The last word: learning from your readers

I had another book club for A Deconstructed Heart and had a delightful afternoon with a great group of women. It always surprises me how different readers can interpret my book differently and come to wonderfully opposing points of view about the same characters. The whole experience was an interesting exchange, where I learned as much as I shared.

I was honored to be asked to name some of my favorite fiction (not my own) and to have those titles written down for future reference by one or two of the attendees. There’s nothing I love more than to share my love of really good writing, and I steered the reader towards Hilary Mantel‘s Wolf Hall and David Mitchell‘s The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet.

I told the group how much I personally don’t typically get into book clubs since I love to follow the meanderings of my own inclination (although I could make the Desi Lit Book Club an exception). One attendee told me how she loves book clubs because she would never normally pick up some of the books otherwise, and she loves to find the unexpected, to be shown a new perspective, and I realized what a great attitude that evinces. May we always be open to learning something new and having the humility to allow someone else to show us the way. This person is a remarkable example of living well, and the key clearly lies in her desire to always be open to new knowledge.

I was also asked what I learned from the process of writing my book and, until that moment, I had not reflected on what the act of writing had taught me. I realized how much I learned to appreciate my parents’ sacrifice to build a life for our family in England, and that the lesson was a gift. We take our existence and the facts of our upbringing for granted, and rarely acknowledge that there was a time and reality before us for our parents. Writing my book brought me to the understanding of just how much my parents’ immigrant generation had to let go, in order to give me the best chance in life. I’m glad I took the time to reflect on that sacrifice while I can still talk to my elders, and sharing my book with them has been deeply gratifying.

All in all, it was a really charming event and an afternoon I’ll remember fondly. Writing is a solitary act of arrogance, an omnipotent shaping of reality by the impulses of imagination. Readers make the act humane once more, through conversation, connection and communion with the book and with one another. It was a privilege to attend the process–a humbling and enlightening experience, a breaking of intellectual bread with other lively and insightful minds.

 

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Having a cup of tea with my friends at Curious Book Fans…

Return of the Bee

A beneficial dialogue. Return of the Bee (Photo credit: MightyBoyBrian)

…well, figuratively speaking, at least, and in keeping with all things British for this UK book review site. I was interviewed by one of my favorite reviewers about The Purana Qila Stories and it was nice to be made to think deeply about my writing. So often, what we do as writers is to tell our stories and sit back and wait for people’s reactions in the form of stars and 25 word reviews on Amazon. Those reviews, while helpful, don’t often add to the conversations that I think every writer would love to have about their writing: what worked or did not work and why. What themes we deliberately constructed, and what is the sub-text that we ourselves may have missed? What rings true in someone else’s experience and where we may need to make a course correction. As a literature major, I loved sitting in a professor’s snug office and pulling out the thematic threads of a novel or play; it is an honor to have a reader take the time and care to give the same consideration to your own work.

The author-reader relationship is symbiotic. Someone who knows me and read A Deconstructed Heart is a psychology major, and she said she could not help reading my book, wondering what part of me or my psyche was woven into the story. I could have asked her too, what part of her was integral to her reading of the story. Perhaps I still will; I think we could both learn a lot about ourselves in the process.

Climbing the Amazon rankings…

Denali - Mountain Landscape from Alaska

Denali – Mountain Landscape from Alaska (Photo credit: blmiers2)

My second free promotion for A Deconstructed Heart is wrapping up this evening, with over 600 downloads. It’s an awe-inspiring moment, to realize your hard work is in the hands of six hundred people you have never met, many of whom live thousands of miles away across the globe. What a fantastic time in which to be an author. A Deconstructed Heart is currently at #22 for free literary fiction books for the Kindle and, for some unfathomable reason, #22 also for historical fiction (not a setting I would have chosen for A Deconstructed Heart; for A Change in the Weather and The Dust Beneath Her Feet… well, sure). I’ll keep you updated on the latest when the promotion ends.