The scrutiny of a book group

Last week, in fact just a couple of hours before dashing off to catch the sleeper train to London, I attended a book group that had recently read my book “Up The Creek Without a Mullet”.

I used to be a part of that book group many years ago, though dropped out when I moved to Glasgow and since then there have been many new faces. So it was a really interesting discussion in which I could gain in some detail the reactions of readers to what I had written. It was also nice to be able to sign the group’s copies, and get my own signed in return.

One comment I received was that it wasn’t clear why I’d done it; not just come up with the idea, but gone ahead with the trips and then written a book about it. This was an intriguing observation, because I really can’t pinpoint a reason, other than a sense of boredom, adventure and idle curiosity. I’d hope that this came over in the book, but also that the story was interesting and fun enough to be a worthwhile read anyway. I suppose if you are not a keen traveller then you may wonder why others do it; though as I’ve always said if someone’s adventure inspires you to take on one yourself (even an adventure or quest that doesn’t involve travelling), then great.

Other comments, thankfully, suggested that the book was a fung and enjoyable read, which was nice to hear (I did press the group hard for negative thoughts, and either there weren’t many or they were being polite).

But most interestingly to me were contributions from the group about how it was also fun to read about Inverness and recognise real people and places in what I wrote. That was reassuring, because I tried to write the book with an Inverness accent. Not literally, of course, but figuratively – I hoped that the story portrayed a little of where I live, and perhaps gave a bit of background. Many similar types of stories originate in London, and while I didn’t write the book purely to give geographical balance to a genre, it’s nice to know that it contained a sense of “place”.

In short, I really enjoyed going along to the group, and was delighted and humbled that they’d chosen my book for their month’s read. I’ve heard writers before saying how much they enjoy meeting and talking in depth with readers, because “feedback” on your work is so hard to come by in a way that isn’t for more performance arts such as music or drama. An unknown number of people might be reading your book and you have no idea what they think until they contact you or you meet them. You can’t get a sense of what your audience think like a performer can.

Though that may be a relief if the reaction is bad!

Which, thankfully, last week it wasn’t.

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