Following Francis Guenette's thoughtful post on how to share your writing with your partner, we've been chatting on the ALLi Facebook forum (open to ALLi members only – another great reason to join our organisation!) about the difficulties of dealing with friends' reactions to your books. Or in many cases, their complete lack of reaction!
Everyone who took part in the conversation felt comforted to know that they were not alone in their disappointment that those they had expected to be their greatest supporters are often far from it.
If you've ever been saddened by a friend's failure to read your book, to enjoy it, to review it, or even to notice its existence,read on – these comments (posted anonymously) may comfort you too!
As always, please feel free to share your own experiences via the comments box.
I am astonished to have had no reaction at all from my friends about my new books. Does it mean: (a) they haven't bothered to read them, although they paid to get them (b) they've read them and thought they were so indescribably awful they don't know what to say, like people crossing the street rather than speaking to you after a death (c) they've read them but don't “get” them (d) none of the above. It makes me want to scream. I'd rather someone told me “I tried to read your books, and they're shit” than just, well, NOTHING? And please, if I AM the only person in the world this happens to, I want to know that too…
I never got to the bottom of my so-called friend's silence after I sent her a free copy of my book. For various other reasons we are no longer friends. But my pet theory?… Jealousy.
It hurt and mystified me for quite a long time that my writing seemed to have become a taboo topic. Over time, I have become much more at peace with it. For some, the vulnerability that writing exposes is just too much I think – and I suspect that even enormously acclaimed writers still have this. I'm guessing but I wouldn't be surprised if some of, say, Hilary Mantel's nearest and dearest haven't read or don't like Wolf Hall!
I used to wonder why people who have told me they've loved my books don't leave reviews, but eventually I realised that most readers just do not understand the significance of reviews to authors. Some feel daunted by the thought of writing one and don't feel worthy. It's analogous to most travellers and Trip Advisor: the vast majority will never rate any place they go. They feel their involvement and responsibility starts and ends with the book/journey, then move on to the next one. Same goes for readers and books.
What's most grating is that my friend keeps mentioning that she hasn't yet got round to reading my book and apologizing (with a giggle), and the implication seems to be that *I* will be the rude one if I don't repeatedly forgive her! I guess you've got to just shrug.
What's funny is that many of the people closest to me have been the ones who have taken the longest to get round to reading my debut published last August (some still haven't). And then so many casual acquaintances (people from the local pub, people I used to work with, people on LinkedIn, etc) have all jumped at the chance to read it and then reconnect to tell me their thoughts! I've stopped worrying about what my close friends think anymore because they're only reading it (if they ever do) because I wrote it. Fortunately, I've been steadily getting reviews from people on Amazon who don't know me at all saying how much they like my book. In some ways, these strangers are probably the most important people of all (as far as my books are concerned anyway!)
I'm guessing close friends may be put off reading our work in case they don't like it, and don't want it to jeopardise our friendship.
Our friends won't necessarily be our fans, or even that interested, but can still be valued friends in other ways. I think it's up to each of us to judge whether to confront that within a friendship or – as I have chosen to do – to focus on building my writing friendships to support me in that area and accept other friends in other ways. The good news is it doesn't bother me anything like as much any more!
OVER TO YOU
What's the most hurtful thing that a friend has ever said or done with regard to your book? How have you coped with friends who are less than receptive to your writing? Please feel free to share via the comments box.
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