Friday, 15 May 2009

When your family reads your book

When I met up with my publisher in Liberty's the other month some of the girls expressed astonishment that no one, other than them and my agent, had read my book.

In fact, when I confessed that I'd refused to let my mum read it they looked so shocked that my cheeks went a bit warm and I felt like the world's worst daughter!

But there were three reasons why I didn't want my family to read my novel until a book-shaped proof was available:

1) I didn't want them to have to read 300+ page of A4 printer paper!
2) I wanted it to be as perfect as possible
3) I wanted my parents to see the 'For my parents' dedication in the front

Oh yes, and there's a four...

4) I was scared shitless!

Agents and publishers are supposed to like your book - they wouldn't have signed you if they didn't - but releasing your book to the 'real world' is a whole different ball game. People have different tastes, strong opinions, likes and dislikes etc etc and it's not part of their job description to bolster your ego!

And if there's one thing my family is very good at - it's being honest (often too honest) and expressing their opinions! When I first started secondary school I was often accused of being 'tactless' and that's definitely a family trait.

So yes, I was scared about sharing my book with them. Scared that if they responded with "it was okay" or "I didn't like X bit much" or "I though that scene with A and B was a bit unbelievable" I'd be horribly, terribly crushed (you're never to old to want your family to be proud of you are you?)

So when the proofs came out I bit the bullet and sent a copy to my Mum.

She started reading it on a Saturday morning, texting me sporadically to tell me what page she was on.

But Sunday night I felt a bit sick.

Then there was a text - she loved it, she was hugely proud of me and she was going to buy copies for all the teachers at her school for Christmas!

Apparently she liked it so much (and went on about it so much) my dad asked if he could read it next. Dad wanting to read a book, any book is a huge deal. In fact, I can't ever remember him reading anything other than a newspaper or gardening or DIY manual.

And he loved it too and texted me to say how much he enjoyed my characters and that I'd obviously inherited his sense of humour!

Then my soon-to-be-sister in law asked to read it. And emailed me to say she was "weeping with joy" and that it had made her laugh and cry and that I was "the best writer ever" (I think I might have to marry her now!)

Then my brother and sister read it. They've both inherited the 'I don't do reading' gene from my dad. In fact, my twenty-six year-old brother told me that the last book he'd read was "Stig of the Dump" when he was 15!

My sister read the book from cover to cover in six hours and said it was "addictive" and posted a note on Facebook to tell all her friends that she loved it and to order it off Amazon.

A couple of days later my brother finished it. Now out of my whole family he's the one that worried me the most. As much as I love him my little brother's favourite sport is taking the piss out of me so I was fully expecting to hear "I could have written it better" or "people paid you for that?" but no...his Amazon status said

"finally read his biggest sister's book. A clever ending, couldn't see that one coming, good twists and turns, but my god, I'm not reading again until book no.2!"

So that's it. My entire (close) family have now read my book and I've survived unscathed.

Scratch that. It sounds too negative.

My entire (close) family have now read my book and their reactions have made me impossibly happy.

It's taken me thirty-five years but I've finally made them proud.


HelenMHunt said...

That's so lovely it made me cry.

Sarah*G* said...

Oh I am SO positive in the belief that you have made them proud on many, many occasions before and will continue to do so. I do understand the fear you had about them reading it though. Even if publishers/editors love it, nothing beats the pure unadulterated joy of your nearest and dearest loving something you have done. Mainly because they don't have to and, in my case anyway, enjoy ripping the piss out of me when I screw up something!
I am so looking forward to reading your book and I will tell everyone who will listen to me to buy a copy! I did that with other NR writers and I will do it with your books too.
Enjoy this moment but I get the feeling it will happen again and again for you. :)

B said...

what helen said.

Debs said...

What a wonderful post. I'm not surprised you're so thrilled.

It's special that they all wanted to read it, especially as some of them don't 'do' reading, and then unanimously loved it.

Amber Lynae said...

I understand your current excited me and previous hesitation. I have a harder time showing my family anything because they are the opinions that are going to matter the most to me.

BTW I wanted to let you know that I'm passing on the Lovely Blog Award to you. To learn more you can visit my post at

DOT said...

I well understand your reticence. I think if my parents were still around I too would be find the thought of them reading something I had produced very troubling.

That said, one of the three people I have asked to crit my ms is my elder daughter - she is an avid reader and a fearless critic so will not indulge me.

I am pleased every in your family were so positive, but then the work probably deserves nothing less.

Tam said...

Absolutely what Sarah said. They may not have made it clear but I bet you have made your family very proud over the years and this just the icing on the cake.

Well done on being brave enough to let them read it. Here's to book #2 :-)

JJ Beattie said...

Oh what a sweet anecdote, Cally. And really I agree with SarahG when she said she didn't doubt you had made them proud on many other occasions.

Queenie said...

I too agree with SarahG. And well done for being brave enough to get over that rather big hurdle.

SueG said...

It's a big step, and a scary one, to be sure, to have your family rad your work. I felt that way, and the same when I had my closest friends read it. But I have found that when people know and care about you, they take great pride in your accomplishments. And even though my sister laughingly accused me of "killing her off," she was still thrilled to have been captured somehow in my work (no matter how many times I tell her the sister was NOT based on her! :-)

Borah said...

That's a lovely start!
I bet you can't wait to read the reviews on Amazon!
(you should ask everyone who's enthusiastic about it to leave a review on on Amazon too, by the way!)

Fionnuala Kearney said...

Wow, she says, wiping single brimming tear from her eye, well done you. I have a huge family and the very thought of me putting my writing on the line with them make me feel nauseous. x

Anonymous said...

My mum has been reading my book recently. It's the first draft and very raw. And so are my nerves. Gulp.

Well done again, I'm so looking forward to reading HcW...

Karen said...

That's so lovely, though I'm sure they were proud of you anyway :o)

My family all read my short stories, even though my brother wouldn't normally be seen dead with a womag!!

She Means Well... said...

Your blog is one of those that makes my day, so I have named you as a recipient of an Award. For more go to


Lucy Diamond said...

Ohhh! I can't wait to read it! What lovely responses from them all - hurrah!

Calistro said...

Helen & B - So sorry it made you cry. I had a bit of a lump in my throat writing it!

Sarah, JJ & Queenie - I'm sure they HAVE been proud of me before but this is the one moment when my entire family have all come together to say it (and so vocally)! Sarah - thank you so much for saying you'll recommend my book to other people - that means so much!

Debs - I was so surprised that all the 'don't read'ers want to read it. That was more touching than anything else :)

Amber - Thank you so much for the blog award. That's lovely of you :)

DOT - Fearless critics should definitely be cherished!

Tam - Thank you. I just hope I can make them proud all over again with book 2. Eeep! :)

SueG - That comment made me grin! My friends and family always look for themselves in my stories (and this novel). Luckily my parents didn't grumble too much about being 'killed off' in this one!

Borah - Oooh! Great idea. Am a bit scared of Amazon reviews at the moment but yep, must ask my nearest and dearest to leave glowing reviews to help balance those that don't have rose-coloured specs on! ;)

Capt'n - Oooh, I feel your pain. Drink your way through it! ;)

Karen - It's great when they do that isn't it. I think SAF may single-handedly increased the womag sales! ;)

She Means Well - Ooooh, an award. Thanks so much. Will check it out asap.

Lucy - Thanks mate. Am actually a bit scared of writers reading it as they're much more knowledgable than my 'don't read' family but hope you like it when it finally hits the shelves (feels like a million years away at the moment!)

womagwriter said...

Brilliant! Love that they all loved it, but I can't imagine anyone wouldn't like your writing - you are fab.

Nicola Morgan said...

That's a lovely story and I quite agree with you about not letting family read it before it's beautifully in its jacket. I never have with any of mine until now: I have just let my 22 year-old Eng grad daughter read my WIP, not for comments, but because I want her to be my assistant on book 2 and I wanted her to go through and make notes on what I'd said about all the characters. And she sounds VERY like DOT's elder daughter - so I also valued her opinion (positive - PHEW!!)

from Help! I Need a Publisher!

Nakabunot Kay said...

It is true that we are at our cold feet when it comes to the reaction from our own family. Maybe because, we keep on thinking that they have higher standards as compared to others since they know us too well. I remember when my mom commented on my essay topic way back high school and whenever I write, I am afraid that she might comment again. Now, essay writing has been more of a hobby and I'm glad that my mom now appreciates what I am doing.

Anonymous said...

Oh wow, Cally. I never read this post before! It made me teary eyed all over again about your book and experiences!

FYI: Yours is indeed the last book Dave ever read. I have never seen him read a book before or after either. lol

motherinToronto said...

I'm always amazed by writer's not using a pen name and allowing people they see every day read their own material. The whole idea of doing that is much to vulnerable to me.

I'm glad this worked out for you.