing historical fiction in particular, it’s important that your names fit the era you’re writing in. No Beyonce’s here, I’m afraid.
But how do you decide on a name? Sometimes the name comes first; others, you have a fully outlined character who remains nameless through several drafts. Or worse, their name changes mid-draft – or their gender! It’s almost impossible to get their original name out of your head and this requires extensive proof-reading afterwards. There aren’t any rules to picking names as such, but there are certain guidelines that are worth taking into consideration. Like it’s okay (preferable even) to pick common names, rather than searching for something unusual, as it makes the story more authentic. I recently put down a book after two chapters because I found the character names better suited to a pair of kittens than leads characters. They were so contrived and pretentious, it just put me off the entire thing.
And apparently, us readers are as lazy as they come, because after a few goes at reading the character’s name, when we see it again, we only read the first letter. Hang on, maybe that’s not lazy, maybe it’s highly efficient! So it’s better not to choose names that begin with the same first letter or sound too similar, as it can confuse things unnecessarily, like Marie and Mary.
I remember an old tip that suggested picking names from the phone book, but sadly, the phone book no longer exists, so I find myself googling baby names (which may cause a shock to my nearest and dearest!) or trying my luck ‘Vegas style’ with online name generators. But mostly, I just sit and stare out the window until the right-sounding name comes to me. In my new WIP I have quite a large cast of characters and thankfully, most of them have come with – at least their first names – already intact. I had to search for popular Russian Jewish names (hello Mikhail!) and I’m still trying out names for one of my main characters whose personality I’m really only getting to know with each new chapter, but what is she called? I need something unique but not too unusual. A strong name, but also with a sense of vulnerability. Something lyrical, but not too sweet.
I’m tempted to run a poll, but I have a terrible habit of ignoring other peoples’ advice, so the chances are I will still go with the name I want, even if the overwhelming majority pick something else! It’s a bit like book titles – sometimes you’re completely married to one idea and others it won’t come until the last, desperate minute. Naming things is such a big responsibility. That is the title they will bear for the rest of their lives, so you want to get it right. But for now, maybe A and B will have to do!
If you have managed to miss the exciting news that The Story Collector was reviewed in The Irish Times last weekend, then well done to you because I have been telling everyone I know and many people I don’t! To celebrate, The Story Collector is available to download for 99p all weekend on Amazon and if you fancy bagging yourself a signed copy, check out my Twitter page for a chance to win.
THE STORY COLLECTOR is a darkly magical 99p on Amazon!
What’s that? You’d like to see the review? Well, I mean if you really think it’s necessary, I suppose I could see if I have a copy somewhere…
Honestly, this is something I will treasure for the rest of my life. I remember years ago, my sister saying “oh you should be writing for the Irish Times”. She may as well have said, you should write your novels from space. It seemed so far-fetched. Even now it feels surreal. I keep wondering, how did this happen? I think a lot of writers tend to overlook the years of hard slog when something amazing suddenly happens, as if it has nothing to do with us. Also it feels a bit indulgent and most of us have been taught not to indulge in our own success. Irish people are renowned for being utterly crap at taking compliments and we are brought sharply back down to earth if we even show signs of having ‘notions’. But when your peers tell you that your achievements are ‘well deserved’, maybe it’s okay to take a moment and say, ‘I did it!’ So sod it, my book is in the Irish bleedin’ Times and I’m flippin’ delighted!!
You might think you need a degree in symbology or semantics to understand what the hell your book reviews reveal about your novels, but fear not lads and ladies, I’ve put a good half hour of research into some of my own books’ critical reviews and come up with practically no all the answers.
For starters, the star rating means different things to different people on different days. Do not attempt to find any correlation between high ratings and postive reviews (or vice versa). Sometimes the most critical reviews lie in ambush under a five star rating and likewise, a three star rating can often be accompanied by the most glowing review. Do not try to make sense of this – that way madness lies!
However, by using some examples from my own Amazon customer reviews (which I usually read with one eye through a tiny gap in my fingers) I’ve put together a highly scientific system of categorization to make things a little easier. Strap yourselves in!
1. The Back-handed Compliment Review
“If you are looking for literture for the ages, this isnt it. However, if you are looking to settle back in your favorite reading chair with a cup of hot tea and some lemon cookies for a delightful afternoon of light reading, this book is your ticket. I thoroughly enjoyed it!”
2. The Passive-Aggressive Review
“The story is readable. A good ‘waiting time’ read.”
“Easy & light summer read.”
3. The Least Said, Soonest Mended Review
4. The Insult
“Fair warning. I have better things to do with my time!”
“The cover art was the best part of this book in my opinion.”
5. The Have-They-Even-Read-The-Book Review
“Once you get past the fowl language and depravity”
(Fowl language? I don’t remember any poultry featuring in that book…)
6. The Angry Review
“THIS ITEM HAS NOT ARRIVED ON MY KINDLE, ALTHOUGH THE MONEY HAS BEEN TAKEN FROM MY ACCOUNT !!!!”
So, what I think what we’ve all learned here today is that reviews can be confusing, but let’s be honest, we wouldn’t have them any other way, right?! Short, long, cogent or rambling, we love to read them – so please keep writing them 😉