Monday, October 11, 2010

Straw in the Wind/Single Titles Review

Review: Straw in the Wind – Janet Woods

"Acclaimed award-winning author Janet Woods continues the spellbinding story of the Honeyman, Chapman and Thornton families in Straw in the Wind, the dazzling stand-alone sequel to her previous release, Salting The Wound."
Serafina Finn has known plenty of heartache, tragedy and misery in her short life. Abandoned as a baby and raised in a gloomy orphanage, Serafina – or Sara, as she prefers to be called – is determined to rise above her abject start in life and to become an independent woman in charge of her own destiny. When she finds a job working as a housemaid at Finch Leighton’s house in Dorset, the plucky eighteen year old girl is determined to start this exciting new chapter in her life. But on her arrival, Sara is shocked when she realizes that rather than a housemaid, she is in fact going to be in charge of running the entire house!
Although stunned, Sara is not about to let this unexpected change in circumstance deter her from doing this job at the best of her abilities, so she sets about restoring this shambolic household, and in the process, manages to win the respect and admiration of her fellow servants who were initial doubtful as to whether a mere slip of a girl could possibly cope with the demands of running a household such like Leighton Manor. A popular girl both with the staff and with Mr. Leighton himself, pretty soon Sara realizes that this is the happiest she’s been in years. However, little does she know that another bewildering turn is just around the corner…
Eighteen years ago, Captain Erasmus Thornton had met and fallen in love with a married woman. Their love had borne a daughter whom he had always believed had died during her birth, but when startling evidence brings to light that the girl had lived, Erasmus becomes determined to track her down, so he hires intrepid private detective Adam Chapman to help him find his missing child.
Adam’s thorough investigation leads him to Sara and as he becomes more and more convinced that she is Captain Thornton’s missing daughter, he also finds himself falling head over heels in love with spirited Sara. But as Adam’s revelations about her parentage start to sink in, Sara cannot help but wonder whether Captain Thornton’s family will ever accept her…and whether her feelings for Adam will lead to disappointment – or the happiness which she has always craved.
Janet Woods’ outstanding storytelling prowess never fails to hold readers in thrall and Straw in the Wind is a novel that is sure to enthrall and delight readers everywhere. Ms. Woods’ gift for creating fascinating characters ensures that readers shall champion Sara, fall in love with Adam and find themselves taking the fascinating assortment of supporting characters to their hearts.
Straw in the Wind is an absorbing tale of family secrets, powerful passions and heart-wrenching choices that expertly combines heart-pounding romance with nail-biting intrigue and beguiling drama. Powerfully written, wonderfully vivid and engrossing from beginning to end, Straw in the Wind is another triumph for the inimitable Janet Woods!

Reviewer: Julie Bonello
Sensuality Rating: Sweet
Star Rating: 4.5 Stars

Monday, October 4, 2010

Motivated to kill

Early in my writing career I realized I was good at killing characters. In the novel I’m currently writing, I’m halfway through chapter six and have already killed two children, a woman, and several men . . . though I’m thinking of resurrecting the children and carrying their story through to the end.

Why bother to write in characters you’re going to kill off? It’s because there was a war going on in 1914 -18 and also an influenza pandemic. Millions of people died. As I’m writing in a specific historical period, to set a story then and ignore the tremendous loss of life at the time, would seriously undermine my credibility as a novelist writing in the historical arena.

To demonstrate how death affected a normal family in the past: in the photograph, which was taken about 1916. It’s a portrait of my grandfather and his family at the time. Missing is the eldest son, who had died from an illness not long before. The seaman at the back went down with his ship in the battle of Jutland, at the age of seventeen. The lady (my grandmother) was accidently killed when run over by a motorbike and sidecar in 1939. She was trying to cross a main road. By that time she was so crippled by arthritis she could only walk slowly. I never had time to get to know her. My grandfather and the sons on the left and right of the picture just survived into old age. So did the younger boy at the front, who is my father. So out of a family of seven, only four survived to live the proverbial three score years and ten.

The events of war and epidemic itself would have affected social history at the time. There would have been food shortages. Family members would have died, children orphaned. With such heavy losses of single men at the time, many more women would have remained single and childless. Quite simply, death can change the course of many characters’ lives, demolish a plot line and create another story. I like this concept because it works well in saga writing. Everything is fluid as several paths are opened for you.

Facts such as war and flu epidemics can be worked into stories as part of the plot, or simply arise by using them in a dialogue between characters, to add historical authority. To leave them both out in 1914-18 would be unthinkable, because it would rob the story of credibility.

Events like the above bring many changes. Apart from changes in family and fortune, there are also structural changes. War forced women into the workforce, doing the jobs that men used to do. Many of them liked earning their own money, and enjoyed the awareness of feeling that they were skilful and intelligent enough to work outside of the home, housewife and baby. Some resented going back to their former roles of nurturing, and rights for women took a new turn.
Whichever way you look at this, WW1 did bring a new maturity of thinking and awareness to woman.

The role of death in a book should serve a purpose. Death touches the emotions. It might simply be there to satisfy reader outrage. If it’s a villain being disposed of, then readers get closure in a way they probably wouldn’t in real life. One reader told me she was glad I made the villain suffer, and if he hadn’t been a fictional character she would have gone and danced on his grave. This made me realize that revenge is still alive and kicking, as long as somebody else swings the cudgel.

Death also brings change. It’s a turning point. There is nothing like a deathbed scene at the beginning of a book to suggest motivation, and to evoke tension between characters. Grandfather dies surrounded by six loving daughters with expectations. The sisters had always got on well together. Only one inherits!

Now . . . think of the passion that would churn up . . . the recriminations and accusations, the soul searching. To give the pot another stir the legatee could be a nun, who can only inherit if she gives up her vocation. A whole series of books could arise from killing off grandfather when the whys and wherefores are examined.

Disposing of children is riskier. In the past, bigger families were the norm, and it was expected that some children would be carried off by disease. In Victorian times a flourishing industry grew up around funerals, with its own set of protocols, since the Victorians wallowed in sentiment. Ordinary workers paid money into a funeral fund, so there would always be money to bury a family member – something that was common. My own mother came from a family of 11 children. She helped her mother lay out 3 of her younger siblings who had died before she was 14, and was obliged to take up employment as a maid in London.

You can foreshadow the death of a child by planting clues, so the reader expects it when it happens. In one book my victim was sickly all the way through, so when a childhood disease carried him off, it was expected. However, I’ve also killed off a child to end a dynasty, and simplify matters for the next book in the series. I made it a heartrending end because I felt guilty for doing it.

Killing animals? Approach this with caution. In one of my books I had a dog named Spot. Spot was stolen by an itinerant worker; who did bodily harm to a female character along with several of his companions (remember motivation?). The female character met a sticky end by jumping off a cliff in a fit of depression to end her suffering. Her loving husband avenged her by going after the men who did her wrong (5 of them, I recall!). He murders them all in cold blood and breaks the dog’s neck!


Well okay . . . he did break the dog’s neck – but only in the original draft. Every member of my critique group hated the dog being killed. I promised to rewrite the chapter and bring Spot back to life. And I did. I eventually left the dog on the doorstep of a farmer with several kids, and a wife with a generous, loving heart.

Funny thing was, my group didn’t mind the male protagonist carrying out five murders in cold blood. Why? Because it was properly motivated. It was retribution for an unspeakable act against an innocent. It served a purpose and they deserved it.

There was no motivation for killing the dog!

Monday, September 6, 2010


PAPER DOLL by Janet Woods
Severn House UK
October 28th 2010

In the early 1920s Julia Howard feels as though she’s the perfect daughter – the paper doll that was manufactured by her father in her image, and she longs to dispense with her innocence.
Wealthy, less than perfect businessman, Latham Miller has other plans for her. He wants a perfect wife. He sees Julia in that role and manipulates the situation to suit his plans. Julia marries him to please her father and lacks for nothing – as long as she does what she’s told.
But Julia is only human. Already acquainted with troubled war hero, Martin Lee-Trafford, the former attraction between them grows into a deep and abiding love. The inevitable happens, Julia gives birth to a son, and her paper doll image is torn apart.
Julia is then faced with a heart-wrenching decision. Can she leave with the man she loves, knowing she’ll have to abandon her beloved son – or should she stay?

Friday, August 27, 2010

Shining Through

I’ve just finished writing LADY LIGHTFINGERS – a novel partly set in the slum area of 1850s London. Parts of this book turned out to be stark and rather gruelling to write. There is nothing romantic about poverty, when each day must be endured in the battle to survive, and the future seems more of the same. My heroine is a resourceful, gutsy young woman who was able to survive her bad start to life, but grew up streetwise enough to avoid the traps that can beset the poverty stricken, to find happiness and shine through.

Writing stories that have a downbeat theme can be difficult if you don’t want to make your readers miserable and put them off side. There are several qualities a main character needs to stop her from being a sad sack.

The first is a strong sense of optimism, so she doesn’t wallow in a sea of self-pity every time something goes wrong. Secondly, a sense of humour is required. This can be ironic, wry or sarcastic, depending whether it’s being spoken or thought. A heroine should also be brave, and courageous enough to take risks when the chips are down. Even though it might go against the grain, she might decided to sell herself, or get away with crime, if the motivation is great enough. My heroine is tempted by both to help feed and shelter her family. I won’t say which one but the title might give you a clue!

One of the things I like most about saga writing is that the heroine usually rises above fairly humble beginnings, and through personal sacrifice, endures. If she doesn’t succeed in gaining wealth, at least she’ll emerge from her trials a stronger, wiser person – one enriched by personal satisfaction and happiness.

Janet Woods

Thursday, August 19, 2010

A Fair Pretender

This is the third of my books to be e published by Belgrave House. It's available for download at $5.00.

A FAIR PRETENDER is the story of Graine Seaton, who impersonates her half-sister, Evelyn Adams, in an attempt to gain a fortune she feels she's entitled to.
After all, they do share the same father. With the fortune comes marriage to a man of letters. But Graine doesn't count of falling in love with his cousin, Saville Lamartine, and neither does she to expect to find herself helping the anti-slave movement, which was the very trade that her fortune was made from in the first place.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Three minutes of Fame

How is it that I can write novels one after the other, but as soon as a writing colleague asks for a donation of words to a blog, the mind becomes one great big blank? There are only so many things that can be said about writing, and I’m sure everything has been said many times over, so, I thought I’d tell you about something a little different for me, though still connected to writing.

The daily newspaper decided to do a spread on romance writing, and although I wasn’t part of the printed article, I was asked if they could do a tie-in video. It was great fun. After answering questions about myself, and giving my views on writerly matters, I was then asked to comment on my three favourite books. I’ll name them, in case any of the authors look in. However good a writer you are, it’s always nice to know your work is appreciated.

First for me came Sharon Penman’s “Devil’s Brood.” To be fair, I was only allowed to pick one of her books, though I love all her big novels equally, and so does my husband. She’s my favourite author, and her books are on my keeper shelf waiting to be read again. This particular novel is the story of the betrayal of Henry 2nd by his three eldest sons and Eleanor, his wife.

My second choice was “How Green Was My Valley,” by Richard Llewellyn. It was first printed in 1939, so is a bit on the elderly side. But it hit me straight in the heart when I first read it, and the writing still stands up today. My earlier 1951 copy was borrowed, and was never returned. Luckily the book was reprinted again in 1991 with a different cover. It’s the only book I’ve ever bought twice, and it was made into a TV serial with Stanley Baker and Sian Phillips in the starring roles.

Third comes a debut novel by Helen Simonson, published this year and called “Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand.” The novel is an older-couple romance with family complications, and it’s set in an English village. The writing has a great deal of warmth and is sprinkled with wonderful metaphors. I’m sure we’ll hear from this author again.

So that was my input into the article. The three-hour interview was edited into my three minutes of fame. Author at the computer––author talking about how she started writing, and author talking about her favourite “other authors'” books. Author at the computer again…fade out.

Funny, but there’s something very familiar about that, as though it’s all been done before. Hmmm …

Friday, July 2, 2010

Library Journal Review

Another review…this time one for my own book STRAW IN THE WIND. It’s particularly pleasing to have a novel reviewed like this, especially when the opinion originates from a source such as Library Journal.

Woods, Janet. Straw in the Wind. Severn House. Jun. 2010. c.256p. ISBN 978-0-7278-6893-0. $28.95. Historical

Hired by sea captain Erasmus Thornton to investigate his suspicion that the daughter he had fathered 18 years earlier may not have died at birth as he'd been told, Det. Adam Chapman sets out to learn the truth and ends up falling for housekeeper Sara Finn, the mystery woman he has been sent to find. Vivid descriptions, a fascinating assortment of secondary characters, and snappy, clever dialogue make this a memorable treat. Verdict: Woods's touching, mystery-laced story features a plucky, outspoken heroine and an intriguing plot; and it satisfactorily continues the tale begun in Salting the Wound. Although a sequel, this novel stands on its own, thoroughly rewarding. Woods, particularly known for her well-researched, emotionally rich historical novels lives in Perth, Australia.
October 28th sees the release of my next book, PAPER DOLL. For a change this book is set in 1920s England, shortly after the end of WW11. Many authors have favourites amongst their books. PAPER DOLL is one of mine…but more of that at a later date, when I’ve done the copy editing and have been sent my cover.

Friday, May 28, 2010

The Sheriff and the Baby

The Sheriff and the Baby – CC Coburn (Harlequin American Romance)

County Sheriff, Matt O’Malley is haunted by a personal tragedy. It’s something that could have been avoided had circumstances had been different, but his dream of raising a family in the lovely Rocky Mountain home he’d planned, had to be abandoned because of it.

A woman is driving in a snowstorm. She’s in labour, and is fleeing from the men who killed her husband. When her car is forced off the road, Matt is the only one there to help. Putting his duty before his instincts he gets her to hospital and he stays with her while she gives birth to her daughter. The woman calls herself Beth Ford, and for reasons she can’t disclose she fights the growing attraction between herself and the sheriff.

Matt senses that Beth’s lying, in more ways than one, especially when she puts his name on the birth certificate as the baby’s father. But Beth brings out the protective instinct in him. With perseverance he gleans more information – enough to make the enquiries that alert her pursuers to her whereabouts. Eventually, Beth trusts Matt enough to tell him her story, by which time they’ve fallen in love.

I first met Matt, his brothers, and the rest of O’Malley family in Colorado Christmas, the first book of the series. I like this bustling family, with their push and shove, their kids with attitude, and their abundance of nosiness. This second book has a large dollop of the same heart-warming charm, plus a sense of danger and intrigue that keeps the pot on the boil and the tension high until the very end. A good read that I highly recommend.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Down in the dumps/

Despite the good news that my two latest books, Straw in the Wind & Salting the Wound will be produced in audio, I’m having one of those unexplainable “down in the dumps” periods authors get from time to time. As a result I dislike my current work in progress. Keeping going is hard at the moment. It’s not that I doubt my ability to produce a readable book in the end, but to borrow from John Denver’s song, “Some days are diamonds and some days are stones,” I’m definitely living in the stone age at the moment. My characters are no longer talking to me, which is a disaster of major proportions. I’m going to take my own advice to others at such times and I’m going to plod on in the hope that the result won’t turn out to be as flat as I feel, and I’ll be able to polish the stones into diamonds when I edit. Like most advice, it’s easier said than actually done. Example follows.

Yesterday I read a blog about pet peeves. The topic was grammar. What surprised me most was that the blogger didn’t seem to be aware of any difference between grammar and spelling, but lumped them both as one under grammar. Ditto the followers, who threw punctuation into the brew as well. In the free-for-all of unanimous opinions, the conclusion was arrived at that mistakes in a book couldn’t be blamed on the editor, because they are overworked. They were, in fact, the fault of the author, who should have got it right in the first place.

One of the commentators, who stated that she offers advice about such matters on her own blog, managed to include three incorrect spellings of simple words in her short comment (grammer-verbage-distradtion). Most writers know that mistakes happen (putting it politely) but if you're going to dabble in pedantry, it would be wise to make sure that your own contribution is correct.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010


Joining Daughter of Darkness at Belgrave House is ANGELINA my latest book in E format. Set in Georgian times, Angelina is a tale about a beautiful and wealthy young woman, who is restored to her aristocratic family after it was thought she’d perished at birth. Her arrival is a catalyst for plotting and intrigue, Angelina is not welcomed by some, especially her sister, Rosabelle, who is her rival in love. Her mother can’t remember giving birth to twin daughters either, though the resemblance between them is remarkable.

Once again, Gainsborough has designed a most wonderful jacket for the book. He must be a master of light.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Straw in the Wind. Booklist Review.

Publication: BOOKLIST
Issue: 1st MAY 2010

Straw in the Wind, Woods, Janet (Author), Jun 2010. 256 p, Severn, hardcover, $28.95. (9780727868930).

Who is Sara Finn? Is she the baby sister long thought dead by the Honeyman sisters in Salting the Wound (2010) Adam Chapman sets out to determine if the baby exists and is truly the love child of sea captain Erasmus Thornton. Sara is happy to find a good position as a housekeeper at Leighton Manor in Dorset County. Her early life is a blur: first the home she hardly remembers, then the farm where she labored incessantly, followed by the workhouse, and lastly her position as an unpaid maid for a reverend by whom she was summarily dismissed when his oldest son tried to kiss her and she slapped him. Adam finds Sara at Leighton Manor and immediately falls in love with her, not knowing for certain whether she is the woman he is searching for. Once again Woods gives her readers an appealing historical romance with intriguing, multidimensional characters.

Looking the part

I've often wondered why writers pose with tools of trade on display. One office is very much the same as another office. We have desks with computers. Filing cabinets, and shelves. As a former professional housewife and mother (now retired) I suspect that the books make me appear more scholarly, the computer, more technically proficient. In actual fact I'm neither. What happened here was that I discovered that my computer (the one you can't see with the tennis court sized screen) could take photographs. So I decided to fiddle with it. I put my best blouse on, turned the computer round and posed with my retired computer and the new set of shelves I'd been waiting years for and finally got. Anyway, I squared myself up in the little square viewer and clicked my mouse. One...two...three!!! The resulting flash nearly knocked me off my chair. When I was a professional housewife and mother I didn't pose for photographs with my broom or mop and bucket held aloft. Do plumbers pose proudly with their plungers and S bends? No don't answer that one. Anyway, for what it's worth, here I am looking the part as best I can.

PS. Can I call myself a photographer now? No? Oh...okay.

Saturday, March 20, 2010


A long time ago, I wrote my 2nd book. It was called Daughter of Darkness. As a beginning writer I spent a great deal of time on it, drawing on my scant knowledge of writing practices at the time to perfect it.

I entered the manuscript into a national competition for unpublished novels, which was sponsored by Random House and Australian Women’s Day. To my delight it was placed third from out of the hundreds of entries, and I won $2,000 for my efforts. I was delighted by this encouragement. Unfortunately, only the novel that won the competition was published. I sent the manuscript to Robert Hale, a library publisher who decided it was written well enough for public consumption.

Daughter of Darkness was published in 2001. The following year I decided to enter it in the mainstream section of the Romantic book of The Year award, an annual competition which is run by the Romance Writers of Australia. It won!

The book has long been out of print, though now and again a used copy turns up on the net, offered by some enterprising person for a hugely inflated price!

Readers often write and ask me where they can buy it, which prompted me to investigate electronic publishing. I gave the manuscript a light edit, but generally ignored the urge to unravel it all and rewrite it completely, because it still works as it is.

So I’m happy to announce that the book has now become available for download in ten formats, from Belgrave House.
The cost is US$5.00

Monday, March 1, 2010

Salting The Wound

Review: Salting the Wound – Janet Woods 4.50 stars.

"An epic tale of family loyalty, forbidden attraction and heartbreaking choices, Janet Woods’ latest historical romance, Salting the Wound, is guaranteed to hold readers in thrall!"

Sea captain Nick Thornton cannot wait to go back home to Dorset and see the woman he’s loved since childhood: Charlotte Honeyman. Nick is determined to leave the sea behind and to settle back home and open an emporium with Charlotte by his side as his wife. But on his return, Nick is shocked when the woman whom he has loved for most of his life coldly announces that she has married another man and that she never wants to see him ever again.

Charlotte Honeyman has always been aware of the fact that Nick was infatuated with her, but she could never consent to reciprocating his feelings; not when his uncle, Erasmus, was responsible for the death of her beloved mother. Crushed and heartbroken, Nick cannot believe that the woman whom he was head over heels in love with now belongs to another man. Realizing that he can no longer stay in Dorset now that his beloved is somebody else’s wife, Nick decides to head back to sea, but he vows to make Charlotte pay for this cruel betrayal…

Charlotte’s younger sister Marianne was flabbergasted when her elder sibling announced that she was marrying another man – and she was mortified when she heard Charlotte tell Nick that if she ever saw him near her again, she would shoot him! Determined to apologise on her sister’s behalf, Marianne heads to Nick’s ship before it heads off to Boston to atone for her sister’s less than ladylike behaviour, but when she has an accident on the ship, she finds herself trapped on board the vessel…and in close proximity with the brooding and dangerous Captain Thornton!

Nick is delighted when he finds a helpless Marianne Honeyman in his cabin, desperately needing his aid – and realizes that he’s finally found the perfect way to revenge himself upon the woman who scorned him: he will seduce her sister and marry her in order to save her reputation. Marianne is well aware of the reason behind Nick’s seduction, but in his arms, she cannot help but wish that her husband would realize that the younger Honeyman sister has been in love with him for years!

The more time Nick spends with Marianne, the more he finds himself attracted to her. Is he falling in love with his convenient wife? Or will his desire for revenge blind him to what’s in front of his very eyes?

Written with deftness, confidence and style, Salting the Wound is an outstanding historical romance featuring a wonderfully gutsy heroine who jumps off the page, a swoon-worthy hero, a well-rounded cast of supporting characters, poignant and riveting romance and an intriguing and dramatic sub-plot which will keep readers riveted until the final page!Fast-paced, dramatic and wonderfully romantic, Salting the Wound is another winner from the exceptional pen of the fabulous Janet Woods!

Reviewed by Julie Bonello -

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Follows is a top pick review by Kristal Gorman from Romance Reader at Heart.

Nicholas Thornton has come home at last to claim his bride.  After years back and forth at sea, he is now ready to settle down with the woman of his dreams.  He has big plans to come home and marry his childhood sweetheart, even if the last time he was home, she rejected him and broke his heart.  Sure that she has now come to her senses, Nick arrogantly decides that he is going to go out to Charlotte's house and find a woman who is more than willing to marry him.  But the reception that he receives is much different than the one he had thought.  Because the woman that he has loved all of his life is already married to someone else, and when Nick shows up at her door, she shows him the business end of a rifle!

Nick retreats to lick his wounds, vowing to find some way to make Charlotte pay for this humiliation.  When Charlotte's little sister Marianne decides to try and make things better and go to visit Nick on his ship, she has no idea the trouble she has gotten herself into. When Nick finds her hurt on his ship two days out to sea, he doesn’t do the "gentlemanly" thing and return Marianne to her home right away; instead, he decides that sweet revenge is staring him right in the face.  To his way of thinking it would serve Charlotte right to be worried and furious over her missing sister.  What Nick doesn't count on is the feelings that he discovers for little Aria Honeyman.  Long gone is the little girl that he used to tease all the time, and in her place is a beautiful, vibrant, young woman, one he finds himself increasingly drawn to.  

I LOVE Janet Woods style of writing.  I haven't been disappointed by a single book I have read of hers, and I have read them all!  Nick and Marianne have fabulous chemistry and the writing flows beautifully.  Ms. Wood's simply knows how to tell an excellent story with captivating characters and situations.  I highly recommend SALTING THE WOUND if you are looking for not only a page-turner, but also a new book for your keeper shelves. 

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Large Print Cover art

To make this a hat trick. Severn House has just surprised me with a new jacket for the large print version of Edge of Regret, and I couldn't resist showing it off.

With three lovely covers in the past week or so, I'm not expecting any more surprises - but then, they wouldn't be a surprise I were.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010


ISBN: 9780727868930
MARCH 25TH 2010

The stand-alone sequel to Salting the Wound

1835, England. A married woman, pregnant with her sea-captain lover’s child, dies giving birth. The child, Serafina Finn, is abandoned to an orphanage and grows up longing to feel that she belongs somewhere. Eighteen years later, her father, hearing rumours that his lost daughter survived, dispatches a detective, Adam Chapman, to discover the truth. Adam finds, and falls in love with, Serafina – but, even if he can prove her identity will her real family accept her?

Friday, January 8, 2010

The audio edition of ‘Hearts of Gold’ has just been released, and it has such a lovely cover that I just wanted to show it off. Audio books usually play for about eight hours or more – and it’s interesting (but not always comfortable) to hear how a reader interprets the tone of the dialogue and text, and how the words issue from the characters mouths. I’m now waiting for my author copy to arrive to I can drop everything and have a good “read”.
And a reminder that ‘Hearts of Gold” will be available under its original cover to buy in trade paperback at the end of the month.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Reviewing Book Reviewers

For most writers I know a good top pick review is the cherry on the cream of the cake. After months of hard work and much agonizing on their part, because yes, authors want to please their readers and win new ones, so they write the best story they can, and someone - hopefully a stranger – finally gives their creation a thumbs’ up. The resulting lift to the spirits reassures the author that she can write a good tale that people in general can enjoy.

But what if the review is negative? It’s not easy for an author to shrug off a really negative review. It’s like giving birth to a cherished baby after a difficult labour, and somebody you’ve never met tells all who will listen that the baby is ugly and worthless.

Let’s take a quick look at what I think should go into a review – and what makes a reviewer credible, and what doesn’t.

Firstly, a review is based on the reviewer’s ability to read, on her personal taste, and her understanding of language and comprehension of it. One-word comments like “Horrible” pasted next to a book, especially if it’s misspelled should make it obvious that the reviewer has no credibility whatsoever, and can’t write a paragraph, let alone read a whole book, understand it and make any meaningful comment on it.

So why would a dedicated reader take any notice of such reviews? It stands to reason that, whatever the genre, the author has reached a certain standard of penmanship that has attracted a publisher. This might have taken several years of hard work to achieve. The average is ten, I’m told. Also, the author would have spent at least six months working on the reviewed book. Dismissing it as rubbish with one word that took all of half a second to write is downright mean and an insult to the author as well as her editors and publisher. It also robs the reviewer of any real credibility.

From a reader angle, when I read a review I expect to learn about the story line and motivation of the key characters in the reviewed book. The reviewer’s opinion is taken into account, of course, but generally I like to form my own by reading the book myself. I can’t stress enough, that for most books - one size does not fit all.

Good reviewers are usually dedicated readers, and have reached a certain standard in the understanding of language, be cognizant of the different elements of character development and story plot, and be able to comment lucidly on those, without indulging in cheap shots or being deliberately offensive.

There are some excellent reviewers out there who present a fair and honest review, and who work for credible sites. There are also some excellent reviewers who work independently. When I send my own work out, it’s to sites or reviewers that handle my writing genre, and who have earned a good reputation.

Not all books will suit all readers all of the time, or will receive a top-notch review. Most authors understand that, but from what I hear they do appreciate it when the reviewer demonstrates a little expertise, and dare I say it – pride in the way they present their reviews.

Most novelists learn through hands-on experience, that a good novel encapsulation in the style of a synopsis, review or book blurb is hard to write, and an art in itself. A good review takes just as much crafting as a short story, and the credibility of the reviewer relies as much on the review they present, as does the novelist on the book they produce.