Occasionally I – like other authors – get notes from people who have read one of my novels. They sometimes write, “I really enjoyed your book.”
Occasionally I – also like other authors – happen to meet someone face to face who has read one of my novels. They sometimes say, “I really enjoyed your book.”
These words are nice, and certainly the people writing or speaking them intend to say something that the author wants to read or hear. But many of us who write novels don’t write our books mainly for the purpose of giving enjoyment. In my case, my main purpose in writing my novels is to give my readers an exciting and inspirational experience that is different from most other books they might encounter.
For example, when one of my colleagues at work was about halfway through the latest novel in my Rebecca Series, A Fearful Thing, he said, “This is just different from anything I’ve ever read… it’s got all the action and mystery I like, but there’s also the faith component… it’s just different.”
When he finished the novel (the fifth in the series), he set out to read the first four.
I was also especially appreciative of another reader’s comments, because she talked about aspects of A Fearful Thing that, so far as I can recall, no one else has noted. She wrote, “But the real surprise was the tenderness and the beautiful way the characters interacted with each other, weaving a thread of respect and kindness within the group that quickly included others without hesitation or prejudice. I felt a connection with the group and was happy to have been part of their story.” Many others had written about the suspense, the mystery, and the faith component in the Rebecca novels, but she was the first to take note of the way the relationships worked. (The editors and I decided to place her quotation on the back cover of the dust jacket for the hardcover edition of A Fearful Thing.)
As a reader yourself, you have doubtless given some thought to what aspects of stories appeal to you. Most of us who write stories tend to write the kind of thing we ourselves like to read. In my case, C. S. Lewis’s Ransom Series for adults served, and still serves, as the prototype for my stories, especially the third book in that series, That Hideous Strength. If you have read that book, then you know that it features a small band of faith-filled people who are drawn together by nearly incomprehensible threats to the faith. They are helped by messages – “from on high,” as one reader wrote – in their efforts to uncover the heart of the plot.
Once they have succeeded with that, they find it necessary to take action themselves against their enemies, because law enforcement has no evidence that investigators can reasonably use. Thus, my books become action-packed at that point as Rebecca, her family members, and other colleagues seek to defeat their enemies, at great risk to their lives and those of others.
So, while “I enjoyed your book” is still a very nice thing to say to an author, most of us who write stories are more deeply appreciative to those readers who tell us why they engaged the book as they did. Those kinds of comments show real reflection on the part of the reader, and help the author understand how and why the story “worked” for that person.