This post, which originally appeared on the author's blog, moved me to tears. Joanne Hillhouse graciously offered to share it here. This, folks, is why we keep at it. --S.P.
Sounds ominous, right?
Well, I met up with her today and she was, sigh, so effusive in her reaction to the book.
She wanted to know what she supposed to do now, now that the book is done, now that I’ve hooked her on these characters and their world. She wanted me to know that she almost threw away the book at one point because I’d made her hurt so much but as evidenced by its presence on her backseat, she’d resisted the urge. She wanted me to know that she’d lived in Jamaica and she thought I’d hit the right note with Carlene, her favourite character. She wanted me to know how much she appreciated a character like Audrey who for all her rough edges loves her family. She wanted me to know that she even liked that free spirit, Aeden, whom she doubted could go the distance with Nikki. She wanted me to know that she wants to visit Sea View Farm as it is in the book and meet Audrey, and Belle, and Columbus in his garden. She wanted me to know that one of her first exclamations as she read the novel was, this girl is a poet. She wanted me to know that she appreciated the book, appreciated me as a writer…all this and she was usually neither a reader nor a fan of fiction.
I’m writing this down because she’s not the type to type a reader review online and at some point the memory of this conversation will fade and I’ll probably convince myself it never happened, because the bad lingers and the good goes away. I’m writing it down to remind myself to take the good with the bad, to take it and take it in. It’s one year on from the release of Oh Gad! The book is not a bestseller (far from), it hasn’t gotten a lot of attention from critics in the Caribbean or elsewhere. Not a lot of Caribbean book stores have ordered it (as I’m reminded when readers elsewhere in the Caribbean contact me to ask how they can get it). It’s easy to feel down about stuff like that. But every time a reader takes the time, in person or online, to share how they’ve engaged with these characters, every time they talk about the characters not like creations on a page but real people out there some where, every time they say how parts of the book vexed them or made them cry – yes, she said she cried – I feel so rich, I feel so lifted, I feel so full though as I told her I have to wipe the reader from my mind when I’m writing or else I might be hindered from writing my characters’ truth.
Funny then that on the other side of the experience, the reader reaction should mean so much, but it does.
I still have a lot of growing to do as a writer but inasmuch as one reader felt so moved by something I’ve written, I AM A WRITER and I am grateful that God has given the gift of hearing these characters and rendering their stories; and the courage to render them authentically. And I’m hopeful that She (yes, I call God she sometimes) will show me the way to make the most of it.
You can visit Joanne Hillhouse at http://jhohadli.wordpress.com/ or on Facebook.