I’ll be honest, I didn’t even know most of you existed until I was a few months out from publication. This whole ecosystem of critique, enthusiasm and encouragement had bubbled below a surface that I’d not really scratched.
At best, I’m an occasional blogger. I flit from topic to topic as the mood takes me. But there are so many people out there writing in-depth and sensitive reviews, chatting and supporting each other in bookish corners of the internet and standing on metaphorical chairs to shout about books they love so much they just want everyone to have a chance to fall in love with them.
Experiencing this world has been one of the true delights and privileges of having a book published. But it was also something I was most scared about. I was scared that other people might be as unashamedly horrible as I had once been.
I started my writing career as a music reviewer. When I loved a single or album, I was all over it like a rash. But when I didn’t love it, when it didn’t tick quite enough boxes for me, I could be unthinkingly savage. I really wasn’t trying to be mean. I just firmly divorced the end product from the producer. But ‘death of the author’ doesn’t feel so clever now I’m, y’know, an author.
So I was nervous of these voluntary critics, these book-loving people with no obligation to be nice. Or even to read the thing.
Try Not to Breathe wasn’t for everyone because obviously there’s no such thing as blanket approval, but the majority of reviews have been wonderful. And I’m so grateful I could cry.
The level of scrutiny is eye-watering. Book bloggers read hundreds of books a year, and they really, truly read them. Despite all of them having other things to do, jobs to go to, children to wrangle, pets to run around after, all that, they devote enormous time and care to getting under the skin of the books they’re reviewing, and really probing about.
When I reviewed music I almost started to resent the CDs being pushed through my door. It never ended, and what had felt like a luxury became something bordering a chore.
The thing I loved most just became work. And who likes work? (I actually do like work now, but…) I really don’t see that happening with the book bloggers I follow on social media and whose blogs I read. Quite the opposite. Their hunger is infectious.
In the last couple of months, I’ve bought more new books than I did in the whole of 2015. Almost all on the strength of recommendations by book bloggers and enthusiasts (not mutually exclusive). And realising that makes me realise just how powerful and positive it is to have the support of these dedicated, smart, kind, book-hungry readers. And for that, I’m truly thankful.