A week or so ago, I received a comment on my Facebook from my cousin that really made me smile: “Well I can’t near that book of yours I got. In 5 years, I’ve never known Michelle read a book. All I can hear is constant giggling…..” This was followed up a few days later with a message from Michelle herself stating: “Just wanted to let you know I’ve finished reading your book (in less than a week – it’s a record for me) and I thought it was amazing. Can’t wait for the next one.”
Both these messages were amazing to receive. Let’s face it, any compliments about my writing are fantastic. But it struck me that what made them even more special was that a non-reader had read my book, had read it quickly, and had loved it!
And Michelle wasn’t the first only one. I run a Brownie Pack and am supported by five other Owls aged seventeen to forty-something. The team knew I’d written a book, I promoted it in our newsletter, and we’ve completed our Writer and Booklover badges as a pack this term in celebration of my publishing deal. I was really conscious that I didn’t want to do the “buy my book” thing and have any of them feel pushed into buying a copy just because they knew the author. However, after I’d talked to the Brownies about my writing journey (prior to running a writing workshop), two of the Owls were anxious to buy a copy as they loved the sound of the story and were keen to know what happened. The following week, the Brownies met at our local library to complete our booklover badge and I brought a copy of Searching for Steven with me for each of them. They were so excited about owning a book by somebody they knew and we all had a good giggle as they placed their copies around the library, as though my book was in stock.
About a week ago, Maria sent me a text: “Just this minute finished reading Searching for Steven! So surprised that it only took me 11 days to read as I never have been a keen reader but this book is amazing and, as I’ve said, I’ve found it difficult to put down!! You have an amazing talent and I’m so happy for you pursuing your dreams …”
A few days later, Sophie posted a picture of Steven on Facebook and tagged me in on the post: “I’m not one for reading. When I do I usually get bored, manage to chapter 4/5 and give up. So when one of my fellow Brownie leaders published her first book last month I thought I’d buy one! I haven’t put it down since and it’s been the quickest I have ever read a book. Jessica Redland you absolute star! You’ve got me hooked, so it must have been good! Massively impressed and can’t wait for your next one.”
So that’s three self-professed non-readers who’ve loved the book. Yes, one is a family member and two are fellow Brownie leaders, but they could have just said, “It was good” and I’d have smiled politely and assumed either they hadn’t read it, or they’d read it and not liked it. Instead, it’s turned them into speedy readers who are now desperate for the next book in the series. I’m beyond proud to have written something that appeals to non-readers.
This got me thinking about people who don’t regularly read. Why is this? Did they never get into reading as a child? Did they like reading in childhood but found that they struggled to find time as the pressures of work/home ownership/life got in the way? Perhaps it’s more a case of not finding the right genre or author for them.
As a child, I read a lot, although not as voraciously as some authors I know. My author of choice was nearly always Enid Blyton, although there were other books I also liked. As I got older, I read most of Catherine Cookson’s novels and loved them, but this reading choice came because my mum was a huge fan and because the books were set in the North of England from where my family hailed. Then I discovered romantic comedies in the form of Jill Mansell and Marian Keyes and, at that point, I found my genre. I found books I loved. I found books I couldn’t put down. If you haven’t discovered the genre that’s really you, how can you fall in love with reading? I’m hoping that Michelle, Maria and Sophie have discovered a genre through Searching for Steven that they love and that they may be inspired to read other novels in this genre. Of course, I’m delighted that they’ve loved my work and want to continue to read it, but I’d like to share the love a bit as I know how amazing it is to read a book you can’t put down, to be passionate about characters, and to feel a sense of loss when the story is over. I saw Sophie at Brownies again last night and she told me that she doesn’t know what to do with herself now that she’s finished my book. Awww. What a great feeling to have and what a great thing to be told 🙂