on the importance of readers

The original of the above image once hung in Café Slavia, in Prague, and is called The Absinthe Drinker (by Viktor Oliva*). Many artists have grappled with the subject of absinthe and its affects, including Degas, Manet, Van Gogh, and Picasso — to name a few. I post this here, because this café, and this painting, make an appearance in The Elephant on Karlův Bridge. They are part of the landscape.

So as not to be obtuse about the writing process, young novels get tested. They should be tested, by readers. This step is especially important these days, as publishing houses require manuscripts to be very close to exquisite. The Elephant on Karlův Bridge has been read, by several readers, and many times by a fantastic editor in Victoria — who challenged and questioned. I ask a trusted reader to look for places where the narrative faltered — where they may have dropped out of the narrative dream (As a writer, you want to fix these, always.) And “did it capture you from the start?” And “were there questions you needed to be answered?” And “was the payoff satisfying?” And, “did you care about the characters? — not like, or dislike, but care.” I also ask about pace.

The answers to these questions — apart from buttressing your belief in the story (because writing a novel is a long-distance run, a gruelling marathon, this is important) — can shape future edits and revisions of your book. And this was the case with the Elephant book. Comments like this underscore a connection to readers: Within a few minutes I found myself 50 pages in and I was sorry to have to stop reading and get some sleep. I think this is going to appeal to a broad range of readers: It has an interesting setting and interesting characters both human and animal. Besides, who hasn’t wondered what elephants think about? This one deserves to be read by a lot of people.

And the blunt honesty of this: I think you have a winner here. As I have told you in the past, I have found some of your previous work challenging to get into. Not so with this one. I like the writing style and I find the story engaging.

I am so grateful for these early readers. The Elephant on Karlův Bridge is in the world now, being read, and considered. The elephant is alone, with other readers, and I am hopeful, and wish her well.

* Viktor Oliva was a Nouveau artist who fell in love with the bohemian Parisian lifestyle in the late 1880s, and had a fondness for absinthe and ballooning. His most famous work was “Absinthe Drinker”. The painting featured an absinthe drinker, and a green woman. It was based on the phenomenon known as “The green fairy”, a euphemism from the hallucinogenic effects of the absinthe.

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