I've been writing since I was seven and was lucky enough to always have a readership (thanks, Mum!). I've always had friends, or friends of friends, or sisters of friends, or friends of mum who enjoyed reading my work and giving me some sort of feedback. One of my mother's friends even wrote two full "critiques" on a play and a short story I wrote when I was in my late teens.
So I've always known that it was worth spending my time writing and that there was always someone, somewhere, who would listen to what I had to say.
Now that I've ventured in the self-publishing world, I'm still craving for people to tell me what they thought of my book. Let me rephrase that: I'm still craving for people to tell me what they enjoyed in my books. Sometimes it's friends or people I know who tell me, sometimes in passing or weeks after they've read a book I didn't even know they had purchased. My bestseller amongst friends and acquaintances has been The A to Z of Spanish Culture, the only completely new book I've written so far specifically for publication - all my other books had actually been written in the 90's or are compilations of material I already had lying around, sometimes with added content.
It took me a year to write The A to Z, since I decided it had to be written to the time it was ready to be sold, so it's very heartening to 1) see that people buy it, 2) know that people read it and 3) learn that people like it.
It's often difficult not to like what your friends create, so I expect my friends to have kind words to say about my books, while also listening to what they are not saying as a clue for where there is room for improvement.
When acquaintances tell me they have enjoyed it, my heart starts to race a bit faster. I've received two such e-mails so far: one from mother-of-friend and one from friend-of-parents, telling me how much and why they enjoyed the book.
And then, this week, I received an e-mail from a reader who really liked "When Five Years Pass". In the same way as The A to Z holds a special place in my heart, so does this little known Lorca play. I battled during my theatre practitioner and teaching days to get this play recognised by the British public as a much more worthy classic than "Blood Wedding". It's rarely performed because the language and story are not straight forward. The surrealism makes it not as "accessible" as other plays. But it is precisely that surrealism that makes the play fantastic. And I wish you could all read Spanish, because the language... well, the language is out of this world. That's why Lorca was killed: not just because he was gay, not just because he was left-winged but also because he was an artist ahead of his time with plenty to say.
So, back to the title of this post. To get an e-mail from someone who enjoyed this play was really, really special. Unless your book gets reviewed, you never know if there's any point to it being out there. I'll be honest, I much prefer no reviews to bad reviews but at the same time, no reviews make me feel like maybe the book is a bit, well, blah.
If you particularly enjoy a book, tell the author. Send them a note, you'll often get a reply. Write a review online, with a couple of lines on what made the book special to you. Make the world a better place by spreading a bit of feedback, a bit of joy and encouraging those whose work you enjoy to write a bit more.
You can read the review on When Five Years Pass here.