Many years ago now, when I was studying English Literature, I arrived at the door of a tutor’s office with a friend. We could hear the sound of a raised voice inside, and the scrape of a chair indicated that someone had leapt to their feet.
Reckoning that the tutorial had already started, and preparing ourselves for the embarrassment of being late, we knocked on the door. But when we were called inside, we found our tutor alone. In response to our puzzled looks (Had he just pushed someone out of the window?? The question was of some concern, since we were on the 14th floor…) he told us that when he was alone he often read aloud to himself, and with actions if possible.
The idea sounded a little outlandish to my inexperienced mind. But when I tried it out, a lifelong love of reading aloud was born.
Reading aloud isn’t necessarily a solitary pursuit. I used to read to an elderly lady, who shared my love of whodunits. Together we worked our way through the exploits of Miss Marple and Sherlock Holmes, stopping from time to time to compare notes on who we thought might have committed the horrible crime in question, or to discuss some of the finer points of the plot. Sharing these stories made us firm friends.
I find it a different experience from audio books. Don’t get me wrong – I love audio books – but having someone in the room with you, maybe stumbling over a few sentences or adding gestures to the mix, is more personal. Re-capping together on the story so far. Watching someone’s face, as they read or are read to.
So when a friend asked whether I might read one of my books to her mother, whose failing sight means she can’t read for herself, I agreed willingly. Little did I know what a merry-go-round of emotion I’d let myself in for!
I read for about an hour each week and have a very vocal audience. I love the way my friend and her Mum have a tendency to shout You go girl! whenever the heroine sticks up for herself, or Noooo! when the hero decides he must leave. They spur me on by telling me which parts of the book they liked best, and by sending up a resounding cheer when we get to the happy ending.
But it’s not all plain sailing. I always read my manuscripts aloud to myself, but reading the finished book to an audience is an entirely different prospect! The writer in me always comes across a few bits that I’d change if I had the chance, and I have a tendency to laugh in all the wrong places, and to grimace during the more light-hearted parts of the story, because I know what’s coming next. Watching their faces gives me line-by-line feedback, which is always a little scary!
It’s their kindness that keeps me going. When my friend and her Mum say that they feel good after hearing the latest episode of the story, it makes the work that went into writing it pale into insignificance, next to the rewards. And the feedback they give me helps me in the writer’s constant quest, to make the next book better than the last.
So – writers, am I alone in finding reading my own books aloud both a scary and rewarding process? And readers, do you prefer the professionalism of audio books, or the flawed warmth of an amateur?
And finally – let me share the covers of my latest release, out this month. I’ve long wanted to write an archaeologist hero, but I find that whatever a hero can do, a heroine can do just as well!
Burned in love, Dr. Matteo Di Salvo knows he should stay away from single mother Rose Palmer. But as he gets to know the beautiful English archaeologist, he longs to chase the shadows from her eyes…
Rose is drawn to the handsome radiologist, though after her disastrous marriage, getting emotionally entangled is out of the question! But as the sun-drenched island of Sicily works its magic, she wonders if she’s finally found a man she can trust…with her heart and her son.