I owe Anna a GIGANTIC apology. I was supposed to publish her wonderful post last week and I completely messed that up. I have apologized to her and I apologize to you, readers, for depriving you of the post.
Without further ado:
BLOG POST TITLE: Writers and Readers
By Anna Butler
There’s something rather daunting about publishing your first novel. It’s exciting and exhilarating and scary, all at the same time. I recently had that squared: Dreamspinner published The Gilded Scarab on 16 February, and Wilde City published the first Taking Shield book, Gyrfalcon, on the 18th. As you can imagine, it’s been quite a rollercoaster since.
Although I self-pubbed a short gay mainstream sci-fi novella a couple of years ago, and had two short stories included in anthologies, these are my first ‘big’ publications. I’ve blogged about them, FB-ed them, Twittered them, and made sure they’re up on Goodreads. And now I’m blog touring with them, dragging them along behind me and making them dance their little jig at every stop.
All that activity got me thinking about the relationship between writer and reader, how the distance has closed, and that now writers are expected not to be remote from their readers, but actively engage with them.
I will cheerfully admit that I am not the youngest writer on the block. In those long ago halcyon days when I was young, we didn’t have Facebook or Twitter. I never expected to read a blog by my favourite authors, or have platforms like Amazon and Goodreads where I could comment on their books. They were remote gods to me, no more real than the names on the book spine. Now though, I can follow them on Twitter, comment on their blogs, read their advice on writing, see pictures of their dogs on Facebook, meet them at events and conventions. They’re closer, more real. As a reader, I like that sense of connection, however thin it is and (realistically) however well controlled by the writer.
But I do wonder how this changed dynamic affects the writer and how they go about their craft. Generally, are we more conscious of the reader than writers ever were before, because there just isn’t that separation and distance any more? With almost instant reviews, how much do they influence us, for good or bad?
I like praise as much as the next person and a bad review hurts. Where once the only reviews would be of big, big books in literary supplements, now almost every book published has its litter of review posts and ratings. As writers, we can’t escape getting almost instant feedback. Does that make us more able to hone our storytelling to meet the expectations that the reviews reflect? Or does the wise writer try to grow enough willpower never to read reviews, and just keep to their own course instead, writing the stories that are in them and not trimming or changing them to please the reader?
I don’t have an answer. I am interested in what you think though. As a reader, do you expect to influence the writers whose books you buy? And as a writer, does that affect the stories you tell?
BLURB: The Gilded Scarab
When Captain Rafe Lancaster is invalided out of the Britannic Imperium’s Aero Corps after crashing his aerofighter during the Second Boer War, his eyesight is damaged permanently, and his career as a fighter pilot is over. Returning to Londinium in late November 1899, he’s lost the skies he loved, has no place in a society ruled by an elite oligarchy of powerful Houses, and is hard up, homeless, and in desperate need of a new direction in life.
Everything changes when he buys a coffeehouse near the Britannic Imperium Museum in Bloomsbury, the haunt of Aegyptologists. For the first time in years, Rafe is free to be himself. In a city powered by luminiferous aether and phlogiston, and where powerful men use House assassins to target their rivals, Rafe must navigate dangerous politics, deal with a jealous and possessive ex-lover, learn to make the best coffee in Londinium, and fend off murder and kidnap attempts before he can find happiness with the man he loves.
(Cover by Reese Dante)
The polished wood and dark red velvet of the lobby carried through into the Praecipias, giving the lounge a rich and luxurious feel. The light of crystal chandeliers glinted on cut glass and the bottles ranged on shelves behind the bar. As the maître d’ had hinted, it was still rather early and the company was thin. Two patrons sat at separate tables. They straightened and looked back at me when I glanced around, both wearing smiles and expectant expressions. But no. They were good enough, but neither appealed to me. The trick was to pretend I hadn’t noticed them at all, instead focusing on my scotch and lighting one of the thin cigarillos I’d bought at the tobacconist. That way no one’s feelings were hurt.
A shame, perhaps… but no. Thanks to Phryne’s careful hands, I was shining that night. I deserved better than good enough. I deserved much better, and I could afford to wait until there was someone whose company I fancied. So I drew on my cigarillo and inhaled the sharp smoke. If I tilted my head back, I could watch the smoke float up toward the embossed ceiling. It hung in the light, drifting back and forth, and back and forth.
“May I buy you a drink, sir?”
I really am not a nervous man, but I jumped. Good Lord! Where had he come from? Sneaking up from the left, where I still had difficulty seeing things on the edge of sight, I supposed. I hadn’t seen him approach, and now that I looked, two or three others must have come into the room while I had contemplated my scotch and stared at the ceiling. Two stood at the bar talking, and a third slid into a chair at a table near mine, his dark eyes raking me over. He looked faintly familiar, although I couldn’t imagine where I’d seen him. He was well enough, too, but I turned my attention to the man who’d spoken to me.
Oh, but this one was better than good enough! Much better.
About my age, by the look of him, but as fair as I’m dark—wheat blond hair in artful disorder, with quite astonishing hazel eyes set above high, pronounced cheekbones and a strong mouth and chin. Thank God he had a chin. There were far too many men who had none worthy of the name. The rest of the stranger was rather attractive too. He leaned on a cane in his right hand, inclining his long, trim body toward me. It gave him a slight air of eagerness that was, I felt, distinctly flattering, as well as allowing him to show off an evening suit that fitted him like the proverbial glove and must have cost a very pretty penny. Definitely better than just good enough. Unless he turned out to have all the personality faults of Attila the Hun, this one would most certainly merit further attention.
And, really, Attila the Hun hadn’t been all bad. He was rumored to have been very considerate of his horses.
WHERE TO BUY THE GILDED SCARAB
Dreamspinner as an ebook and in paperback.
From an Amazon near you (Amazon.com and Amazon.co.uk links for starters)
All Romance as an ebook
Earth’s last known colony, Albion, is fighting an alien enemy. In the first of the Taking Shield series, Shield Captain Bennet is dropped behind the lines to steal priceless intelligence. A dangerous job, and Bennet doesn’t need the distractions of changing relationships with his long-term partner, Joss, or with his father—or with Flynn, the new lover who will turn his world upside-down. He expects to risk his life. He expects the data will alter the course of the war. What he doesn’t expect is that it will change his life or that Flynn will be impossible to forget.
As advertised, the Shield officer was proving to be the enigma that everyone had expected.
Flynn had worked it that first briefing so he got a good look before anyone else. He liked what he saw. In his black uniform, the Shield captain stood out in the crowd of Fleet pale grey. Everything about the Shield rig was plain. The rank pips in the stand-up collar of the tunic under his flight jacket were a dull silver, and only about half the size of the ones Simonitz wore. There wasn’t a medal ribbon in sight. Only the tiny, ornate Shield badge at his throat was a bright silver.
The monochromatic look suited the Shield captain, matching his black hair and the pale grey eyes. The captain’s hair had more cowlicks than a field full of heifers, spiking up despite it being worn longer than was strictly regulation. Flynn took note, too, of cheekbones so sharply defined that they looked like they’d been machine cut, and a strong mouth. The face was youthful, except for the eyes. They’d seen a lot. Altogether, the Shield captain was definitely one of the pretty people in life. Almost as pretty as Flynn himself.
Cruz, to whom he imparted this insight in the OC after Bennet’s first visit, rolled her eyes so hard it was a wonder the girl didn’t have to grope about on the deck for them. She had never appreciated his true worth. He had to guilt her into buying him a beer in reparation.
He sipped his beer appreciatively. It always tasted better when someone else was paying. “What d’you think of him?”
“Seems pleasant enough.” Cruz shrugged. “He didn’t tell us much, though. I didn’t think he would.”
“No. And that first briefing was a bit basic. Wonder what he was fishing for there.”
“We’ll likely find out in time,” said Cruz.
“I’d rather know now.” Flynn took a pull on his beer. “Simonitz doesn’t like him.”
“Did Sim ever apply for Shield?”
“You picked up on that too, did you? I don’t know, but there were a few hints there. I thought the Shield was pretty gracious about it, with Sim sitting there glowering all night.”
Cruz nodded. After a minute, she said, “He was good with Nairn, taking him seriously. Some people might have laughed or slapped the kid down.”
“Nairn’s a question mark on legs, some days.”
“He’s young for his age.”
“And getting a severe case of hero worship,” Flynn said, laughing.
Cruz looked at Flynn, brown eyes warm with affection and amusement. “He’s not the only one, I’d say.” She smiled. “Would you?”
WHERE TO BUY
Gyrfalcon is available as an ebook at Wilde City Press
Comment here and get an entry in a rafflecopter to win an Amazon gift card (drawn when the blog tour is over at the end of March).
a Rafflecopter giveaway
(Note from Brynn: I’m horrible at embedding links, so in case the above link didn’t work, here is the link for the rafflecopter)
In addition, one commentor chosen at complete close-eyes-stick-a-pin-in-it random will get their choice of a little pack of loot and a free copy of FlashWired (a gay mainstream sci-fi novella).
Anna Butler was a communications specialist for many years, working in UK government departments on everything from marketing employment schemes to running an internal TV service. She now spends her time indulging her love of old-school science fiction. She lives in the ethnic and cultural melting pot of East London with her husband and the Deputy Editor, aka Molly the cockapoo.
Website and Blog
The Butler’s Pantry (Facebook Group)