So, back to reality in my writing room (I’ll be there in a minute, when I’ve written this MAT … er, I mean, blog) after a dizzy day yesterday living on the adrenalin that Stuck in a Book’s review of Speaking of Love generated. Before I was published, a line or two from an enthusiastic (even when rejecting) publisher was enough to live on for several months: it returned lost courage and refuelled the hope chest. Now that Speaking of Love is published, a review of two pages is enough to live on (I speak spiritually, natch) for as many years.
The thing is I write mostly because I have to, because I feel so much better when I have written and better still if what I have written says back to me at least something of that intangible, difficult-to-grasp mysterious wisp-of-an idea that I had when I began to write whatever it is that I am working on at the time.
But the other reason I write, and I’m sure it’s true of many writers, is to engage with and to touch the people who read what I have written. (Not all of them, obviously.)
When I’m reading I want the writer’s imagination and use of language to gently capture me, and I want the characters and their situations to live with me just as vividly when I’m not reading the book as when I am. I’ve just begun The Gift of Rain by Tan Twan Eng (Booker prize longlisted) and I can see the woman staring across at the island while he watches her, and cooks for her. And Eng has captured that misty sense of the beginning of an idea in his misty, rainy landscape.
When I read I want the way the characters feel, or don’t feel, to affect me. The only way a writer can know if she’s done this is for a reader to tell her. When I have loved a book I write and say so to the writer. Penelope Lively wrote this, after I’d written to say how much I loved The Photograph:
Such a warm response from a reader lights up the day.