When I was younger, I read voraciously. Anything I could get my hands on, I read. I loved it when my mother first took me to the library, not caring about genre or author, just books. But as I grew older, I realised that there were some good books, and some bad ones. While I sighed at the bad ones, I never paid attention to whether there was a reason they were bad. I was younger then, so I read them anyway (as an adult, I’m proud to say I only feel slightly guilty when I don’t finish a book). But I never thought that I might not be enjoying the book because of the author.
I’m older and wiser now. I know better.
Honestly though, that wisdom only came when my editor asked me who my favourite Mills & Boon authors were. When I fumbled formulating the answer, I realised I hadn’t been paying attention. That was about a year ago now, and since then, I’ve already grown a list of authors I don’t enjoy as much.
The reasons for that have blurred between what I know as an author, and what I want as a reader.
As an author, I love my reader. So, it’s clear to me when authors don’t respect their readers. They don’t, for example, give their reader the ending they deserve (or, in my opinion, that their characters deserve). As a reader, I love dialogue. So when pages are dedicated to describing the design of a room, I skip through them (unless, say, I read the wallpaper has Chris Evans’ face on it, in which case, you’ve intrigued me).
To make it on the list of authors I enjoy, writers have to entice me as both a reader and author. I make a point of paying attention to the writing of an author. What can I learn here? I ask myself. If the book makes me forget about the writing altogether, I’ll pick up another of the author’s books. If the same thing happens with that book, I know it’s not a fluke and I go out of my way to support the writer (no exaggeration – my husband can attest to the number of Nora Roberts’ books on my bookshelf).
I wish I’d paid attention a lot sooner, especially to Mills & Boon writers. And to the lines they wrote for. Because if I had, I would have realised different lines cater to different readers. I wouldn’t have read as many descriptive sex scenes, as many way-too-ruthless Alphas, or as many innocent heroines. Instead, I could have enjoyed more aspiration, more sensual tension, more emotional depth (totally talking about my Harlequin Romance line here). If I could go back and offer myself one reading-related piece of advice, it would be this: