Saturday, May 02, 2009

The Best Audience

I’ve always wanted to be used as an example - in a good way, not as a clinical study of psychosis or a cautionary tale of criminal behavior -  so I enjoyed the previous entry in which Charles used the first sentence of my first book, The Old Buzzard Had It Coming, as an illustration of how an author writes for her audience.


In truth, I do know my audience.  When I am writing, especially a first draft, I do have an audience of one - me.  I write a story that I would like to read.  I did not always do this.  I used to try very hard to write for The General Reading Public.  But I began to have some publishing success when I forgot that notion.  I write about what interests me.


Then, when the editing and rewriting process begins, I listen to suggestions from my pre-publication readers (sometimes) and from my editor (always), and tweak the story as per instructions in order to broaden its appeal.


My audience, therefore, is probably people like me.  Sadly for the scope of my appeal, I am not a teenage boy or a romance-starved young woman.  I’m not judging hero tales or romance novels, here.  I think they are great, but my interests run in other directions these days. I tried to write a romance novel once.  I had a wonderful idea, and I really think it would have been a good story, but I couldn’t sustain my own interest, and the book petered out before it was finished.  I’m sorry to say this, because a popular romance novel will sell ten times as many copies as a popular mystery.


Having made the statement that I strictly write what I like and to hell with the audience, I now have to admit that I’m lying.  I do construct my current series to please myself, but there are many things I’d love to write about, yet am not brave enough to attempt.


Even that is not true.  I do write them, but am not brave enough to try to have them published.  I fear that if I did, someone would send men in white coats to chase me around with butterfly nets.


And so I haven’t thus far tried to sell Kafkaesque expositions on the nature of reality. Instead, I write something else that entertains me - historical mysteries with a spookily intuitive protagonist.


I wonder, how much can we tell about an author from what he writes?  I know that when I read book reviews, I can often tell more about the reviewer than the book.  Does an author reveal himself in his novels?  As an example, look at my blogmates’ books.  There are obvious surface similarities between the authors’ subjects and the authors’ lives.  Vicki’s books are very Canadian, and Debby’s are full of Hawaiian life and culture.  Rick, the musician, writes music noir, while Charles, the world traveller, has his protagonists travel the world.  Are the authors like the characters they write about?  Do they have the same fears and anxieties? Are they as intrepid, grieving, hapless, innocent, weary, or clever?


I’m an Oklahoman who writes about Oklahoma.  But am I like my protagonist, Alafair?  In some ways, I wish I were, but I don’t think so.  I live a hundred years later, I’m twenty years older, and childless, to begin with.  Neither am I brave, intuitive, or nearly so sure of myself. I create a being with the qualities I wish I had, and live vicariously through her. I also indulge some of my more evil inclinations when I write, and not always through the villains.  Do you do the same, Dear Fellow Author?


P.S. I’m building up my courage, so never fear, someday you’ll be able to read my Kafkaesque exposition on the nature of reality.  While I’m writing it, I’ll laugh, I’ll cry, I’ll break my heart. And if I’m good enough at it, maybe you will too.


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