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  • Hannah Fielding - Romance Novelist

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‘Choose an author as you would a friend.’ So wrote English poet Wentworth Dillon, 4th Earl of Roscommon (circa 1633–1685), in his ‘Essay on Translated Verse’:

Examine how your Humour is inclin’d,

And which the Ruling Passion of your Mind;

Then, seek a Poet who your way does bend,

and choose an Author as you choose a Friend.

(Spellings adapted from medieval English.)

This quotation sprang to mind recently when I was discussing with a friend who loves reading what makes her choose to read a book. Together we came up with this list:

1. Recommendation from a trusted source, whether someone you know or a review on Goodreads

2. The appeal of the ‘package’ – the cover, the strapline, the blurb

We discussed other factors, like pricing and discovering the book through a news story or advert, but ultimately we agreed that our list should be this short.

It struck me that what we are really looking for as readers is to find affinity with the writer of the work – their style, outlook and subject matter; we want to connect with the writer, so that we know that we will enjoy this book, and possibly their other titles too. The package conveys crucial information that the reader uses to judge – often quickly – whether they will ‘get on’ with this writer. And the recommendations? They help the reader get a clear sense of who this writer is, and whether the author’s work is a good fit for their tastes.

In seeking a new book to read, the reader has something very valuable to consider: trust. When they begin a new book, they need to be able to trust that the promise of the package will be delivered; that the writer will take them on an interesting and engaging journey and leave them satisfied when they read the final words. It is very difficult for a reader to give that trust, to try a new author, because too often their trust has been broken: a book has not delivered and has been disappointing. (I am reminded of a novel I read recently that was packaged as beautiful romance, but ended with the death of the hero – I was heartbroken!)

How much easier it is to read the new book from an author whose work you know and love than to try a book from an undiscovered writer. And yet if you only ever stick with tried-and-tested authors, reading becomes boring – you miss the thrill of discovering a new book that you just adore. It is necessary then, sometimes at least, to be brave and try new authors, and then you’ll do well to follow Wentworth Dillon’s advice: Choose an author as you would a friend.

So far I have considered the reader’s point of view. But of course I am not only a reader; I am a writer, which means it is my job to be a friend to my readers.

Surely the most fundamental quality one looks for in a friend is that they are trustworthy. That, then, in essence is what an author must be, I believe. An author must give the reader what they except to read based on the package and the genre conventions. That is not to say we writers may not employ plot twists – we must; but there is a strong need to keep the reader secure as they read. Reading is an escape within safe confines.

Publishing my novel, Burning Embers, was a wonderful adventure. But because it was my debut novel, every reader had to take something of a leap of faith with me as the author. Now, with each book I publish, I am so happy to be building a little library of my own. With each additional book I release, new readers can more easily get a feel for who I am as a writer and whether they may find a friend in me; but also, I am giving those readers who have already found affinity with me more pleasure, I hope.

My little library, pictured below, is five-strong, and will continue to grow as I take the readers who trust in me on new adventures in beautiful settings. I hope, if you have not already chosen me as an author, you may have found some reason to do so through this blog post. As the 13th-centry Dominican friar Thomas Aquinas put it, ‘There is nothing on this earth more to be prized than true friendship.’

hannah-library-1

  • TREKnRay

    This is the way I choose an author. I have read T.J. MacGregor from her first novel until now I look for new books whenever they are released.

    Isabel Allende is a favorite ever since House of the Spirits. In a letter after finding out her son has the same first name as my grandson she sent me a piece of cloth in a design important to her family. I read the book after returning from a visit to Chile in 1983 while Pinochet was still in power.
    I met a woman in a resort city about 20 miles away while riding my bike. She was coming out of a bakery where I went to buy empanadas. First she wanted to know if I was a tourist. Then she wanted to know if I would go to a coffee shop with her. We discussed a student demonstration outside the local university. She said the men arrested were never seen again. The women were raped and sent home as a message.

    She wrote out that story for me to get translated. I was to let people in the US to know. One of our crew members was born in Chile and moved to the US during high school. He translated for me. I wrote to my Congressman and two Senators. For the first and last time I had congressional correspondence that was never answered.

    I have had an interest in Chile ever since I read about the CIA manipulations with Pinochet to assassinate Isabel’s uncle.

    I have two copies of Paula, her daughter who died of porphyria. One is in English, the Spanish edition was purchased in Barcelona. Because of Paula and the misdiagnosis every time there are similar symptoms Spanish doctors ask about previous Dx and hospitalize patients to make sure. I had two patients sent to Spanish Hospitals in Barcelona and Palma Mallorca who were kept until after the ships sailed to rule out porphyria. All because of the grandniece of President Allende.

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