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It's Okay If You Don't Read My Book

Reading books by people you know is weird.

By Stephanie Van OrmanPublished 8 months ago 4 min read
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It's Okay If You Don't Read My Book
Photo by Jr Korpa on Unsplash

"I'm sorry I haven't gotten around to reading your book! I've been so busy lately."

That's one of my friends talking. It doesn't matter which one. A lot of them say that. I don't mind and I mean I REALLY don't mind when my friends don't get around to reading my books. Particularly the dudes. If you're a dude and you haven't gotten around to reading my books... it's all for the best. REALLY.

I write thought-provoking romance novels. They are science fiction, fantasy, horror, and sometimes just straight-up contemporary romance, and trust me, it's completely okay for you to skip reading them if you know me.

No, my books aren't erotic. If I was truly embarrassed by my work, I'd use a pen name and keep the whole thing to myself. That's not why.

I have read books written by people I know and it is basically a nightmare. It doesn't matter if it is well-written. It doesn't matter if it's as smart as a whip cracked across your cheek. It doesn't matter if it handles its subject matter with sensitivity and charm... it is going to be misinterpreted with too much information about the author at one's disposal. It will not be read with the spirit in which it is intended to be read.

One time, I was hanging out with one of my friends and she said something about how during my book (Behind His Mask), she could clearly imagine my MC, Sarah, as me. I nearly choked on my own saliva. That is to say, I can see why someone might think that I have used myself as a guide to make my main character. That seems pretty natural... except I didn't. And I mean, I really didn't. Sarah is a mish-mash of a certain type of girl I knew in high school. I knew a bunch of them and I had to keep them at arm's length because we had so little in common, we couldn't keep a conversation going. They were good girls, but they a) had a crush on a guy they didn't understand, b) had no tools to help them get to know him better, and c) had a weird relationship with his mother or sister which gave them quite a lot of access to him. When I read the book over again, I high-five myself. I nailed this girl's character perfectly. She seems real. Except she's really not me and I'm not awesomely comfortable with anyone thinking she is me.

That's one way it can go sour.

Another way is when someone I know reads one of my books and they think they know why it isn't an international best seller, but with their help, it soon will be. They think that if they know me, there is still time to make changes even if the book is already in print. They think that if they know me, they can save me. Psst... they can't. This is far worse than the reader above who assumes they understand how I am inserted in the book. With this person, I get to be treated to a lecture explaining how my book is wrong. This can be relationship-destroying.

First off, some of my novels have been rattled off in a few weeks. I am a champion novelist and I have written a 75K novel in three weeks. Other books have taken longer. I have one book on my roster that took eleven years to write and if someone gets up in my grill that if just the second half was different, it would be a huge success. Snort! Well, that's why Miss Scarlett killed Professor Plum in the library with the candlestick. He told her he knew how to write her novel better because apparently, she didn't think about how it should go during the decade-long death march where she wrote it.

These kinds of interactions can also be particularly painful when the person giving this valuable advice has never written a book in their life. Yet, one has the good sense not to ask for directions on where to find their international best seller. That's how Miss Scarlett was shot in the stomach with the revolver.

It's also irritating when people take notice of my writing career as a whole and not any book in particular. Someone with a far-off view undoubtedly knows it's not going well according to standards established by movies, TV, internet articles, and even other books. I don't have time to explain that I don't like publishers, don't like editors, and I don't like doing promotion. I'm perfectly happy with what I'm doing, writing exactly what I want without a ton of input.

Are you ready for the biggest reason why you shouldn't read books by people you know?

The nicest experience someone can have with a book is when the author builds a story that has little places for the reader's mind to fill with whatever they want. That's the joy of reading. The version of the story that exists in the mind of the reader is something that not even the author could foresee. That is the biggest reason why it's sometimes impossible for films to stand up to the source material. The production has filled all those little spaces with tangible sets, actors' faces, and familiar voices that have been used elsewhere--not things that were built up in the mind of the reader when they read the book. In the case of knowing the author, the reader fills those blank spaces with information they have on hand about the author. That's not the way a book is meant to be read.

A book can never work its magic this way.

I don't need my friends, relatives, or acquaintances to notice my books... or the man in the purple coat hiding behind the umbrella tree in the conservatory with a knife in his hand.

So I say to my friend who is apologizing for her neglect, "Our relationship in no way hinges on whether or not you read my books. It's perfectly okay if you never do."

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About the Creator

Stephanie Van Orman

I write novels like I am part-printer, part book factory, and a little girl running away with a balloon. I'm here as an experiment and I'm unsure if this is a place where I can fit in. We'll see.

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  • L.C. Schäfer8 months ago

    Jesus Mary and Joseph I can relate so hard! I HATE people I know reading stuff I write 🫣 Most people I know don't even know I've been working on a book. My better half doesn't know my pen name!

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