Readers react in Great Malvern

The pendulum has taken another couple of swings over the weekend. I arrived in Great Malvern (UK) on Saturday and discovered that the book group there were expecting to discuss with me my first book (A Small Rain, 2002, out of print) and not the 2008 Unseen Unsung, which I had prepared. I borrowed my hosts’ tattered copy of A Small Rain for a frantic revision before setting off for the meeting.

We were made very welcome in a member’s home, fortified with a drink and the fourteen of us spread out in her lovely sitting room. Under admirable chairmanship, each member talked about their reactions to A Small Rain and Unseen Unsung, which many had also read. I was able to give explanations and answer individual questions as we went along. After a break for sustaining and delicious nibbles, there was a more open-ended question and answer session about writing and publishing.

For me, to sit among a group of perceptive, enquiring people who have read my two published books and to talk about what works (and what doesn’t) was both a luxury and an immensely helpful experience. I was encouraged to find that they positively relished the complexity of the plots and the variety of subject matter and wanted more stories like this. Several also made a plea (as most book groups do) for a character list because, like many people, they read before sleeping and want to pick up again quickly.

The male protagonist of my first novel came in for some justified criticism for his saintly demeanour and his grating use of endearments. Lesson learnt! On the other hand the child coping with upheavals in his life met universal approval. It gave me great lift that a reader who had never taken to poetry found the selections I used wholly accessible. The writing in my second novel was seen as better paced – a page-turner. They warmed to the main character, a rather spoilt young man, as he lived through the events in the story. Even my dark portrayal of a mother had come off.

I realised with gratitude as I listened and talked, that these intelligent, curious, caring men and women are my readers. This has left me with a glow that will carry my writing forward, and with encouragement such as this, I will get Border Line published knowing that I will have (at least) fourteen readers.