Thursday, 12 April 2012

The Next Generation

One thing that feels really odd to me as a writer is when someone I know well reads my work.

Thinking about it, it's quite weird that some random stranger reads my books. What makes them pick one up in the first place? I'd love to know the answer, cos, like, I could do it all the time!!!

But I digress.

What is especially strange, for me anyway, is when the reader is someone close. Their comments feel far more personal. Which of course they are. They're not coming to the stories fresh, without any preconceived ideas, they come to them with me firmly in mind.

One friend tells me she hears my voice as she reads. Like an in brain CD player. I must admit I find that a bit disquieting. Like I'm intruding into her personal space. Then again by reading my book, she's coming into my personal space, albeit by invitation.

I often joke that my job involves making stuff up, then writing it down. And whilst that's part of it, of course, there is also the part that involves me trawling my experiences, memories, thoughts and passing them on through words. I say things in my books that I've never said out loud. Perhaps not even to myself. And sharing those things with complete strangers is much easier than sharing them with people I know.

Whenever the big box of copies of my latest book arrives from my publisher, husband-who-lives-in-hope always takes one and starts to read. I act all casual, pretending not to notice. In bed, I try to concentrate on whatever I'm reading, refusing to check his face for reaction. Is he smiling? Is he frowning? Is he worried by the murkiness that spews from my brain?

I say nowt. I re-read the last paragraph again. I try not to notice that he's taken three days. Three days!!! Didn't he read the last one in two? Eventually, when he's finished, I can contain myself no longer and ask what he thought. Great, he tells me.

My Mother is the opposite end of the spectrum. She loves every word, every comma, every idea. I'm her genius daughter who writes books. I could be guide to the removal of stains and she's declare it the best page turner ever.

But there are two people who are extremely close to me who have never read a word I've written. I've never let them. I'm talking of course about my kids.

They were about six when Damaged Goods was published, and although they loved the idea that Mummy was a writer, they loved the big purple one from the Tweenies more. And tractors. They really loved tractors.

As they have got older, their interest has piqued. They check the acknowledgements and sneak a squizz at the first page if they can get away with it, but they know they're not allowed. The content includes murders and rapes and drug abuse and ...

But the recent publication of Twenty Twelve produced a dilemma. First, they are both reading adult books now. Perhaps not the stuff I write, but books with difficult themes none the less. And sex. And swearing. Second, Twenty Twelve is an all singing all dancing thriller. It doesn't deal with the social issues I can't resist in the Lilly Valentine series. Okay, it does a bit, but more than anything it's about a terrorist threat on the Olympic Games and one woman being dragged into the maelstrom. So the old inappropriateness excuse is, well, just that.

Yet I still feel very squeamish about my kids reading it. Why? Because I'm their Mum. And Mums, generally, don't allow their children access to their inner lives. We are strong and caring and wise. We make bolognaise sauce without onions and always carry a spare inhaler.

I have relented though, and said they can read it. I'd don't know whether that was right or wrong. But there it is. Maybe they'll hate it and won't get past page four...

HB x

7 comments:

EmmaH said...

A thought provoking entry, Helen. I can understand your anxiety about letting them into your head, so to speak, but there comes a point when you can't stop them reading them anyway - not after a certain age (and I wouldn't be surprised if they may have sneakily done so already). It's all part of the process of them growing up and seeing their parents as people, and not just as their mum or dad.

Rin said...

Hahaha, my other half and my mum are exactly the same as yours!!

Derek said...

A tricky one. Subjective readers may understand us better as people, but objective readers (if there's ever such a thing!) can embrace the writing without expectations based on what they know about us. Ultimately, the writing speaks for itself! Well done on getting to print, whatever the feedback.

Helen Black said...

As I was taking my son to the orthodontist earlier, he pointed at my shoes and said, 'are they the red pumps, Jo wears?'

I laughed but gulped at the same time as to how he is drawing ties in.
HB x

Susie Nott-Bower said...

Oh blimey - this reminds me how nervous I am about people reading mine: especially the sex. The thought of my parents or brothers reading THOSE scenes is so excruciatingly, horribly embarrassing...and they'll all assume it's my experience.
Argh.
Susiex

BJ Kerry said...

Brave you for taking the plunge and allowing the kids in to your club. Love or hate the book its a big step letting them accross the threshold of your 'personal adult world'. Well done.

Neil said...

I would be quite happy for my daughters to read the one book I've had published so far, there's nothing to stop them picking it up and reading it, but they have yet to show any interest in it at all. Nor have they wanted to listen to me on the radio or read about me in magazines. I think it's part of growing up to think that your partents cannot possibly be interesting. Funnily enough, among the correspondence I've had from readers was one from a girl about their age.