Ten years ago, I completed one of the most arduous and difficult things I have ever done. The result of that work also happens to be what I consider one of my greatest achievements. I don’t know its exact slot on the officially ranked list, but I feel safe in saying it is definitely Top 10. And what is this life-changing achievement? In 2013, I officially finished my one and only novel, The Reluctant Blogger. It would go on to be published by Cedar Fort Publishing in August of that same year.
In the months that followed, I got to experience firsthand what it is like to have something you have put all of your heart and soul into-something you cherish almost as if it were your own child-placed in the public domain. I got to experience what it is like to be critically analyzed by people who know what writing is truly about, and by people who don’t have a freaking clue. And for the most part, all I could do as the reviews rolled in during the waning months of 2013 and the early days of 2014, was take it.
By and large, people were very kind. The reviews from book bloggers were overwhelmingly positive and as people started to post their reactions on sites like Goodreads.com and Amazon, the good feelings about my work greatly outweighed the negative Nancys who felt that the time spent reading my prose was on par with a lunchtime visit to the DMV.
However, there was one individual who is an author himself that reviewed my book whose opinions I took very seriously. His name is Theric Jepson and he is a scholar, a novelist, and a more than qualified critic who kindly agreed to read my book. He told me upfront that he would get to it when he felt like it. He also stated that he offered no guarantees, but if he felt so inclined, he might review it one of the multiple journalistic platforms he contributes to.
That initial communication happened in the fall of 2013. I would end up waiting approximately six months before I would hear anything from him again. In fact, I had pretty much given up and accepted that there would be no review. However, in February of 2014, I received an email from Mr. Jepson informing me that he had completed my book and had published not one…but THREE reviews of my book…on THREE different websites. The first review was a complete breakdown of all that he felt was wrong with my book. It was substantial. The second was a review that highlighted what he liked about my book. It was a bit shorter. And the third was a deeper dive into the issues I addressed and how well he felt I accomplished what he believed I was trying to say. The website on which the positive review was posted is now defunct, so that kind of sucks. The other two live on in the links provided below. But suffice it to say, he liked my characters and felt that their experience was real. He HATED my attempt at a unique novel structure. In reading his critiques, I couldn’t argue with his assessment. If I were to write the book again, I would definitely take his suggestions and try to implement most if not all of them. Finally, he felt I addressed some important topics, but was possibly not on point with my assessment in every case. Final analysis, if he had given the book a grade based on the three different posts all added together, I believe it would have landed at around a C-.
When I finished reading what he had to say, I will admit to being a little disappointed. But on the other hand, I had to acknowledge that he had given me not just a review, but an in-depth three-part review. That he had been moved to do so seemed a win in and of itself.
I had forgotten about those three reviews, as I have forgotten about most every review I received on my book. To be honest, I rarely think about my book at all anymore. But every so often, I Google myself and read some of those old reviews just to be reminded that I gave some folks out there in this great big ol’ world we live in a positive experience once upon time. (Yes, I am that vain.)
Well, today was one of those days I decided to look back. And, lo and behold, I came across a follow-up blog post that I had not seen before. It was published in 2016, two years to the day after the three I mentioned above. I could try to share with you what the following words made me feel, but I would fail. So instead, I will print them below and I think you’ll be able to figure it out yourselves.
And as a final thought: Thank you so very much for this follow-up Theric Jepson. My gratitude is only seven years late, but it is as heartfelt as I can express.
Revisiting The Reluctant Blogger
Those of you with excellent memories or a fetish for reluctant bloggers may recall that two years ago today I posted, simultaneously here at AMV and over at MMM and at the AML blog, three takes on Ryan Rapier’s then recent novel. In writing this post, I’m intentionally not reviewing those reviews, but I suspect if you added them up and divided by three you would get a moderately negative take. And if I were to reread them now, I would probably remember all the things I complained about and I might lose my way in this remembrance of the novel.
See, for all its flaws of structure and point of view, I still think about the characters of The Reluctant Blogger all these years later. I think mostly of the protag’s father’s second marriage and of the pain the protag causes his love interest. These things—or, rather, these people are still with me. I think of them regularly.
And, in my opinion, the most important aspect of good fiction is characters who live on in the mind. It’s why Jane Eyre might be my favorite novel. Because I still think about Jane. I love Jane. She’s, like, my very good friend.
And The Reluctant Blogger also provided me with new friends.
So with that in mind, regardless of whatever I’ve said in the past, I recommend it.
The characters live on in my mind as well…There is a line in that book, I have wanted to find it but I loaned the book out to someone and it never came back. My husband and I still quote it, well I should say, roughly paraphrase it. It is the line that wonders, “what if, the challenge is really ours to learn to love more so that it is there’s?” Again I wish I could quote it correctly, but the message struck me deeply. I would read another book if you write one! But, I don’t think I would do well receiving the criticism if I had written one myself.